Culpeper Currents: A new county is born


In the decade following the American Revolution the population in Culpeper County’s western area grew.  As the county courthouse had been situated in 1749 to the convenience of the county’s original population, those living in the western area found themselves with a hard journey to transact business. To that end a group of residents made the following petition to the Virginia General Assembly on November 29, 1785:

To the Honorable the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia we the subscribers citizens of the said commonwealth, residents in the southwest corner of Culpeper County, having taken into consideration the grievances under which we at present are laboring, particularly with regard to the extensive boundary, and numerous inhabitants, of the said Culpeper County – it at present contains upwards of fourteen hundred militia, between eight & nine hundred freeholders, and a large proportion of tithes – of course then, we have the disadvantage of a crowded docket, etc. etc. – Again, the distance we have from the present court house, is certainly a grievance, for our center or place of rendezvous is twenty, and many of us live from that to thirty five miles distant there from, for which and some other reasons we petition your honorable house to enact that it be a distinct county, by the following boundary – Viz beginning at the south of the Robertson River- thence up the same to Crooked Run, thence with the principal branch of the same to tenants old church, or the place where the said old church stood, thence a direct line to the mouthing of Popham’s Run, thence up the said run to the head of its chief branch, in the Bleu Ridge, thence with the said Bleu Ridge to the head of the line dividing us and Orange County, thence down the same to the beginning.  We also pray that our Court Day may be established the first Wednesday in each month.

Tenants Old Church was a St. Mark’s Parish chapel which existed around 1742 when the area was still a part of Orange County.  There were approximately 447 signatures on the petition.

The General Assembly did not immediately react to the petition. In 1791 another petition was made from residents in the northwest portion of Culpeper County suggesting a division of the county into three parts. They pointed out the county had a total population of 22,000 residents but “sends only two members to our legislature, while the neighboring counties with one fourth of that number are entitled to the same representation with us.”  An important point, but the Assembly decided to create only one new county.  On December 4, 1792 the following act was passed:

Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That from and after the first day of May next, all that part of the county of Culpeper, within the following bounds, to wit:  Beginning at the mouth of Robinson River, thence up the same to the mouth of Crooked Run, thence up the said run to the mountain road, where Tennant’s church formerly stood, thence a straight course to the head of Hugh’s River in the Blue Ridge, thence the same course continued to the top of the ridge, and to the line of Shenandoah County, thence westwardly on the top of the ridge with the lines of the counties of Shenandoah and Rockingham, to the line of Orange County, thence with the line of Orange to the beginning, shall form one distinct county, and be called and known by the name of Madison.

A court for the said county of Madison shall be held by the justices thereof on the fourth Thursday in every month after the same shall take place, in like manner as provided by law for other counties, and shall be by their commissions directed.

Those in the northwestern part of Culpeper County would have to wait until 1833 and the creation of Rappahannock County.

Julie Bushong is the historian at the Culpeper County Library.