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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Lynchburg, Virginia in 1816

This article appeared in the Lynchburg Press on 6 August 1816. The following description of Lynchburg was submitted to the publishers of an American gazetteer in Baltimore.


Lynchburg is situated on the South bank of the James River, about twenty miles below the great falls, over which the said river majestically rushes in it[s] descent thro the lofty mountains of the Blue Ridge; lays 37º, 30, 26 North Latitude, 2º, 20, West Longitude, from the meridian of Washington; happily enjoying by means of batteau, a navigable communication with the waters of the ocean itself. It was established by an act of the General Assembly of Virginia, in 1786; incorporated in 1805; its present extent is nearly about a mile square; lays in the 6th climate; the state of weather is frequently very variable; its longest days are about 14 hours and 20 minutes.

In the vicinity are four mineral springs; the face of the surrounding country appears hilly, and mountainous; abounding in fertile valleys, rich pasturage; in many places at no great depth under the surface, plenty of iron ore is to be found. Its present population is estimated at 3,100, with about 344 principal dwelling houses, as also a vast number of other houses of inferior grade, of all descriptions, enjoying the benefits of two regular established chartered banks, or monied institutions; one being a branch of the Farmers Bank, the other a branch of the Virginia Bank; with a regular established line of public stages between it and the Capital of the State, twice a week; one Friends' Meeting-house, in the vicinity, of more than 60 years standing, one Methodist Church, one Presbyterian Church, one Baptist Society, one Court-house, in which are held a branch of the high court of Chancery, and the Corporation Court, one prison, one large Market-house, one fire engine, one Mason's Hall, one toll bridge over the James River, adjacent to the town, 630 feet in length, 24 in width, erected on eleven stone pillars, exclusive of the abutments, 32 feet by 16 base, 50 by 12 at the top, 22 high at low water, producing weekly, upon an average, about $100. 7 public tobacco warehouses, in which have usually inspected, from 10 to 12,000 hogsheads of tobacco, per annum; three flour manufacturing mills, in the vicinity, upon large and extensive scales; one paper mill, one carding machine, three cotton & woolen manufactories, the neighboring counties of Campbell, Amherst and Bedford; about 6 miles east by south near the south bank of the James River, is situated that valuable and extensive Oxford Iron Works establishment, the property of David Ross, Esq.

There are in the town at present:
34 dry good stores
22 groceries
4 commission merchants
4 apothecary shops
4 saddler's shops
3 cabinet makers' shops
3 chair makers' shops
3 wheel-wrights' shops
10 milliners' and mantua makers' shops
3 curriers' shops
5 black smiths' shops
4 silversmiths' shops
2 tinners' shops
4 tailors' shops
3 shoe and bootmakers' shops
2 tallow chandlers' shops
3 tanyards
a number of weaving looms
1 vendue [auction] office
1 postoffice
2 printing presses, which issue a weekly and the other two weekly newspapers 2 bookstores
1 circulating library
2 hatters' shops

besides a vast number of carpenters, stone masons, and brick layers. Of these tradesmen, upwards of 1,100 of them, including their attendants, were employed in erecting buildings last year

6 taverns, besides a number of private places of entertainment
2 tobacco manufactories
5 coppers' shops
1 public female academy of considerable grade; 3 others of lesser note
1 Lancasterian school
3 other literary institutions, in which the classics, the sciences, and natural philosophy, etc., are taught.

In the vicinity, some excellent marble quarries have lately been discovered; as also one of black lead. Water is collected from a variety of springs, brought from a considerable distance, and conveyed through the town in wooden pipes of several miles in length, for the use of the fire engine and such of the inhabitants as choose to prefer it.

The commercial intercourse between Lynchburg and the adjacent counties, back settlements of Virginia, and the states Western of it, are carried on in the following articles, viz., tobacco, wheat, flour, hemp, butter, peach and apple brandy, whiskey, cider, bar iron, lead in pigs and bars; large quantities of hempen linen, linseed oil, tar, turpentine, and a considerable number of beef cattle, from the back counties, a very respectable amount in the way of raw cotton, from the Carolinas; vast quantities of live hogs, brought in the fall of the year, from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Carolina, and the back counties of Virginia; and all the other valuable productions, of a fertile & extensive back country, inhabited by an ingenious, industrious, and independent race of men. Richmond is the depot of all the rich and extensive products passing from Lynchburg for foreign markets, chiefly in consequence of their batteau, descending the river no further; the merchants of Lynchburg trade chiefly to and from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk, and Richmond.

Source: Lynchburg Historic Foundation


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