Charlotte County Virginia
Charlotte County administrative offices are located at 250 Legrande Avenue, Charlotte Court House VA 23923; phone: 434-542-5117.
Charlotte County was formed in 1765 from Lunenburg County and was named for Queen Charlotte, wife of George III of England. Settlement of this new frontier began forty or fifty years before the county was formed. Cub Creek Church, the oldest Presbyterian church south of the James River, was organized here in 1735 by James Cardwell (Caldwell), grandfather of John Caldwell Calhoun of South Carolina. The early 18th century brought permanent settlers to the easternmost section, the Roanoke Creek and Staunton River floodplains. These people were of English descent moving from the settlements along the James. Many families who were influential in the colonial government patented large acreage along these fertile floodplains of the Staunton River and the creeks leading into that river from the north, comprising some forty thousand acres.
The Roanoke Creek basin, consisting of approximately twelve thousand acres, was then considered to be the most fertile, flat, productive soil along the East Coast. As these families obtained land grants, they moved to this fertile frontier and began raising grains which were shipped along the waterways to England and western Europe. These people flourished, and built stately mansions for themselves and their descendants. The western area of Charlotte County was settled by Scotch Irish and French Huguenots, planters who were active in the struggle for religious freedom.
As the American revolutionary spirit unfolded, the people of Charlotte County played important roles in the formation of the government. Charlotte County was the second governing body in the thirteen colonies to declare its independence from England. Its militia units helped to halt the advance of Cornwallis in 1781 and to hasten the end of the American Revolution. Tarleton's raiders passed through here. Lafayette's units camped near Charlotte Court House, and George Washington stopped here on returning from his southern tour after the Revolution. Patrick Henry and John Randolph lived here.
Later, as the highlands of Charlotte County came into agriculture by the smaller tobacco farmers, the soils from the high areas began to wash down and fill the creek beds along the fertile floodplains. The production of grains there became too costly. The larger landowners with slave labor built dikes along the creeks, but the land was soon abandoned. The flood of 1870 caused severe damage and the flood of 1940 practically ended all low ground farming in Charlotte County. In the 20th century the county built watershed dams and encouraged the implementation of good land management practices to control erosion and improve water quality throughout the county.
The rich heritage of old homes is architecturally significant as they reflect the styles from the Colonial and Georgian to the Federal and Greek Revival periods. Many of these stately mansions have been restored; time has merely enhanced the superior craftsmanship of the builders.
People of national importance have lived in Charlotte County. It was briefly the home of the signer of the Declaration of Independence, George Walton, later of Georgia. Patrick Henry, born in Hanover County, came to Charlotte County in 1795 and is buried here at Red Hill. In 1959, the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation was dedicated as a national shrine, a replica of the last home of this Virginia patriot. John Randolph, who represented Virginia in both houses of the United States Congress between 1799 and 1825, lived and was buried at his home, Roanoke Plantation. Charlotte Court House was the scene of Patrick Henry's last public speech and John Randolph's first.
In later years Ambassador David K. E. Bruce, the only man to be ambassador to three great European powers — Britain, France, and Germany — and then to be emissary to a great Eastern power, China, lived at Staunton Hill, a Virginia and a National Historic Landmark. He served as a delegate from this county to the Virginia Assembly just prior to World War II. The town of Charlotte Court House, the county seat, has been likened to Williamsburg on a smaller scale. Mr. Bruce gave to Charlotte County many of its stately buildings in Charlotte Court House--agricultural (Extension Service) building, Red Cross building, Treasurer's office, Health Department building, and public library and gardens, besides contributing to the construction of Randolph Henry and Central High Schools. Charlotte Court House has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places as an Historic Courthouse Village District.