Population of Virginia

Native Americans Preparing for a Feast
Native Americans Preparing for a Feast
Source: Indians of North America - Theodore De Bry Copper Plate Engravings

Virginia has a diversity of people, people who came from different places and cultures dating back 15,000 or so years.

People who were native to the area when the Europeans arrived were not all the same. Virginia's "Indians" spoke different languages and lived different lifestyles. Be careful when you hear someone say "All the Indians..." or "Native Americans were..." The tribes were different and competitive with each other - that's why the Europeans discovered Native American villages with palisades.

In 1607, there may have been 13,000 Algonquian-speaking Native Americans within the Coastal Plain territory claimed by Powhatan, and 15,000 Siouan-speaking Monacans/Manahoacs in the Piedmont. The separation of the two groups dates back to 200 A.D., based on archeological studies that identify when the "shared ceramic tradition" east and west of the Fall Line diverged and different pottery types emerged. (Changes in ancient populations can be measured by changes in how they made pottery - though archeologists need to assess if the technology changes evolved from within the existing society, or if a group of strangers migrated into the territory.)1

In addition, there was an unknown number of Algonquians north of the Rappahannock River watershed outside of Powhatan's control, more Siouan-speaking tribes such as the Tutelo, Occaneechi, and Saponi, plus an unknown number of Iroquoian-speaking tribes in the Blackwater/Nottoway and Cherokees in southwestern Virginia. At the time the Europeans arrived, total Native American population may have been 50,000 people within the boundaries of what is now Virginia.2

The earliest European settlers in Virginia were not homogenous either. The first colonists from England came from different cultures within that country, and then from other nations. Some were poor men looking for a steady wage from the Virginia Company, willing to accept a term of service as an indentured laborer in order to have the opportunity to own land in Virginia. Others were "gentlemen," already-wealthy venture capitalists who adventured their person and risked their health in the new colony (as well as their wealth).

Conflict in early Jamestown resulted in execution of "spies" presumed to be Catholics. Despite resupply ships bringing new settlers, Virginia's immigrant population grew slowly after 1607. Some immigrants to America returned to England, such as John Smith in 1609, but most early colonists died from starvation or disease:3

During the period 1619 to 1622, when the Virginia Company poured colonists into Virginia at a massive rate, the mortality rate was once again high. The company sent 3,570 people to America during these three years...

Three thousand colonists died during these three years. At least 6,000 people went to Virginia between 1607 and 1624. In 1625, there were 1,200 people there.
Native American pottery from Little Falls, on Potomac River
Native American pottery from Little Falls, on Potomac River
Source: National Park Service

Starting in 1619, Africans became part of the cultural mix in Virginia. During the 1600's, the English colonists established a cultural and legal basis for discrimination based primarily upon skin color. Virginians created a system of slavery that required anyone born to a slave mother to spend their entire life as a slave, unless the master emancipated the slave and granted freedom. In urban areas, the percentage of "free people of color" grew, but rural areas remained highly suspicious of slave uprisings. Some communities maintained slave patrols to ensure there would be no unauthorized gathering of slaves at night.

The General Assembly serious considered abolishing slavery in its 1831 session, but could not resolve how to compensate slaveowners for the loss of their "property" and could not determine how to deal with freed slaves. One option was to export those freed slaves back to Africa, and Virginians were active in forming the country of Liberia. (Its capital, Monrovia, is named after James Monroe.) Later in 1831, Nat Turner's Rebellion in Southampton County resulted in the death of over 50 whites and triggered more-restrictive controls over slaves in Virginia and throughout the southern states.

contemporary graphic of Nat Turner's Rebellion described it as a massacre
contemporary graphic of Nat Turner's Rebellion described it as a "massacre"
Source: Library of Congress, Horrid massacre in Virginia

In the 1700's, expansion of tobacco farming into the Piedmont required more and more laborers. Virginia imported slaves, but also expanded its cultural mix by encouraging settlement by groups of white Protestants from continental Europe.

Huguenots from France were recruited, but Virginia had even more success getting German immigrants to migrate south from Pennsylvania. Many of the Pennsylvania Deutsch (Dutch) had been Lutheran Protestants living in the Palatinate region in Europe. They fled the constant warfare between competing Catholic and Protestant rulers, immigrated to William Penn's colony where religious discrimination was minimized, but found land prices near crowded Philadephia were high.

