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Middlesex Historic Marker Trail

They stand like sentinels, heralding the rich history of Middlesex County. Across the county are 16 historical markers that tell Middlesex County stories, some prominent and others virtually lost to time. From the mysterious Indian village of Opiscopank, noted in a 1608 map of Capt. John Smith, through Smith’s near-fatal 1609 encounter with a stingray and beyond, the historical markers are informative and intriguing. They include descriptions of signature people such as Gen. Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, the most decorated soldier in the Marine Corps, and Irene Morgan, an African-American woman who refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in 1944, a decision that led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Take a driving tour to relive the events and learn about the people and places that shaped Middlesex County.

Hewick


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Three miles east is Hewick, built about 1678 by Christopher Robinson, clerk of Middlesex County. It was the birthplace of John Robinson, Speaker of the House of Burgesses and Treasurer of Virginia, 1738-1766, the leading man of the colony.

LOCATION: Along Route 17 near the intersection of Farley Park Road.

Christ Church


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Half a mile east is Christ Church, Middlesex. The first building was erected about 1666; the present one in 1712. About 1840 the church was restored. The colonial governor, Sir Henry Chicheley, is buried there.

LOCATION: Along General Puller Highway near the intersection of Urbanna Road.

Middlesex County Courthouse


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In 1849, the county seat of Middlesex was moved from Urbanna to Saluda. Engineer John P. Hill completed the present courthouse in 1852. During the Civil War, Federal cavalrymen stationed in Yorktown made several excursions through the county. Court clerk Philemon T. Woodward (1852-1892) concealed the county’s colonial records nearby in Dragon Swamp, thereby saving a rich source of local history from potential Union souvenir hunters. Virginia’s first county museum was established in the old clerk’s office in 1935, and Works Progress Administration workers constructed the brick wall enclosing the complex during the same decade.

LOCATION: In Saluda along General Puller Highway near the intersection of Oakes Landing Road.

Tomb of Puller


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In Christ Churchyard immediately to north lies buried Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell Puller USMC. He led Marines in 19 campaigns from Haiti and Nicaragua through the Korean War receiving 53 decorations and the admiration and affection of those he led. He was a Marine’s Marine and is a tradition of Virginia and our nation’s history.

LOCATION: In Saluda along General Puller Highway near the intersection of Oakes Landing Road.

Lower Methodist Church


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Built 1717, this was the second lower chapel of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex County. It occupies the site of the first lower chapel of this parish, built before 1661 as the church of Piankatank Parish. Bartholomew Yates was the first minister of the present church. After 1792 the church was unused, except by the Methodists or Baptists. In 1857 Robert Healy bought the church from the parish and gave it to the Methodists, who have worshipped here ever since.

LOCATION: Along General Puller Highway at the intersection of Lower Church Road.

Stingray Point


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Capt. John Smith led two exploratory voyages in Chesapeake Bay during the summer of 1608. His boat ran aground at the mouth of the Rappahannock River, three miles east, on 17 July. While awaiting high tide to float the vessel, he and his men impaled fish with their swords, and Smith speared a cow-nose ray that sank its tail spine into his wrist as he tried to remove it. The toxin swelled Smith’s arm, shoulder, and chest, but surgeon Walter Russell applied soothing oil and by evening Smith was well enough to eat the ray for supper. He named the place Stingray Point.

LOCATION: Along General Puller Highway near the intersection of Jackson Farm Lane.

Rosegill


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A short distance east is Rosegill. The house was built about 1650 by the first Ralph Wormeley; it became the summer home of the colonial governors, Sir Henry Chicheley and Lord Howard of Effingham. In 1776, the owner, the fifth Ralph Wormeley, was put under restraint as a Tory. In 1781, Rosegill was plundered by British privateersmen.

LOCATION: Urbanna Road near the intersection of VA-170.

Christopher Robinson


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In 1678, Christopher Robinson purchased 300 acres here that became Hewick, the Virginia seat of the Robinson family. Robinson’s distinguished service to Virginia began as the clerk of Middlesex County Court from 1677 to 1688. He was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1691, and, in 1692, was appointed Councillor and Secretary of the Foreign Plantations by King William III of England. Robinson’s final contribution to colonial Virginia came in 1693, when he served as a founding trustee of William and Mary College.

