Dogwood is the state flower. Virginia Courthouses

 

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The English colony of Virginia was divided into eight shires in 1634.

Courthouses contain the details of a community's history and some of the most dramatic moments of human existence.

Drawn by the beauty of Virginia, it’s rich history, and an interest in law, we’ve traveled the state taking pictures of the courthouses.

The purpose is not only to show the beauty and variety of architecture designs, but also to glean unique and interesting stories. It's the stories of the people that make the facts come alive. Whenever possible, we have visited with clerks or local historians. Other times we have resorted to books, newspapers, and the web.

The project was started in January of this year, and we have visited about 2/3’s of the 131 localities. At each courthouse we take several pictures of the current building, any older buildings, monuments, and memorials. We cull the pictures for the best for the web. As we complete other counties, they will be added to the site.

Additional stories are welcomed. Contact Us

Virginia was divided into eight shires in 1634. Accomack and Northampton counties formed the oldest. Northampton has the oldest court records. They have papers and signatures from the Indian chief who sold the land to them and a paper signed by Daniel Boone as he started his land speculation.

In 1623/24, courts were kept in Charles City, Elizabeth City, and James City. In February 1631/32, the General Assembly added five more shires. The eight original shires were: {1} Charles City {2} Henrico {3} James City {4} Elizabeth City {5} Warwick River {6} Warrosquyoake, later Isle of Wight {7} Charles River, later York {8} Accawmacke (Accomack). The creation of the shires, which later became known as counties, was to make the administration of justice more easily accessible to the colonists. There were six kinds of courts in Virginia: {1} Magistrate’s court {2} Parish court {3} Monthly court {4} General court {5} General Assembly {6} Court of Admiralty.

As the population grew the shires were divided and additional courts were added. The goal was to have a court within a day’s journey of most of the population. The judge would often ride from county to county to hear cases. This made Court Days very special with picnics, gossip, and, of course, court. The town of Leesburg celebrates “Court Days” in the historic fashion in August each year.

County Courts were established in 1751 by the appointment of eight Justices of the Peace, and four of whom could act and compose a court, the oldest in commission presiding. County Courts were abolished by the Constitution of 1902, when all matters adjusted in the County Courts were transferred to the Circuit Court.

As we studied the origins of the courthouses, it was interesting that the local Tavern Keeper was usually the one campaigning for the site closest to his Tavern. In several instances they donated the land for the courthouse.

             
 

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Links of Interest:

Virginia Court system

Genealogical site for Virginia.

vital records

Virginia marriage records

Public Records

Story of the swallowtail

Facts about Virginia

State Seal

Congressman Forbes Historical References

 
         
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