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Essex County History
1692: Essex County Established


Three primary factors drove the creation of most new counties in Virginia's early colonial period: increasing population, new land for tobacco fields and the difficulty of travel.

At the time of Bartholomew Hoskins patent (1645), the area around "Topahanocke" was part of York County. Virginia's population nearly doubled in the 1650s with much of the growth along the shores of the Rappahannock River. This led to the creation of Northumberland (1645), Westmoreland (1653), and Lancaster (1651).

The "Topahanocke" area was then part of Lancaster County. The 1651 will of Epaphroditas Lawson, who lived south of the Hoskins patent, is on file in the Lancaster Courthouse and is one of the oldest wills in the country. The growing population created old Rappahannock County (1656), encompassing the current lands of Essex and Richmond counties on both sides of the river.

Travel in 17th century Virginia made court business a difficult affair, so another division occurred. On April 16, 1692 Rappahannock County was divided into Essex County on the south side of the river and Richmond County on the north side of the river. Court records from Rappahannock County were moved to Essex where they reside today. Richmond County was compensated for its citizen's contributions to the purchase of land for Tappahannock.

Thus, the lands we now call Essex have gone through the following transformations:
      - Charles River County (1634)
- York County (1643)
- Lancaster County (1651)
- Old Rappahannock County (1656)
- Essex County (1692)
- Creation of Spotsylvania County in 1721
  removed northwestern land
- creation of Caroline County in 1728
  removed northwestern land





Sources:
1. Settlers, Southerners and Americans: The History of Essex County, Va.. 1985. by James B. Slaughter (available at the Essex County Museum and Historical Society)

2. Essex County Historical Society Bulletin. The Formation of Essex County. May 1972

3. Essex County Virginia: Historic Homes, 2002. by Anita and Gordon Harrower and Robert LaFollette (available at the Essex County Museum and Historical Society)
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