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Virginia Counties and the Blackwater River

This document is provided to illustrate the location of the Blackwater River which plays an important role both in defining certain county boundaries in Virginia and in the story of James and Anne White Watkins.

Blackwater River

"The Blackwater River of southeastern Virginia flows from its source near the city of Petersburg, Virginia for about 105 miles (170┬ákm) through the Inner Coastal Plain region of Virginia (part of the Atlantic Coastal Plain). The Blackwater joins the Nottoway River to form the Chowan River, which empties into Albemarle Sound. The Blackwater-Nottoway confluence forms the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina."¹ Note that the two northernmost rivers shown on this map are the Blackwater and the Nottoway.

"The upper Blackwater River is called Blackwater Swamp. In this region of Virginia, many streams are called "swamps" but still function like streams in being long and linear, with water moving from one end to the other and laid out in a normal stream tributary network.

The Blackwater River was a transportation route in the 17th and 18th centuries, connecting the Chesapeake Bay settlements with the Albemarle Settlements. It was one of the few rivers of colonial Virginia that did not empty into Chesapeake Bay yet lay close to the colony's oldest settlements on the James River. Settlements in the Blackwater's drainage basin were founded very early in Virginia's history. As a result, the Blackwater River became one of the early migration routes southward from the James River into the region then called Southside Virginia, and beyond into the Albemarle District of Carolina (later North Carolina). Today's usual definition of Southside differs somewhat from that of colonial times."¹

Note 1: Source Wikipedia

So what's all the fuss about the Blackwater and the Nottaway Rivers? First, the Blackwater River plays an important demarkation that provides a part of the northern boundary between Surry and Sussex Counties. Additionally it plays another role of marking the boundary between Southampton and Isle of Wight Counties. On the map below, the Blackwater River is shown by the line that starts in the upper left corner of the map and terminates near the lower right corner of the map.

Second, both rivers play a role in the story of James and Anne White Watkins. It is said that James was born in Isle of Wight County, that he married Anne in the Blackwater Meeting House and that they lived out their life somewhere south of the Nottaway River in Sussex County, Virginia. I admit that until I studied this map, I thought there was a large distance between Isle of Wight and Sussex County, but as this map shows, there is only a limited separation caused by a wedge of Surry County and a wedge of Southampton County coming between them. To be more specific, if you look along the line that runs horizontally about the center of this map, the distance between Isle of Wight and Sussex County is only slightly more than six miles. Moreover, a direct line from Wakefield southwesterly to the Nottaway River is about twelve miles or to Sussex, Virginia is eighteen.

Virginia County Boundaries