The History of Colonial Heights: Part 1

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Over the next few months, we will be publishing a series of historical posts focused on different areas in the city. The first post is in the series is an overview of the very beginnings of Colonial Heights and the land it encompasses.

The name Colonial Heights results from an incident during the American Revolutionary War. In 1781 the French troops of Lafayette, known as the Colonials, set up artillery on the heights overlooking the Appomattox River and Petersburg, where British forces were located. Legend indicates that an English soldier stationed in Petersburg, upon seeing Lafayette’s troops across the river, exclaimed, “Look! There are the Colonials, up on the Heights!” Hence, the name Colonial Heights was born. The area came to be known as Colonial Heights and the name was given to a subdivision of the Oak Hill tract in 1906.

Colonial Heights’ history goes back much further, however, as it was the site of significant battles during both the American Revolution and the Civil War.




Colonial Heights, located in southeastern Virginia and originally a part of Chesterfield County, became a town in 1926 and an incorporated city in 1948. Its current charter as a fully-independent city was granted in 1960.

Early History

The earliest people to inhabit the area were members of the Algonquin Indian tribe, who roamed along the Appomattox River. Several areas in present day Colonial Heights still retain their Indian names.

British colonists first settled in the area in 1620, approximately two weeks prior to the settlement of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

A small group sailed up the Appomattox River looking for clear land and they finally settled in Conjurer’s Field, an area named by the Indians after one of their magicians was thought to have cast spells over the confluences of the waters.

Related: The History of Shepherd Stadium in Colonial Heights

Shortly thereafter, Charles Magnor registered the first land patent in the area for 650 acres, which he later developed into a plantation before selling it in 1634.

Check back with us next week for an in-depth look at the Violent Bank Museum, and the important presence that location demanded during the Civil War.

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