NEW KENT COUNTY
New Kent is one of the oldest and most charming counties in Virginia, and was first mentioned in the records of the General Assembly in the year of 1654. The settlers were of English stock and the County was named for Kent in England. Land grants to the early settlers along the rivers led to large plantations and palatial manor houses, fostering a way of life long associated with our colonial era. Although many of the homes remain, none are regularly open to the public.
New Kent once formed part of Charles River County, one of the eight shires into which the colony of Virginia was divided in 1634. Originally including part or all of the present day counties of King & Queen, King William, Spotsylvania and Hanover, the modern day borders of New Kent took place in 1766 through exchange of land with James City County. The European History of New Kent began with the visit of Captain John Smith in 1607. The English were feasted by the Indians and Smith got several hundred bushels of corn for a few blue beads, representing them as only to be worn by great kings.
Brick House, founded in 1680, was the first town in New Kent. At the time of Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, Brick House was already a place of importance and the seat of the County courts. The New Kent County Clerk at the time, Thomas Hall, who supported Bacon, was hung for his participation in the rebellion.
In 1748, Cumberland, a colonial town on the south side of the Pamunkey River, came within three votes of replacing Williamsburg as the capitol of the Virginia Colony after the Williamsburg Capitol building was burned.
There is a legend that the canon belonging to the New Kent Militia were thrown into the Pamunkey River at Cumberland during the American Revolution. Their purchase at New Kent Courthouse and transportation to Cumberland are a matter of record, but their being pushed into the river cannot be confirmed.
The village of New Kent appears to have been the County seat since 1691. Most of the County's colonial records were destroyed in the burning of the clerk's office in 1787, and later records were destroyed in the burning of Richmond during the Civil War.
Providence Forge was one of the earliest settlements and the site of a colonial forge that was destroyed by Banister Tarleton in the Revolutionary War. Even its location was forgotten until uncovered by the great flood of 1868.
St. Peter's Church at Talleysville was established in 1678 and built in 1701. It was enlarged in 1740 by the addition of a tower and vestry room and in the 1760's by the building of a north wing, believed to have been torn down in 1854. Martha Dandridge Custis who lived in White House on the Pamunkey, worshiped here at the time of her marriage to George Washington.
New Kent's roads, leading from Richmond to Williamsburg are among the oldest in America. Over them have marched French, British, Revolutionary, Confederate and Union armies.
In 1998 the
New Kent Historical Society restored the old jail at New Kent Courthouse as a museum and depository for County Historical artifacts. Contact the Society at P. O. Box 24, New Kent, VA 23124 for more information.
(Provided by the New Kent Chamber of Commerce)
City 1960 Historic Topo
William 1920 Historic Topo
Kent 1930 Historic Topo
1918 Historic Topo
Link to recent on line publications by the US Army