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Historic Timeline


History Buff Itinerary

Map of Genuine Smithfield

Download a pdf of the Genuine Smithfield Walking Tour Map

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Jamestown Settlement is established.



1608 - John Smith trades with Native Americans on the river bank of Burwell’s Bay and in what later would be known as Warraskoyack/Isle of Wight County.



The Indian Massacre destroys settlements up and down the James River. This included settlements of Nathanial Basse and Richard Bennett in what is now Isle of Wight County.



Fort Boykin is constructed on the James River to protect from Native American and Spanish attacks. Fort Boykin was originally named the “The Castle” and was later renamed during its use in the American Revolution after Major Francis Boykin. The Fort was used again during the War of 1812, when it was used to repel British troops. The fort was used once more during the Civil War where it was reconstructed to prevent inland invasion of Union troops and vessels. However, Fort Boykin fell quickly after being fired upon by the Union ironclad USS Galena.



St. Luke’s also known as “The Old Brick” is constructed - becoming the oldest church of English foundation in America. Interesting for its architecture, St. Luke’s is also the oldest original Gothic structure in the United States.



Warraskoyack County founded.



County name changed to Isle of Wight. Settlers in the area were unable to spell or pronounce Warraskoyack, often adding to confusion.



Arthur Smith I purchases 1450 acres of land on the banks of the Pagan River. This land will later be sectioned up and sold to become Smithfield.



Bacon’s Rebellion terrorizes much of Isle of Wight County. Bacon and his rag-tag group take over Jamestown and hold control of the area for a few months. The untimely demise of Nathanial Bacon, due to illness, causes a decline in support allowing the rebellion to eventually fizzle out. Bacon’s Rebellion is considered the first rebellion reported within the American colonies.



Arthur Smith IV is granted permission by the General Assembly to lay out a section of his estate for sale. The town is laid out and becomes Smithfield.



The Isle of Wight Courthouse begins construction by William Rand in downtown Smithfield. This courthouse serves the county for almost 50 years until the newer courthouse complex is built outside of Smithfield in 1800.



The Smithfield Inn, often referred to by locals as the Sykes Inn, is built for Henry Woodley as a residence. Woodley later sells the house to William Rand in 1756. Rand, a keen business man, recognizes the convenient location beside the courthouse and local gaming house. He converts the building into a tavern and inn in 1759 knowing it will attract plenty of court officials on court day.



Boykin's Tavern is constructed in Isle of Wight County, outside of Smithfield town limits. Major Francis Boykin, of which the Tavern gets its name, later inherited the land and the house in 1780. Knowing how profitable a tavern with a courthouse next to it could be – Francis donated a large section of land and money for a courthouse to be constructed right next to his tavern when the older 1750 courthouse was considering moving. The tavern still stands next to the current 1800 courthouse.



Declaration of Independence is signed. Many famous patriots of the American Revolution, such as Colonel Josiah Parker of the continental army and Captain John Sinclair, a privateer, were inhabitants of the town Smithfield and Isle of Wight County.



Capt. Mallory Todd, a merchantman from Bermuda, sets up shop in Smithfield and begins exportation of his hams. Capt. Todd is credited with the creation of the Smithfield ham with his unique salt cured and smoked country hams.



The Clerk’s office is finally constructed adjacent to the 1750 courthouse. It should be noted that this is a great example that politics and traditional government spending never change – the courthouse moved the following year thus making the brand new clerk’s office useless.



The 1800 and current courthouse is constructed within Isle of Wight County on Route 258.



Todd’s Packing House is created putting Capt. Todd in full swing for his ham business and making Smithfield your one stop shop for all things ham. Though the packing house was built in 1800, it is evident through records that Mallory was selling his hams at least 20 years prior.



War with Great Britain begins once again. Local militia groups within Isle of Wight were on multiple occasions called to serve the war effort. The Hampton Roads area was of strategic interest due to its numerous ports, including those in Norfolk. The James River was an important hub for commerce from tobacco plantations farther up river and access to the Capital of Virginia in Richmond. British troops attempted to invade Isle of Wight only once during this conflict, though their efforts were unsuccessful. Still, though, the British continued to anchor the man-o-war, Plantagenet, off the coast to keep an eye on the area.



Civil War begins.

The role of Smithfield & Isle of Wight in the Civil War.



Fort Huger is constructed for the defense of the James River by the Confederacy.  The Fort’s earthen works were primarily constructed by paid free-black labor.  After the engagement at Fort Boykin the USS Galena and the next day the USS Monitor bombards the Fort causing it to surrender.

Take a video tour of Historic Fort Huger



The Battle of Smithfield

In late January the Union vessel Smith-Briggs landed on the banks of the Pagan River - where one can now find the Smithfield Station. Union troops unloaded and marched in toward Smithfield. The troops were pushed back by local Confederate troops commanded by Major Sturdivant. The Union troops discovered upon retreat that their gun-boat had left them behind. Upon realization the next day that the Union troops had still not completely evacuated the town, the Confederates surrounded them and prepared for the Union soldiers to surrender. It was then that the Smith-Briggs was spotted returning – causing the Union troops to fire upon the Confederates in an attempt to escape. The Smith-Briggs was badly damaged and subsequently exploded due to ammunition catching fire. With their ship in ruins, completely outgunned, the Union troops were forced to surrender to the local Confederates.



P.D. Gwaltney and O.G. Delk begin their peanut business. Later they purchased a lot and built a store and their first smokehouse.



Gwaltney & Delk dissolve as P.D. Gwaltney buys out Delk.



