Long before Goochland became a county, the Monacan Tribe made the area along the James River Valley home, with its primary village, Rassawek, located where the James and Rivanna rivers meet at Point of Fork in Fluvanna County. By 1700, the Monacans had moved westward and the Huguenots, a group of French Protestants, settled in the area to serve as a buffer against possible attacks by Native Americans. The Huguenots moved into one of the abandoned villages, called Manakintown. By 1727, legislation was passed to create a new county and in 1728, Goochland County was formed and held its first court. It was named for the popular Sir William Gooch, Royal Lieutenant Governor, who had arrived in the colony in 1727. The new county included land from Tuckahoe Creek on both sides of the James River to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Transportation in the 18th and 19th Centuries
From its founding, Goochland’s land owners raised tobacco and wheat as their primary commercial crops. Transportation was difficult by land as roads were few and often in poor condition. The most desirable east-west route was the James River which served as their major highway. The Three Chopt Road (Route 250 generally follows this route) which had been a Native American trail, was another important east-west route through the county. Transporting products would remain a struggle until the James River and Kanawha Canal was built, following the Revolutionary War. By 1880, the Richmond and Allegheny Railroad had purchased its right-of-way and laid its tracks on the towpath where mules and horses had pulled packet boats up and down the canal. The railroad was now the major means of transport.
Mining has played an important role in the development of the county. Coal was discovered by the Huguenot settlers in the Manakin area in 1701. Mining started there in the early 1700s and continued until the 1880s. Also, found in the Manakin area, are large deposits of granite; however, granite mining did not begin until the very late 1800s after the railroad had been built. Gold had been discovered by Sir Christopher Newport in 1608 near Rassawek, the Monacan Tribe’s largest village. Goochland is located in the center of Virginia’s gold belt which runs along the Piedmont Plateau. Prior to the Civil War, Goochland had around 50 gold mines.
Over the centuries since its founding, Goochland has seen many changes, brought about by various circumstances, ranging from war to the advent of new technologies. As Goochland approaches its 300th birthday, agriculture is no longer the primary “industry” in the county, the James River is no longer a major highway for commerce, and gold and coal mining are a thing of the past. Yet its geography continues to influence its development. Its rural landscape continues to attract people, as does its proximity to Richmond and its history will tell its story to them. In 2027/2028, Goochland will celebrate its 300th birthday and what a story it has to tell.
History in Goochland
Learn more about the history of Goochland by viewing a listing of local businesses and educational resources.