Walking south, crossing the Potomac River, brought the new colonial immigrants into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Scotch-Irish immigrants who crossed the Atlantic Ocean and landed in Pennsylvania along with the Lutherans also moved into the Shenandoah Valley. The further the immigrants moved south on the Great Wagon Road (modern Route 11), the cheaper the land. Both Pennsylvania Dutch and Scotch-Irish settlers were welcomed by Virginia governors such as Governor Spottswood. They saw the expanding colonial population west of the Blue Ridge as a buffer against attacks on the frontier by the French in the Ohio River Valley and by Native Americans who had been displaced to the west.

the Great Wagon Road stretched from the Potomac River to Roanoke west of the Blue Ridge, then crossed through the mountains to connect to the Piedmont of North Carolina
the Great Wagon Road stretched from the Potomac River to Roanoke west of the Blue Ridge, then crossed through the mountains to connect to the Piedmont of North Carolina
Source: North Carolina Museum of History, Great Wagon Road

At the end of the 19th Century, mine owners in Appalachia initiated another round of recruiting workers from various places. The legal system failed to harmonize relationships between different ethnic groups, and extra-legal processes such as lynchings established the boundaries of settlement and behavior. Virginia has never been homogenous, and has never lacked cultural conflicts.

Today, those Virginians who are related to the early English colonists are proud to identify their genealogical links to the Randolphs, the Carters, the Lees. Some have a connection even to the original residents, the very original First Families of Virginia. Numerous First Families of Virginia (FFV's) who tke pride in their genealogies today can trace their ancestry back to Thomas Rolfe, son of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, and thus to Pocahontas and Powhatan and the "real" FFV's.

That connection to Pocahontas affected the implementation of de jure (legal) racial discrimination in the 1920's. Racially-biased Virginia officials tried to classify all Virginians with one drop of non-white blood as colored. Native Americans objected to being reclassified and forced to attend segregated schools with black students, and even today the discrimination of the 20th Century complicates efforts of tribes to receive Federal recognition.

Modern FFV's with a family connection to the most famous Native American from Virginia - Pocahontas - complicated those eforts to classify all Virginians with one drop of non-white blood as colored. In 1924, "An Act to Preserve Racial Integrity" established that white persons could have more than one drop of Native American blood, in order to accommodate the descendants of Pocahontas:4

"For the purpose of this act, the term "white person" shall apply only to the person who has no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian; but persons who have one-sixteenth or less of the blood of the American Indian and have no other non-Caucasic blood shall be deemed to be white persons."

Those wealthy and influential FFV's may not have celebrated cultural diversity and may not have supported desegregation, but they were proud of their one-drop connection to Pocahontas.

Pocahontas Saving the Life of Captain John Smith
Pocahontas Saving the Life of Captain John Smith
(clearly not historically accurate - notice the teepees in the background)
Source: State Department, Telling America's Story

A Sense of Place

Crime and Punishment

Government Employment in Virginia

"Indians" of Virginia - The Real First Families of Virginia

Population Change: 1990-2000

Population Density, Land Use, and Transportation

Population Growth

Population, Wealth, and Property Taxes: The Impact on School Funding

Race and Virginia

Religion in Virginia

Sports in Virginia

Urban Population Growth

Virginia Counties and Cities With Less Than 10,000 People

Where Did We Come From?

Why Study the Population?

the Virginia county with the highest percentage of males in the population is also the home of the Greensville Correctional Center - Virginia's largest prison facility
the Virginia county with the highest percentage of males in the population is also the home of the Greensville Correctional Center - Virginia's largest prison facility
Source: Bureau of Census, Census Data Mapper (2010 Census data)

population change in Virginia, 2010
population change in Virginia, 2010
Source: Bureau of Census

Links

several counties next to the Chesapeake Bay - a prime location for retirees - have the largest percentage of population over 65 years old
several counties next to the Chesapeake Bay - a prime location for retirees - have the largest percentage of population over 65 years old
Source: Bureau of Census, Census Data Mapper (2010 Census data)

References

1. Martin Gallivan, "Overview of the Powhatan Chiefdom," Chapter Three in A Study of Virginia Indians and Jamestown: The First Century, Danielle Moretti-Langholtz (Principal Investigator), National Park Service, December 2005 http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/jame1/moretti-langholtz/index.htm (last checked October 18, 2012)
2. Karenne Wood, ed., The Virginia Indian Heritage Trail, 2008, p.26, http://virginiahumanities.org/files/2011/12/Heritage-Trail_2ed.pdf (last checked October 18, 2012)
3. Karen Ordahl Kupperman, "Apathy and Death in Early Jamestown," The Journal of American History, Vol. 66, No. 1 (June 1979), p.24, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1894672 (last checked October 18, 2012)
4. An Act to Preserve Racial Integrity, http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/encounter/projects/monacans/Contemporary_Monacans/racial.html (last checked October 20, 2012)

west of the Blue Ridge, all counties - and most cities - are over 80% white in racial composition
west of the Blue Ridge, all counties - and most cities - are over 80% white in racial composition
Source: Bureau of Census, Census Data Mapper (2010 Census data)


Religion in Virginia
Virginia Places