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Site debut: 11/14/97

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    The Northern Neck of Virginia, a rural area which has been settled since the 1600's, is rich in historic and recreational resources. Although not far from major metropolitan areas, it has remained relatively unscathed by over development, retaining its leisurely rural character. Westmoreland County holds birthplaces of President George Washington, President James Monroe, General Robert E. Lee, and of two signers of the Declaration of Independence, Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee. The area was explored by the earliest settlers to this country, including Captain John Smith, an early Jamestowne citizen. Learn more through A Brief History of Jamestown from APVA.

   The Westmoreland waterfront stretches for miles along the historic Potomac River, which forms a boundary between Virginia and Maryland. Situated on the waterfront is the Lee Family home, a fully restored colonial treasure: Stratford Hall Plantation was home to Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, signers of the Declaration of Independence, and to Robert E. Lee,  Confederate general. 

   Also on the Potomac is the birthplace of George Washington at Wakefield, where the National Park Service offers tours of a typical colonial home. The foundation of his boyhood home is evident nearby. Enjoy two online movies (best with cable or satellite connections) from "Archiving Early America:" "The Real Face of George Washington," and "The Life of George Washington," an online movie in 3 parts. Also learn about "Declaring Independence," in which the Lee brothers were participants. 

   Westmoreland County, which celebrates its 350th anniversary as a county in 2003, is also the birthplace of the 5th US President, James Monroe. A commemorative marker has been placed at the Monroe Birthplace site adjacent to Highway 205 at Monroe Hall, and plans are underway for a visitor center there. His lasting legacy includes the Monroe Doctrine. 

   This part of Virginia not only was home to the earliest English settlers,  but was also the  first area to which many later immigrants came before beginning their Westward trek. To view the progression of exploration in the area, view a series of maps from the University of Georgia's Rare Map Collection dated 1607, 1715, and 1755, respectively.

   Captain John Smith's Map of Virginia is an interesting and surprisingly accurate graphic recording of his early exploits in the Colony of Virginia.

   Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail: Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Water Trails from the National Park Service/US Department of the Interior outlines Smith's two voyages, plus others, and provides locations of interpretive buoys and land-based gateways. The map is in pdf format so you can enlarge it as much as you need.

   For an updated view, visit (1) Where is the Northern Neck? on this site, and (2)the spectacular view from the Space Shuttle Columbia taken in October 1993. 

   For ancient geologic history of the area, visit the USGS's Chesapeake Bay Bolide: Modern Consequences of an Ancient Cataclysm, to learn why this area may be star-struck, literally. And venture out into the Bay to visit the Smith Island Page!

   Ancestral heritage societies take on new meaning when the members of local groups can easily trace their ancestry here back to colonial times, some to the original Jamestowne settlement. Read more  in the APVA "Brief History of Jamestown." Or visit Virtual Jamestown! Get in the spirit of those earliest days by reading the Instructions for the Virginia Colony 1606.

   Look in the National Register of Historic Places sites for sites in the Northern Neck counties (Westmoreland, Richmond, Lancaster, Northumberland) or for historic sites where you live! On this site, be sure to view the  Leedstown Resolves, or Westmoreland Resolves, an historic document executed by prominent Westmorelanders in February 1766 in response to the Stamp Act.

   Revisit the daily lives of the fishermen of the area with a visit to the Reedville Fishermen's Museum in Northumberland County. Whether it's the current exhibit or the treasured mementos always there of days gone by in the lives of those who harvest the sea, you'll find something worth the trip!

   Learn more about the contributions of African-Americans to the life of the Chesapeake Bay through Maryland Department of Natural Resources' "Blacks of the Chesapeake," which includes a 32-page "Curriculum Guide to Chesapeake Bay Through Ebony Eyes," as well as sections on Chesapeake Underground, 60 Years on the Bay with Earl White, and more.

    Enjoy looking at the 1959 Yearbook, "Traveler," from Cople School in Westmoreland County. Digitally enhanced photos from all the pages of the yearbook have been made into a special section on this site, where you can view thumbnails, and click through to full-size photographs. At that time, Cople hosted grades one through twelve. Now Cople School is an elementary school located not far from the original Cople. The high school at Cople was abolished when Westmoreland County's school system was consolidated in 1960.

