a map done by Colonel Willaim P. Craighill of the United states Army Corps of Engineers in 1890.
this map is showing the observer the relationship between two sets of river cross-sections that had been taken by government survey crews in 1853 and, again, in 1890. essentially what you see is a 'before and after' story on the subject of how the flows of the James River were affected by the digging of the Dutch Gap Canal in the Fall of 1864 by Union Army forces of the Army of the Jmaes, commanded by General Benjamin Butler.
as siltation and scouring of the river bottom was vastly changed when the canal cut was finally finished in 1874, it is readily apparent, even in 1890, that the long ox-bow loop around Farrar's Island would eventually fill in with muddy and some stony sediments to become the swamp that you now pass by to your left as you enter Henricus Historical Park, on the Chesterfield County side.
in the 1920's various stone and gravel companies began to hollow out Farrar's Island, shaping a huge lagoon that forms about 60% of the area of the old penninsula-island, and provides much of the excellent fishing and game habitat in the Dutch Gap Conservation Area of the Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation Department.
MAP done in 1853, by the United States Coastal Survey, under the
directorship of Mr. A. D. Bache, Superintendent.
this map shows the following items.
I--1611. HENRICUS: just to the south of the Dutchman's Gap, Thomas Dale found one of the best positions on the entire James River that would afford a healthy climate away from the swamps and varied flying vermin of a river-level colony with shallow and murderous water wells, as encountered at Jamestown settlement, as well as a militarily defensible spot that could be used to establish a hellish cross-fire zone on any Spanish ships that may approach the colony from the east. artillery could have been placed at many positions to the south and the north of 'the gap', on the northwest side of the river. where exactly is still conjectural speculation. but one thing is sure: Peter Michie, a top of class graduate of West Point who came here in 1864 to do an engineering survey, was not the first military man to recognise the importance of this territory.
II--1612. ROCK DALE CREEK, ROCHEDALE CREEK, ROCKDALE CREEK:
somewhere in the area of modern-day Chesterfield County, a Reverend Alexander Whitaker set up a parsonnage on glebe lands set aside by Dale in the evirons of what is now a trucking company on Old Stage Road, not too far from one of the first ochre ovens in America- a brick factory may have been there too which would have supplied the material for the foundations of numerous structures.
the place was called Rock Hall. in the 19th Century it will become the eastern terminus of a railroad that goes west to the village of Chester and suffered from under-capitalization from its beginning to end. either he or Dale named this Rock Dale Creek for a locale back in the old homelands of England. several years later, Rev Whitaker was rowing his boat over to the fort just south of Dutch Gap and somehow drowned in the river. he must have had a rather fast tide ebbing along with the usual flow of the river current and somehow tipped over far away from the nearest shore. the time-honored location would almost have to be just to the upper left, at about 10 o'clock, from the 'U.S.' of the map title in the photograph here.
III--1634. FIRST HENRICO COUNTY COURTHOUSE: in the vicinity of the Varina Farm, just inland from the north bank of the James, just above the annotation "JAMES RIVER", where the old planter's house and outbuildings were spotted by our mapmakers, was one of the first county courthouses in the Virginia Colony. remnants of the foundation are still extant. this is still private property and entry permission must be obtained from the current owners and occupants.
IV--1781. THE VIRGINIA STATE FLEET: in the Fall of 1781, Benedict Arnold's soldiers, mainly men of the Queen's Rangers, who had boarded the captured warships and vessels of the Virginia Fleet, may well have scuttled a number of the actual armed units in the old abandoned channel of the river just to the north of Farrar's Island. this channel is now becoming a running swamp and bird sanctuary of great interest to hundreds of birders from central Virginia. the Rangers, mostly Loyalists from Westchester County, New York, probably wanted to sail the remaining merchant vessels loaded with tobacco hogsheads to Norfolk to sell off as 'war booty', but Arnold and Phillips wanted to go for Petersburg, to catch the young Lafayette, and the ships were either scuttled or burned in the vicinity. If the interested modern historian would like to see if the fleet is still somewhere on “Poor Cottage Reach”, he/she can view the tide charts for the upcoming New Moon and make trek out to Henricus to see what might be some exposed ribs of the ancient wrecks.
V--1830’s. LEGENDS OF ‘THE DUTCHMAN'S GAP’ OR ‘DUTCH GAP’: stories
have been circulating for many years concerning an effort supposedly
initiated by members of the Farrar family to dig out a canal across
Henricus isthmus, in order to short-cut 7 to 8 miles off of the river
journey from Hampton Roads to Richmond. Supposedly, a cut was begun,
but never finished. at the northern bank of the isthmus it is believed
the ground was so hard packed, by the ‘bulldozing effect’ of
southwardly progressing glacier faces, that the amateur engineers gave
up the project, and the state government, adhering to Jeffersonian
principles, had no real interest in completion of it with public
this area is approachable by simply going to the publicly open and free-of-charge 'point', walking down the entry road just to the left of the paved parking lot of the Henricus Historical Park, on the Chesterfield County side. the ditch you cross just after going thru the post & chain gate is probably the old west pallisade of the original Henricus Fort, dug out in September, 1611.
