Notes on the State of Virginia (1853)/Query 12
A NOTICE OF THE COUNTIES, CITIES, TOWNSHIPS AND VILLAGES?
The counties have been enumerated under Query IX. They are 74 in number, of very unequal size and population. Of these 35 are on the tide waters, or in that parallel; 23 are in the Midlands, between the tide waters and Blue Ridge of mountains; 8 between the Blue Ridge and Alleghaney; and 8 westward of the Alleghaney.
The State, by another division, is formed into parishes, many of which are commensurate with the counties; but sometimes a county comprehends more than one parish, and sometimes a parish more than one county. This division had relation to the religion of the State, a parson of the Anglican Church, with a fixed salary, having been heretofore established in each parish. The care of the poor was another object of the parochial division.
We have no townships. Our country being much intersected with navigable waters, and trade brought generally to our doors, instead of our being obliged to go in quest of it, has probably been one of the causes why we have no towns of any consequence. Williamsburgh, which, till the year 1780, was the seat of our Government, never contained above 1800 inhabitants; and Norfolk, the most populous town we ever had, contained but 6,000. Our towns, but more properly our villages or hamlets, are as follows:
On James River and its waters, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Hampton, Suffolk, Smithfield, Williamsburgh, Petersburgh, Richmond, the seat of our Government, Manchester, Charlottesville, New London.
On York River and its waters, York, Newcastle, Hanover.
On Rappahannoc, Urbanna, Port Royal, Fredericksburg, Falmouth.
On Patowmac and its waters, Dumfries, Colchester, Alexandria, Winchester, Staunton.
On Ohio, Louisville.
There are other places at which, like some of the foregoing, the laws have said there shall be towns; but Nature has said there shall not, and they remain unworthy of enumeration. Norfolk will probably be the emporium for all the trade of the Chesapeak Bay and its waters; and a canal of 8 or 10 miles will bring to it all that of Albemarle Sound and its waters. Secondary to this place are the towns at the head of the tide waters, to wit, Petersburgh, on Appomattox, Richmond, on James River, Newcastle, on York River, Alexandria, on Patowmac, and Baltimore, on the Patapsco. From these the distribution will be to subordinate situations in the country. Accidental circumstances, however, may control the indications of Nature, and in no instances do they do it more frequently than in the rise and fall of towns.