POTOMAC RIVER

   Portions of the Potomac River shoreline have been preserved for the public's enjoyment at Westmoreland State Park. Learn more about the all-important river navigation aids at at the National Maritime Initiative Inventory of Historic Light Stations (Maryland and Virginia). 

   The Lighthouses of the Chesapeake Bay are featured on the Chesapeake Chapter, U.S. Lighthouse Society web site.  Check Barbara Peck's and Tim Self's Lighthouses Page on Rootsweb to see a photo of the old Ragged Point Lighthouse (also here) just off Coles Point, as well as other lighthouses around the world. (The August 20,1933 photo shows my dad, Edward Godman, and Wes Lewis waving from the lighthouse). See the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum and the St. Clement's Island Potomac River Museum, both located directly across the Potomac from Westmoreland County. 

   One of the Bay area's favorite inhabitants is the Blue Crab, whose life and times are chronicled at Steve Zinski's Blue Crab Archives site. 

   Learn more about Ragged Point's past maritime disasters through these links: (1)an account of the collision of two steamers (resulting in 73 lives lost) off Ragged Point in August 1862, from the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, SG Griffin Camp#10, Keene, NH; and (2)  CNN's article on the explosion of the gunboat USS Tulip in November 1864 (resulting in 46 deaths). Find additional info on the Tulip explosion at (3) the Navy's Naval Historical Site.

   Black Panther Historic Shipwreck Preserve is the final resting place of the U-1105 Black Panther, a German sub from World War II. Having surrendered at the end of the war, the sub was sunk by Navy target practice in 1949. Rediscovered in 1985, it is now the site of Maryland's first underwater diving preserve Learn more about it through the US Navy's Historical Center.  

   Families with early connections along Lower Machodoc Creek and the Potomac can retell tales of Yankees on the shore there. Read Ehistory's Official Records of the Civil War: (1) Expedition to Popes Creek June 1864; (2) Point Lookout - Machodoc - Yeocomico, June 1864; (3) Machodoc Creek, April 1864;  (4) Expedition into Westmoreland County March 1865;  (5) Expedition into Lower Machodoc Creek April 1864 - Page 1;  Page 2;  (6)Machodoc-Yeocomico March 1863; (7) Expedition from Belle Plain into Westmoreland County March 1863, Page 1;  Page 2; (8) Westmoreland Courthouse - Hague - Potomac February 1863, Page 1;  Page 2.

   Just across the St. Mary's peninsula directly across the Potomac lies the Patuxent River, which was also settled very early. There are references in Living and Dying on the 17th Century Patuxent Frontier to the Clifts Plantation, and the documentation of 17th century graves and life on the Patuxent is a mirror of what occurred on the Potomac and in other areas of the Chesapeake.

   Persons searching for family history often conclude their journey by visiting the records still found today in the Clerk's Offices of the Circuit Courts in these old colonial counties. 

   Family history buffs will be glad to know that local historical societies and museums in the Northern Neck include the Northern Neck Historical Society (whose library resides in the Westmoreland Museum, Montross),  the Northumberland Historical Society in Heathsville, VA,  the Mary Ball Museum and Library in Lancaster County, VA and the Richmond County Museum in Warsaw, VA.

QUIET WELCOME 

   Although the Northern Neck is the ultimate "rivah" to which many Virginians (and others) migrate on weekends, full-time residents still cherish the peaceful weekdays when the loudest noise is the migrating flock of Canada geese overhead, and the loudest group of tourists is a field of indescribably beautiful swans discussing the next leg of their journey. If you come to visit, as it is said, take only memories and leave only footprints. See Travel Advisory Page.

MORE NORTHERN NECK PAGES

For more information on the Northern Neck and on the area, please visit these other locations on this site:

Northern Neck E-Cards Free Online  *  Northern Neck Weather *  Where in the World is the Northern Neck? * Map Page Showing Location of Coles Point, VA * Directions to Coles Point, VA  * Virginia Favorites Recipes  * Courts & Clerks in the Northern Neck *     Virginia's Courts System  * Prosecutors in the Northern NeckWhat's New page showcases weekly updates

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THE NORTHERN NECK OF VIRGINIA LAW PAGE , online since 11/14/97
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