The Lincoln and Grant Meeting
The climactic events leading to the collapse of the Confederacy began on April 1, 1865 when Union forces defeated the two divisions of General George Pickett at the Battle of Five Forks. Lee could no longer hold Petersburg or stop the Yankees from cutting the Southside railroad. It was time for a breakthrough and General Grant seized the moment in a series of coordinated attacks…
Peter Jones – A Mystery
It is generally accepted historical opinion that Petersburg, Virginia was named for the first Peter Jonesor one of his namesakes, and yet the identity of his parents, the place of his birth, and the dates of his birth and death are not known with certainty. Yet, his accomplishments and those of his heirs are written all over the region. He appears in the public record in 1655 attesting to an agreement signed by his future father-in-law and business partner, Abraham Wood. Jones married Wood’s daughter, Margaret, and they had five children, Abraham, Peter, Richard, William and Mary.
Petersburg Cotton Industry
It never eclipsed tobacco, but for almost a century the manufacture of cotton products was one ofPetersburg’s most important industries. Beginning in the 1820s Petersburg became the northernmost city in the UnitedStates where cotton was received from nearby fields and then processed into manufactured goods. Leading the way was the Petersburg Manufacturing Company which opened in 1826. This industrial growth was enhanced by the invention in 1829 by Francis Follett and Jabez Smith of the cotton seed huller. Their machine separated the cotton seed kernels so oil could be extracted and products fabricated from it.
Old Towne Petersburg (part I)
The expansion of Virginia into the colonial heartland began in earnest soon after the European settlements had been secured following years of bloody warfare with Native Americans in the 1620s and 1630s. That development soon reached the confluence of the Appomattox and James Rivers in the region south and west of modern- day Hopewell. Part of the military system of forts set up to guard this growing move westward was Fort Henry built on the south side of the falls of the Appomattox in 1645.
Old Towne Petersburg (part II)
By the first half of the 20th century, Petersburg, Virginia, was a vibrant industrial and commercial city. Even as late as the 1930s, the harbor boasted substantial river freight and passenger traffic. In 1915, the top four Petersburg exports were tobacco, cotton yarn, luggage and peanuts. The Seward Trunk and Bag Company was the largest producer of trunks in the world at the time, and in World War II it supplied foot lockers for thousands of troops.
McKenney Library Sit-In
In the years following the epic Supreme Court decisions ending desegregation of schools, advocates of African-American equal access to public accommodations began to test the racial separation barriers erected during the reign of Jim Crow. In February, 1960, this crusade came to Petersburg, Virginia.
Peter Jones Trading Station
In 1646, at the falls of the Appomattox River, the colony of Virginia established Fort Henry. This point was the limit of westward navigation on the river at the time, and the citadel was part of the security system set up to protect English settlers from attacks by Native Americans of the Powhatan tribal confederation.
Petersburg Harbor and First Steamboat
It is the falls that made the town. The cataracts of the Appomattox, similar to those at Richmond, Raleigh, and Columbia, prevented westward waterborne transportation. It was logical that first a fort and then a thriving commercial town should spring up at the location where deep-draft shipping could no longer pass. Petersburg became one of the most important trading centers in the South.
The Keziah Affair
During the 1850s, with increasing desperation, the white population of the Upper South witnessed the success of slaves escaping North, both through individual exploits and organized efforts such as the Underground Railroad. In 1855 the Norfolk Southern Argus wrote that the “frequent escapes of fugitives from our port” were “an intolerable evil.” The next year the Virginia General Assembly required that all ships leaving the state for the North had to be inspected. With this heightened scrutiny and white anger came increasing resourcefulness on the part of slaves and their allies assisting in their escape.