Essex County, VA
HistoryCaptain John Smith visited Essex during the winter of 1607-08, when he wrote of the "excellent, pleasant, fertile, and goodly navigable" Rappahannock Valley. On his first visit he did not linger. While he was trying to disembark near what is now the county seat of Tappahannock, Native Americans drove him back to his ship.
Two courthouses existed in (Old) Rappahannock County, one on either side of the river, known as the "northside" and the "southside". Because of the inconvenience of this situation Rappahannock County was divided in April 1691 along the Rappahannock River with the north side becoming Richmond County (North Farnham Parish) and the south side Essex County (South Farnham Parish and St. Anne Parish, the latter becoming Caroline County in 1727). After this separation Rappahannock County ceased to exist except that the name was reused in 1833 to form a new Rappahannock County in northern Virginia.
For convenience, the state decided that records belonging to the old Rappahannock County would be maintained in Essex County. Note that Old Rappahannock County was originally formed from Lancaster County and records before 1651 are in Lancaster County.
Source: "The Formation of Essex County", Essex County Historical Society
More of the history of Essex County, Virginia