Located just an hour from the Historic Triangle, the place where English ships first landed in America, Virginia Beach is a place that is brimming with historic significance. The local history in and around the city of Virginia Beach never fails to amaze visitors and locals alike. From its early Native American roots to the tumultuous times of the early American colonist, the bustling resort city has a rich and diverse history that dates back hundreds of years.
The earliest known inhabitants of the Virginia Beach area were a group of Native Americans called Chesepians. The Chesepians lived in the area that is now known as South Hampton Roads. The Chesepians had five separate provinces, each with its own chief. The provinces were the Weapemiooc, Secotan, Pouic, Chawanook and Newsiooc. The main village for all the provinces was called Skicoak, which is now the city of Norfolk.
The first party of European settlers set foot ashore the present day city of Virginia beach in 1607. It was April and the group scaled the giant sand dunes to reveal a view of trees in full bloom. One explorer, Master George Percy, described the view as “Heaven on Earth.” The group of 30 men headed by Admiral Christopher Newport erected a cross days after landing and named the place Cape Henry.
Newport feared the spot was too vulnerable to attacks from the native Americans and fellow Spanish explorers, so he moved the group farther inland. When he decided on a small island on the James River for the capitol city, King James of England order the city be named Jamestown. This place would be the first English Colony in the new world.
Fourteen years passed from the colonist landing on Cape Henry before they would settle in what is now called Virginia Beach. Despite having an abundance of natural resources and being free of the threat of native Americans, the development of Virginia Beach as a settlement was slow. The area has an endless supply of wildlife, extremely fertile soil and an abundance of water sources.
One of the earliest known residents of Virginia Beach was Adam Thoroughgood. At the ripe age of 18 Adam left his home in King Lynn, Norfolkshire, England with the intention of finding his fortune in the new Virginian colony. Thoroughgood fell in love with the area and felt it reminded him of his homeland. He named the area Lynnhaven and was its leading citizen. In 1635 he was awarded 5,350 acres in colonial Virginia Beach because he persuaded 105 people to settle in the area. He erected his home in 1636, that home still stands today and is believed to be the oldest brick home in the county.
Virginia Beach also had a prominent role in the Revolutionary War. The people of Virginia Beach was torn between their love of the homeland and the desire to have a new democracy. The city did not see much action, but it is believed that the first battle of the war was fought there. The battle took place in Kempsville, November 6th 1775. Only one colonist lost his life during the battle. Many sea battles took place off the coast of Cape Henry and for the majority of the war the British controlled the waterways of Virginia.
Virginia Beach was not incorporated into a town until 1906, it became in independent city in the 1950s.