Northampton County, Virginia

By | Aug 13, 2008

The Eastern Shore of Virginia was first explored by John Smith in 1608 with the first settlement being made in 1614 in what is now called Northampton County. The originial name of the Virginia portion of the Delmarva Peninsula was ‘Ye Plantacon of Accawmacke’. At the time the entire region was one of the original eight shires in Virginia. In 1643 in an effort eliminate ‘heathen’ names in the New World, the name was changed to Northampton after Northamptonshire, England, the birthplace of two prominent citizens.

In 1663 the Virginia peninsula was divided into two counties with the lower portion keeping the name Northampton. The northern half took the original name Accomack.

There are five municipalities in Northampton County. Eastville, the county seat although in existence since before 1863 didn’t incorporate until 1896. Cape Charles was the first to incorporate in 1886 with Exmore in 1950, Cheriton in 1951 and Nassawadox in 1958.

Many of the towns, both incorporated and others that have not incorporated formed or grew greatly as a result of the building of the Eastern Shore Railroad that Alexander Cassatt built to extend the Pennsylvania Railroad on to the Virginia portion of Delmarva. The 65 mile railroad ran from Pocomoke City, Maryland with its southern terminus being what would become Cape Charles. This created a reason for a industrial ferry service between Norfolk and Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Eastville has been the county seat of Northampton County since 1677 when it was decided to move the courthouse to a site known as ‘the Hornes’. The name was later Peachburg Town and finally Eastville. At the Courthouse there are court records that date to 1632, the oldest continuous county records in the United States.

There are many natural and cultural sites in Northampton County. At the southern end of the county are two large public parks, Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge and Kiptopeke State Park just waiting to be visited.


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