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Hampton After the War of 1812



After the conclusion of the war, religion among the people was too feeble to permit much interest to be taken in the church, and the churchyard was used by the public as a grazing ground for cattle, horses and hogs. Soon not a vestige remained of the doors, windows, floors or furniture. The general religious awakening began in Virginia under Rt. Rev. Bishop Moore about 1824, and in that year Mrs. Jane Hope, eldest daughter of Commodore James Barron, and Mr. Richard B. Servant started subscriptions for repairing the church walls.

Shortly after a vestry was elected, and money was raised to restore and furnish the church. Then a minister, Rev. Mark A. Chevers, was named, and the old vestry book was dragged from its hiding place.

^ Meade, Bishop William, Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia, 2 Vols., 1878.

Page forty-seven



After the destruction of Fort George, in 1749, nothing was done for many years to restore the fort at Point Comfort. During the war of the Revolution the French threw up some slight fortifications there. The experiences of the war of 1812 advised that it should be made a permanent stronghold. The present Fort Monroe was commenced by the Federal government in 1819, and about 1830 the work began of sinking rocks on the Rip Raps opposite, and afterwards a fort was erected called Fort Calhoun, and subsequently Fort Wool. Fort Monroe became a frequent resort of visitors, and for their accommodation a hotel called the Hygeia was built which was in later years moved from the first site, near where the Fort Y. M. C. A. now stands to a location on the beach, on the East side of the street leading to the wharf. Immediately opposite The Chamberlin Hotel was completed in 1893. It was a hostelry of great magnicence but was burned to the ground on March 7, 1920. The Hygeia was razed by order of the War Department. The Sherwood Inn, another hotel remains, but has been taken over by purchase by the Government.

The commercial and religious interests of Elizabeth City County were not the only ones which suffered by war. After peace was made in 1783, the ancient schools of Syms and Eaton were much neglected, for, under the changed state of affairs, the ministers and churchwardens fo Elizabeth City parish, and even the justices, doubted their true succession as incorporators. Thus the lands were again wasted, and the schools much impaired. At length, in 1805, by virtue of an Act of the Legislature, the two schools were incorporated in one as the "Hampton Academy," and, aided by new contributions, continued for many years as a prosperous institution for the benefit of the children of Elizabeth City and of Poquoson Parish, York County. The following list of teachers was furnished by the late Col. John B. Cary, of Richmond, who was the last teacher of the school previous to its union with the general public school system; Prior to 1826, Parson Halstead; 1826-1829, John Page; 1829-1832, C. J. D. Pryor; 1832-1835, George Cooper; 1837-1840, C. J. D. Pryor; 1840-1847, John A. Getty; 1847-1852, John B. Cary.

In the year 1846 the General Assembly adopted the present public school system for the State, but its operation

Page forty-eight



was left in the cities and towns to the council and in the counties to a popular vote. Elizabeth City was one of those counties which decided favorably for the school system. In 1851 it was divided into school districts and Hampton was comprised in District No. 3. In 1852 the Hampton Academy was associated with the school system and its treasurer, William S. Slater, appeared before the Board of school commissioners for the county and reported the fund belonging to the school to amount to $10,706.55. At a meeting of the commissioners held January 6, 1855, it was resolved that the commissioners of District No. 3 be authorized to take charge of Hampton Academy as the district school house.

While the school system was not at this time adopted by all the counties of Virginia, its operation in Elizabeth City is well worthy of consideration. In his annual report for the year 1854 the county superintendent says: "The free school system, taking into consideration the sparseness of our population in some parts of the county, and the consequent increased size of some of the districts, appears to be working remarkably well. I think it is realizing the expectation of some of its most sanguine friends and rapidly securing favor among its former opponents. "

In another report he advances some ideas as to school architecture, which have been put forward anew in recent days and approved by the public. He has hopes "that for the future, in the erection of school houses, the wretched plan of school architecture, which now so generally obtains in Virginia, will be rejected, and that ornament as well as comfort will be consulted in their structure."

During the era of improved public education, John B. Cary, the last teacher of the old Hampton Academy, established a military school of his own, which was attended by young men from all parts of Virginia, and other Southern States. Among his pupils were Captain James Barron Hope, of Norfolk, who attained much distinction as a poet, Capt. W. Gordon McCabe, of Richmond, former President of the Virginia Historical Society, and the late Col. Thomas Tabb, of Hampton, one of the most distinguished lawyers of Virginia.'

Mr. Cary was an enthusiastic teacher and had excellent courses in Latin and Greek as well as music and mathe-



^ Armstrong, Syms-Eaton Academy, 1902.

Page forty-nine



matics. His discipline was strict, and the motto of the school was: ** Order is Heaven's first law." The young men had a literary society called "The Old Boys," which was addressed by eminent men on suitable occasions. In 1859, the orator was Ex-President John Tyler, who for several years before the war passed the summer in a villa which he caused to be erected on a point of land opposite to the town, on the east side of Hampton River, and called the "Villa Margaret."

Still another school advanced the educational condition of the county. In 1854, Rev. Martin Forey, a Baptist minister, erected near Hampton the Chesapeake Female College, which in 1859 appears to have been converted into a boy's school.

Between 1850 and 1860 Eastern Virginia greatly improved under the new system of farming introduced by Edmund Ruffin, which restored the fertility of the over-worked soil. Millions of dollars were added to the value of the lands. Hampton and Elizabeth City County shared in the prosperity, and there were fewer places in the United States where the people lived in greater comfort. From the plantations were obtained abundant crops of corn and wheat and from the gardens almost all of the best vegetables. From the waters of the running creeks and inlets were taken the most delicious fish and oysters; and wild ducks and geese not infrequently contributed to the delights of the table.

There were all kinds of amusements, such as fishing in the creeks, sailing on the rivers, fox-hunting, card-playing and dancing. Yearly the town was paraded by a numerous troop of masked riders, who attired in all kinds of quaint disguises, moved quietly down the streets at night to disappear no one seemed to know where.

The Hotels at Old Point Comfort were frequent resorts of visitors, and the band at the fort not only discoursed sweet music to the troops, but was used by the officers in serenades and to furnish music at the military balls.

The population of Elizabeth City County in 1791 was 3450, of whom 1876 were negro slaves, 18 were free negroes, and 1556 were white people. In 1800 the population was only 2778, of whom 1522 were negro slaves, 18 were free negroes, and 1238 were white people. In 1810 the popula-

Page fifty



tion made up more than its losses, and was 3598, of whom 1734 were negro slaves, 75 were free negroes, and 1789 were whites. In 1820 the population was 3789 and in 1830, 5033. In the last year (1830) the population of Hampton was 1120. It contained at that time about 130 dwelling houses, two Baptist churches, one Methodist and an Episcopal church, one Academy and one private school, six dry goods stores, ten grocery stores, two taverns and three castor oil manufactories. The principal mechanical pursuits were shoemaking, blacksmith's work, house carpentering and ship building. It enjoyed a considerable emolument from the money circulated by the Federal government in the building and maintenance of Fort Monroe and the Rip-Raps. There were two lawyers resident in the town and four physicians. In 1840 the population of Elizabeth City County was 3706, of whom 1708 were negro slaves, 44 were free negroes, and 1954 were white people. In 1860 the population of Elizabeth City County was 5798, of whom 2417 were negro slaves, 201 were free negroes, and 3180 were white people. The population of Hampton the same year was 1848, of whom 782 were negro slaves, 73 were free negroes, and 993 were white people.

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