LOCATION: On Old Virginia Street just outside of Urbanna.

Urbanna Creek


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First known as Nimcock Creek, this creek was mentioned in a legislative act of 1680 as “Wormeley’s Creek.” After the town of Urbanna was named in 1705 for Queen Anne, the stream was given the same name. British privateersmen entered the creek, June 5, 1781, and pillaged Urbanna and Rosegill, the plantation of Sir Ralph Wormeley.

LOCATION: On Urbanna Road just before entering crossing Urbanna Creek into the town.

Old Middlesex County Courthouse


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This building served as the Middlesex County courthouse from 1748 to 1852. Although much altered from its original appearance, it is one of Virginia’s rare colonial courthouse buildings. During the American Revolution, the local Committee of Safety met here. According to tradition during the Civil War, it briefly housed Confederate troops. After use as the county courthouse, the building was remodeled and became a house of worship for several denominations. In 1948 Christ Church Parish transferred ownership to the Middlesex County Woman’s Club, which once operated a community library here. The structure was listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

LOCATION: In Urbanna on Virginia Street just west of the intersection of Cross Street.

John Mitchell’s Map


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Born in Lancaster County on 13 Apr. 1711, John Mitchell studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and in 1734 opened a practice here in Urbanna. In 1746, he moved to London, where he published his Map of the British and French Dominions in North America in 1755. British and American diplomats used the map, acclaimed for its accuracy, to negotiate the Treaty of Paris in 1783, which ended the Revolutionary War and established boundaries for the new nation. The map served to document treaties into the 20th century. Mitchell died in or near London on 29 Feb. 1768.

LOCATION: In Urbanna on Virginia Street in front of the Scottish Factors Store.

Naval Actions on Wilton Creek and the Rappahannock River


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In Aug. 1863, Confederate Navy Lt. John Taylor Wood, moving overland with boarding cutters carried on modified wagons and a contingent of 82 men, embarked on an expedition to attack Union ships. At Wilton Creek, Wood and his men repulsed forces from the Union gunboat General Putnam in a skirmish on 17 Aug. Shifting operations north to the Rappahannock River, his boarding parties surprised and captured Union gunboats, Reliance and Satellite, anchored off Windmill Point in a daring early morning raid on 22 Aug. The third raid of its kind by Wood, a grandson of Pres. Zachary Taylor, it was also the most successful.

LOCATION: Along General Puller Highway near the intersection of Woodport Lane.

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Opiscopank Smith’s Mystery Town


marker-opiscopank
In 1608, Capt. John Smith mapped Opiscopank near here as an Indian town where a chief lived. Oddly, his narratives did not mention visiting the town or how he learned about it. In 1649, Ralph Wormeley patented 3,200 acres here that included “the Indian Townes of old & new Nimcock, bounded N.W. upon Rosehill Cr.” While the Rosegill Plantation later became well known, historical records are silent on what became of the Nimcock Indians who lived at the former Opiscopank. Archaeological research found evidence of Middle to Late Woodland Indians habitation at several locations on the former Rosegill Plantation.

LOCATION: Along Urbanna Road just south of Urbanna Creek.

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Glebe Landing Church


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This church was constituted in 1772 by the noted Baptist preacher, John Waller. The first building stood on the old glebe overlooking the Rappahannock River; hence the name Glebe Landing. The present building was erected in 1839.

LOCATION: Along Route 17 near the intersection of Briery Swamp Road.

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Morgan v. Virginia


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Irene Morgan’s resistance to segregation led to an important court case. On 16 July 1944, Morgan refused to give up her seat on a Greyhound bus to a white passenger. After a struggle with Middlesex County sheriffs she was arrested. Convicted by the State, she appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court with the help of Spottswood W. Robinson III and Thurgood Marshall, among others. In a landmark decision in 1946, the Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to enforce segregation laws on interstate carriers. This decision helped set precedent for the later battles the NAACP waged against segregation.

LOCATION: On General Puller Highway in front of the Middlesex County Courthouse.

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Middlesex County


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Middlesex County Formed in 1673 from Lancaster, and named for an English county. Rosegill, frequented by colonial governors, is here.

LOCATION: On Route 17 in two locations; near the border of Gloucester County on the south and Essex County on the north.

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