What is in the records is this: whether ‘The Gap’ was a naturally carved backwash area, possibly hallowed out by the infamous 1771 Flood, or was a failed family affair, the abandoned 'canal beginnings' were reconnoitered by Peter Michie in the Summer of 1864, when General Bejamin Butler, commanding the Army of the James, had the idea of finishing this cut-through in order to allow Union gunboats to more easily go up the river to Richmond. the cut occupied the northern forces here for much of the time from August, 1864 to January, 1865. and the job kept Butler out of General Grant's political hair until an opportunity to send him to the cashier came along.
the horse drawn scrapers and two wheeled carts that can be viewed on various Civil War plates, dumped most of the excavated earth onto the fields of the Cox Farm, or Varina Farm, and onto the hills that you can see on the map, just southwest of the Dutch Gap, thereby flattening out the terrain, and quite possibly sinking the original fort under as much as 25 feet of soil in some spots.
VI--1857. LOST BRICK CHURCH FOUNDATION: at the location where you see the annotation, "Dutch Gap", a Reverend William Mead, in 1857, noted that it was possible to stand on this point of geography and see what appeared to be 'four beautiful rivers' from one single spot, an illusion obtainable at few other places on the planet. he also claimed that near this spot, many bricks could be seen on the ground surface. he did not elaborate on whether this ancient building material was from the old Henrico County Courthouse, burned by Benedict Arnold in 1781, or the remains of a church foundation, 50' wide x 100' long, that was begun by Sir Thomas Dale sometime around 1613. research is beginning to unearth the amazing possibilty that Dale and the Reverend Alexander Whitaker were trying to begin a Puritan oriented off-shoot of the Virginia colony as early as 1611. since the colony, at that time period, was being 'developed' by a private-equity joint stock company, which was a comparatively new socio-economic entity first sanctioned by Queen Elizabeth I, the Puritans may have been thinking that this was an ideal place to begin a new society, the beginning of "A City on a Hill", right here in the Virginia wilderness.
VII—2012, LOST BRICK FOUNDATION EVIDENCE MOUNTING: on 24 August, 2012, using a device that can locate the edges of objects under as much as 20 feet of soil, a team of Henricus Historical Park staff and volunteers, at about 10:20 EDT, began finding a series of hard edges on the site of the garden behind the present Proctor’s Plantation Interpretation Area, which is shown as a purple oval on this map. The edges seemed to zig-zag somewhat between 3 to 5 feet apart, in fairly straight lines for about 100 feet, and then turned about 90 degrees and continued onward another 50-55 feet, and then turned about 90 degrees once again and went toward the eroded west edge of the bluff overhanging the ancient, abandoned river channel. The long-side edges seemed to be on a magnetic bearing of 120 degrees, facing the congregation toward the chancel and the point in this area of the world where the Sun rises on the day that Jesus of Nazareth was conceived of the Holy Spirit, on 25 December, 8 B.C.
The Story of the "Citty of Henricus" (Henrico)
In the late summer of 1611 Sir Thomas Dale departed Jamestown with a strong force of 300 men to proceed up river to establish a new settlement. It was expected that it would become the chief seat in the Colony. It would be further removed from the Spanish fear and threat, it would be more healthful, and it could be made more defensible against the Indians.
The Company and many of the settlers were dissatisfied with the Jamestown location. Dale had begun to push this project soon after his arrival in the Colony in May, 1611. He was acting on conviction and on Company instructions. Seemingly the name of the new town had already been chosen. It was to be Henrico in honor of Henry, Prince of Wales, known too as the protector and patron of Virginia. He had explored and found the site he liked, "a convenient strong, healthie and sweete seate to plant a new Towne in." Already at Jamestown he had prepared "pales, posts and railes to impaile his proposed new Towne."
Marshal Dale, leaving Governor Gates at Jamestown, proceeded upstream by boat while the larger part of his party went overland led by Capt. Edward Brewster. The latter encountered resistance from the Indians particularly at the hand of "Munetute" ("called amongste us Jacke of the feathers"). Dale and Brewster rendezvoused at the appointed place and "after divers encounter and skirmishes with the salvages gained a convenientt place for fortification where presently they did begin to builde a foarte." The Indians continued to protest this invasion of their territory with the most effective means at hand. The site selected was a peninsula that jutted into the James from the north side some few miles below the Arrahatock village.
Within 15 days Dale had impaled 7 acres of ground and then set to work to build at each of the 5 corners of the town "very strong and high commanders or watchtowers, a faire and handsome Church, and storehouses." It was not until then that he turned to the matter of houses and lodgings for "himself and men." Two miles inland he built a strong pale some 2 miles in length which ran from river to river making an island of the neck on which Henrico stood. Presumably this palisade faced a ditch hence the term—"trench and pallizado." Hamor related in 1614 that in 4 months he had made Henrico "much better and of more worth then all the work ever since the Colonie began."