P.D. Gwaltney creates P.D. Gwaltney & Co. Also, Gwaltney constructs the first peanut cleaning plant and warehouse on Commerce Street. The state-of-the-art complex featured the most modern technology for the time – some of which P.D. Gwaltney himself invented.



P.D. Gwaltney, Jr. and his father begin the sale of pork products at P.D. Gwaltney & Co.



Gwaltney-Bunkley buys out Independent Peanut Company of Smithfield thus expanding their peanut business and making them one of the most profitable peanut companies in the area.



P.D. Gwaltney, Jr. expands the meat processing plants and smokehouses.



American peanut Corporation of Norfolk, Gwaltney-Bunkley Company of Smithfield, and the Bain Peanut Company of Wakefield are combined to create the American Peanut Corporation.



The Bank of Smithfield is constructed on the corner of Main St. The bank operated for several years until a newer bank was built next door.  The Isle of Wight County Museum moved into the old bank building in 1978. The museum remains open to this day and operates seven days a week.



P.D. Gwaltney resigns from his post at the American Peanut Corporation and passes away the following year. P.D. Gwaltney, Jr. takes control of the family assets and sells off the last remaining peanut factories to American Peanut Corporation to buy into more of the ham business.



The Great Fire rips through Commerce Street destroying much of the Peanut storehouses and manufacturing – the loss has little effect on P.D. Gwaltney, Jr. who no longer had any business with peanuts. American Peanut Corporation never attempted to rebuild their manufacturing in Smithfield.



General Assembly of Virginia passes an act protecting the Smithfield Ham. The law states that all official Genuine Smithfield Hams to be made within the town limits of Smithfield, VA.



An addition is placed on a 1924 Rosenwald school.  There are 5,000 Rosenwald schools built across the south for African-American students. The addition was eventually moved to Smithfield and developed into The Schoolhouse Museum.



Gwaltney meat packing, now under Howard Gwaltney’s management, expands with the purchase of an additional 28 acres purchased alongside Highway 10.



The Carrollton Nike Missile Battery is operational - one of eight bases that make up the Norfolk Defense Area.



The Carrollton Nike Missile Base is no longer used as a missile site. The Army Signal Corps uses it as a communications site. Today the former Nike-Ajax missile base is the home to the Isle of Wight Parks and Recreation Department. Many of the original buildings still stand.

Take a video tour of Nike Park



All Gwaltney family members have officially retired from the meat industry with the retirement of Howard Gwaltney from the office of president.



Smithfield Foods purchases Gwaltney meat packing, forming the corporation seen today.



The Isle of Wight Tourism Bureau is created.



Historic Downtown Main Street  is revitalized with an extensive beautification project to bury telephone wires, repave roadways, and reconstruct brick sidewalks.



Isle of Wight Tourism Bureau is dissolved and reorganized as a department of Isle of Wight County - "Smithfield & Isle of Wight Convention & Visitors Bureau."



Smithfield celebrates its 250th anniversary by constructing the worlds largest Ham Biscuit – featured in the Guinness Book of World Records.



May 8 - Dedication of Historic Fort Huger, lsle of Wight County's newest historic attraction.



The Isle of Wight Tourism office combines forces with the Isle of Wight Art’s League and opens the new Arts Center & Visitor Center at 319 Main Street.



February 2010 - Dredging of the Pagan River by the Army Corp of Engineers is completed so that the channel is maintained to a minimum depth of 10 feet, creating ample depth for vessels with 6-foot drafts to navigate from the James River.


May 22, 2010 - Grand Opening of Windsor Castle Park in downtown Smithfield.



January 7, 2011

Isle of Wight County dedicates the new Young-Laine Courts Building and the Randall Boothe Records Room.


Smithfield & Isle of Wight designated the "Encore Wedding Capital of Virginia!"

April 2011 - The Smithfield & Isle of Wight County Tourism Bureau receives a Virginia Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus’ Annual VIRGO TRAVEL AND TOURISM AWARD for Advertising and Promotion (print) at the 2011 annual Virginia Tourism Summit for special niche marketing program created to highlight Smithfield and Isle of Wight as the ideal destination location for ENCORE WEDDINGS.



Summer 2012 - In Smithfield - "Everything Old is New Again!" The Town of Smithfield's "Church Street Beautification Project" is completed, "Taste of Smithfield," Smithfield Foods flagship shop and cafe opens on Main Street and the "Porcine Parade" is installed in the Historic District. These wonderful additions along with several new shops and renovations have added up to a revitalized and renergized downtown district!


"Magnolia" one of the eight Porcine Statues installed in the historic district resides in front of the Isle of Wight County Museum.


September 2012 - Smithfield is awarded three prestigious national America in Bloom Awards! The awards were for the following:

1st Place Award Population Category - 8,001-13,000

Special Award for Historic Walking Tour

Heritage Preservation Award


October 2012 - The Paint Quality Institute awards Smithfield as one of the "Prettiest Painted Places in America!" The town is awarded First Place for a "small town" in the Southeast Region! Naming of the 12 “Prettiest Painted Places in America” comes after a rigorous four-month search by the Paint Quality Institute that involved thousands of contacts with state tourism departments, convention and visitors’ bureaus, chambers of commerce, and Main Street groups, all of whom were invited to nominate communities. The Southeast Region winner for larger population was Key West, Florida.




Great Grand-Travel Ideas for Smithfield & Isle of Wight County





Smithfield & Isle of Wight CVB Staff:

Judy Hare Winslow, Director of Tourism

Lois Chapman Tokarz, Marketing & Public Relations Manager

Terry Rhinier, Event Coordinator

Deborah Marshall, Visitor Center Manager

Kathy Mountjoy, Group Tour Coordinator

Cheryl Ketcham, Farmer's Market Manager


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