Native American Heritage

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The earliest inhabitants of Southampton County were Native Americans, of the Nottoway and Meherrin tribes, who settled mainly along the rivers that now bear their names. As more and more settlers came to the area, the Native American tribes dispersed and those remaining were collected in reservations. Currently, many descendants of the Nottoway tribe live in the Franklin Southampton area. Southampton County is also home to the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Territory. Also located in Southampton County and Surry County, the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia, Inc. is an organized Tribe of the Nottoway Indians who live in the traditional territorial area of the historic Nottoway Tribe.

English Colonization

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The first English settlement, Jamestown, was established in 1607 and to this day is only a 30-mile drive and a ferry ride across the James River. Shortly after the Jamestown Settlement, settlers explored and began settling in the area known today as Hampton Roads. The English colony of Virginia was originally divided into eight countries with a total population of approximately 5,000 inhabitants. Southampton County was originally part of “Warrasquoyocke”, one of the eight shires making up the Colony of Virginia. The shire was renamed Isle of Wight in 1637. It wasn’t until 1749 that the portion of Isle of Wight County west of the Blackwater River became Southampton County. It is believed the County received its name for either the borough of Southampton in England or for Henry Wriothesley, third earl of Southampton.

Nat Turner's Insurrection Trail

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Franklin Southampton has deep roots in African-American history and culture and can be traced back to the early colonization of Hampton Roads. One of the most famous historical moments in African-American history, the Nat Turner Rebellion of 1831, took place in Southampton County. The rebellion was the nation’s largest slave revolt. The rebellion cost the lives of 60 white men, women, and children. The aftermath resulted in the execution of an equal number of slaves and numerous murders around the country from angry protests. Nat Turner’s rebellion had an enormous impact across the world and set in action the abolition of slavery in England in 1833 and the rest of Europe. Today you can retrace the steps of Nat Turner’s Rebellion through the Town of Courtland, learn many more interesting facts, and view artifacts such as Nat Turner’s machete used during the revolt.

Civil War

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Franklin Southampton saw many skirmishes throughout the Civil War. You can find numerous historical “Virginia Civil War Tails” markers throughout the area identifying their locations. One of the most notable battles took place in 1862 in Franklin and is referred to as the Joint Expedition against Franklin. Several U.S. Navy gunboat steamships, led by USS Commodore Perry, attempted to pass through Franklin on the Blackwater River. Local Confederates opened fire on the ships, forcing the ships to retreat, which caused five naval casualties and 16 people to be wounded. Today, historical markers in downtown Franklin mark the location where Commodore Perry began his retreat back down the Blackwater River.



Farming and the rural way of life played a strong role in the history of Franklin Southampton. Southampton County is the number one county in the state of Virginia for the most family-owned farms in ownership for over 100 years and is given the designation of a “Virginia Century Farm”. Even today, Southampton County consistently ranks in the top five of Virginia counties yielding the largest harvest of peanuts, soy, corn, cotton, and timber. The number of wild turkeys and deer harvested in the county also continually ranks at the top of the Commonwealth. Franklin Southampton is home to many well-known and high-quality peanut producers. If your mouth is watering for some great local Virginia peanuts click below to learn more.