His achievements were not come by easily. It was costly in life and in loss of personal freedoms. It was achieved with the full enforcement of the now famous "Dale laws." He moved quickly to punish deserters and law breakers. George Percy related the results in graphic terms. Some "in a moste severe manner [he] cawsed to be executed. Some he appointed to be hanged, some burned, some to be broken upon wheles, others to be staked and some to be shott to deathe; all theis extreme and crewell tortures he used and inflicted upon them to terrefy the reste for attemptinge the like...." These were stern measures that produced results and few of his contemporary associates took issue including John Rolfe, Ralph Hamor, Reverend Alexander Whitaker and even Sir Edwin Sandys. To them, motivated by the spirit of the time, hard conditions required stern handling.
Robert Johnson, in 1612, evaluated the new settlement as he saw it: "the colony is removed up the river forescore miles further beyond Jamestown to a place of high ground, strong and defensible by nature, a good air, wholesome and clear, unlike the marshy seat at Jamestown, with fresh and plenty of water springs, much fair and open grounds freed from woods, and wood enough at hand." In 1614 Hamor described the town here as having "3 streets of well framed howses, a hansom Church, and the foundations of a more stately one laid, of brick, in length one hundred foote, and fifty foot wide, beside store houses, watch houses, and such like." Near it, and behind the pale, was a great quantity of corn ground—enough to support the whole Colony and easy for "manuring and husbandry."
Two years later it seems evident that the "citty of Henricus" had retrogressed, perhaps, out of emphasis on Bermuda City just down river. At this time there were only 38 men and boys "at Henrico and in the precints." Of these 22 were "Farmors," the rest were "Officers and others." Although it was "our furthest habitacion into the land" it was listed as self sufficient in "food and apparell." Captain Smalley, in the absence of James Davis, was in command and the minister was William Wickham. Wickham "in his life and doctrine gives good examples, and godlie instructions to the people."
Even though the "citty" continued its decline, the Incorporation, of which it was the center, carried on its name. In 1619 Henrico was reported to have had but a few "old" houses, and a "ruinated" Church with some other buildings "in the Island." It continued, however, as a fixed community until destroyed by the Indians during, and after, the massacre. On March 22, 1622 only 5 were killed at "Henrico Iland." It was represented in the assembly of 1619 by John Polentine and Thomas Dowse. The latter may have been actually living on the College land, above the "citty," where he had earlier received a patent from the hand of Argall. There is no mention of Henrico town in 1624 and 1625. As a matter of fact, the only settlement in the entire Incorporation of Henrico listed in the census of 1625 was the College Land. This had been the only community, too, to send representatives to the Assembly in 1624. The effects of the massacre in this area had been great.
VII--1864. COX'S LANDING: many Civil War photographs taken by Samuel Cooley were shot in this area, during the Spring of 1865. Cooley travelled mostly with the Union Army's 10th Corps. sometime around Christmas, 1864, while visiting Fort Harrison, about 3.5 miles north of The Gap, he was able to take one of the rarest of Civil War photographs, an 'action shot' of sorts, involving the participation of soldiers of both sides in the same glass-plate exposure. he set up his tripod on the fort's parapets, and during the moments of this Christmas truce, was able to take at least one image that is very historically valuable. Union soldiers lined up in groups inside the fort, and if you 'walk into the photo', you can see Rebel pickets in the background, standing perfectly still, probably knowing that they too were being preserved for the ages in one of the new chemical pictures. the photo has been high-resolution scanned by either The National Archives or The Library of Congress, and is downloadable from their web-sites.
VIII--1917. FARRAR'S ISLAND: in the days right after the entry of the U.S. into The Great War, The War to End All Wars, World War I, the US Army once again returned in force to the Chesterfield County riverine area. this time, elements of the U. S. Army's Signal Corps that were learning to employ electrical telephones for the modernization of the old art and science of artillery spotting and aiming, deployed field pieces near the old Union fort named after General Wead, and forward observers, using the new field phone technology, positioned along the bluffs of the south bank of the river, near Trent's Reach, learned how to 'box in' various targets on Farrar's Island. records that can be obtained at Chesterfield Courthouse show that the U.S. Government paid a rental fee of no small amount of cash money to the landowners in this area for the useage of their property in 'the war effort'.
BLUE SKY HANG-GLIDER PARK
DUTCH GAP CONSERVATION AREA
HENRICO COUNTY DEPT. PARKS AND RECREATION
VIRGINIA DEPT. OF HISTORIC RESOURCES
KINGDOM OF LUCERNE
the owners of the Frenchman’s Rough Map:
the Second (maybe Third) Cittie of the Colony:
the folks with the records: