History Through the Civil War
A relatively “new” county by Virginia standards, Appomattox County lays claim to one of the most important events in American history. But long before Generals Lee and Grant met to bring closure to the Civil War, the area now known as Appomattox was home to several related tribes of Native Americans and eventually became part of Chief Powhatan's immense land holdings.
One of the tribes in the area, the "Appamatuck," lived farther east along the James River near the present City of Hopewell. Encountered by Captain John Smith, the Appamatuck people were shown on Smith’s map of 1612. Also, their name “Appamatuck” was applied to the major tributary entering the James near their settlements. Eventually, “Appamatuck” evolved into “Appomattox,” and the river flowing eastward from Flood’s Mountain in present-day Appomattox County to the James at Hopewell is called the Appomattox River.
On May 1, 1845, Buckingham, Prince Edward, Charlotte, and Campbell Counties each surrendered portions of their territory for a new county named Appomattox in honor of the river springing from the heart of the territory.
The village of Clover Hill, located in the center of the new county along the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road, was renamed Appomattox Court House and became the seat of government. Clover Hill was originally settled around 1815 with the construction of the Clover Hill Tavern, across from which the brick courthouse building for the new county was built.
In April of 1865, Appomattox Court House played a pivotal role in the history of the United States. Four long years of war had torn the nation apart, killed thousands of men, wounded thousands of others, scorched the landscape, and forever changed life in the South, if not the entire country. Virginia was especially devastated, since the Old Dominion had served as the primary battleground of the war in each side's attempt to capture the capital city of the other; but on April 9, Palm Sunday, a large part of the hostilities ended when General Robert E. Lee, Commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, accepted the generous terms of surrender offered by Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, General-in-Chief of all United States forces, in the parlor of a home owned by Wilbur McLean. Though fighting raged on elsewhere for several more weeks, General Lee’s surrender effectively ended the Southern States’ attempt to create a separate nation, and made Appomattox a symbol of peace and unity.
History Since the Civil War
In February 1892, fire destroyed the courthouse building. Two months later, the County held a special election that resulted in the decision to move the county seat closer to the railroad at Appomattox Depot, two miles to the southwest. Old Appomattox Court House was left to deteriorate until being taken over by the National Park Service in the 1930s.
Appomattox Depot was settled with the coming of the railroad in 1852. According to one legend, in that same year, a family headed for the frontiers of Nebraska stopped on its way west. They never left the little railroad village, but began calling the place "Nebraska" instead. Regardless of the origin of the name “Nebraska,” a post office under this name was soon established, and Nebraska became the official name of the settlement until shortly after the county seat moved here in 1892, at which time the name Appomattox was chosen. The village was incorporated in 1925 and remains the seat of county government today.
About 1854, the Southside Railroad reached what is now the Town of Pamplin. By 1874, the settlement established around the Pamplin Depot, named for a local landowner, had become so prosperous that the General Assembly granted the people’s wish to incorporate. The chosen name of Pamplin City reflected the people’s high hopes and expectations for future greatness, and for a while, Pamplin was a center of business and social activity. Pamplin's most famous landmark, the Pamplin Smoking Pipe Manufacturing Company, at one time was the world’s largest factory of the sort, producing as many as 25,000 clay pipes per day before closing in 1951. Other businesses in a thriving Pamplin included a tobacco warehouse, a flour mill, several stores, three hotels, and in 1919 the largest bank in the county.
Beckham, Bent Creek, Concord, Evergreen, Hixburg, and Spout Spring are just a few of the Appomattox County communities with storied pasts. Though most of these settlements are no longer the thriving communities they once were, many still have remnants of their history for the curious to study.
With the arrival of the National Park Service in the 1930s came a rebirth of the historic courthouse village. Both the burned “original” courthouse and the McLean House were rebuilt. The scene of the historic surrender meeting had been sold and then dismantled, intended for reconstruction elsewhere. The Clover Hill Tavern and Old County Jail were restored along with other original structures still standing in the village. Later, VA Route 24 was relocated to better protect and preserve the historic setting of the village. Today, visitors to the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park begin their experience at the Visitor’s Center housed in the reconstructed courthouse, then travel back to 1865 through interaction with costumed interpreters focused on the events of that bygone era. As the crown jewel of Appomattox County’s historic treasures, Appomattox Court House National Historical Park remains the keystone of tourism efforts within the County.