York County. Area 186 square miles. One of the eight original shires formed in 1634. First called Charles River, which was named for King Charles I. The name was changed in 1643 to York for Yorkshire, England. Cornwallis’s surrender, October 19, 1781, took place at Yorktown.
A fort site was originally constructed on the Charles [York] River, and this site was selected by Captain Martinau and was subsequently named York. “The Fort at Yorke” occupied a point on the river at the mouth of Wormley Creek, named for the first settler in that section, Colonel Christopher Wormley, and lies about two miles down the river from the present site of Yorktown (Trudell, 38). In 1633, due to the safety of the fort, a settlement was built and York was selected as a crucial receiving point for goods. A store was soon built to serve shipping and receiving needs of the settlers of both Yorke and Kiskiack, another settlement a few miles up the river that had preceeded the York settlement by about two years.
In 1634, Virginia was divided by legislature into 8 counties, subsequently placing the fort at York in Charles County. In 1642, the names of the river and county were changed from Charles to York in order to honor the Duke of York and Yorkshire. As a result, Williamsburg came to be located partially in both James City County and York County, respectively (Trudell, 38). The surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown proved the town to be immortal. Through all of the battles fought between 1781 and 1862, the majority of the town was destroyed. The Deneuvile Cottage is the only original colonial structure that still exists today.
Trudell, Clyde F. Colonial Yorktown. Richmond: The Dietz Press, 1938.
Historical Marker “York County Z-266,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.
“Captain John Smith’s Map showing Kiskiack,” The Spanish in the Chesapeake Bay, www.virginiaplaces.org (accessed April 30, 2012).
“The Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown,” Architect of the Capitol, www.aoc.gov (accessed April 30, 2012).