Many thanks to the Appomatox Chamber of Chamber for this fine history of Appomatox and the area:
In the early seventeenth century, Captain John Smith explored the New World under the sponsorship of the London Company. In 1612, he drafted a detailed map of his explorations, indicating not only the physical aspects of the regions, mountains, rivers, etc., but also the settlements of the many tribes of Indians in the different areas he had explored. Following his map up the James River, we find along one of the tributaries an Indian Village indicated as the "Appamatuck." The major river that joins the James near this tribe was named after the Appamatucks Indians. Over the course of years and several variations in spelling, the name of the river and the county finally became standardized as "Appomattox".
The lack of efficient communication and the need for localized service initiated the formation of the new county by an act passed on February 8, 1845. This act designated that Buckingham, Prince Edward, Charlotte and Campbell counties each would give portions of their lands as of May 1, 1845. The exact boundaries of the county were surveyed during May, June and July of 1845 by John Patteson.
The county seat of Appomattox County was to be at Clover Hill, an elevation overlooking the Appomattox River in an area that had formerly been part of Prince Edward County. Clover Hill was centrally located along the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road, and there had been a stage stop in a frame house there. Five years later, Patteson constructed a large brick tavern and several outbuildings just across the street from his old stage house. The stage would stop here, and the horses and driver would be changed while the passengers ate a hot meal. Little else changed until 1845. Choosing Clover Hill as the county seat prompted a surge of activity. Speculation began as local citizens offered lots in the new town for sale, and titles changed hands. Construction of the public buildings started in 1846. The courthouse was built on the site of Alexander Patteson's original state house. The first county jail, a log structure, was erected just across the stage road east of the courthouse.
By the time of the Civil War, little had changed in Clover Hill except the name. It had officially become Appomattox Court House, in accordance with the state custom of naming its county seats in this manner. There were some new faces, too. The most noteworthy new citizen of Appomattox Court House arrived in 1863 after buying the old Raine property. Wilmer McLean, hoping to escape the war, did not realize that it would find him one last time. On the morning of April 9, General Robert E. Lee realized that the retreat of his beleaguered army had finally been halted. U.S. Grant was riding toward Appomattox Court House where the Union V, XXIV, and XXV Corps had blocked the Confederate path. Lee had sent a letter to Grant requesting a meeting to discuss his army's surrender.
Colonel Charles Marshall rode ahead of Lee in order to find a place for the generals' conference. As Marshall passed through the village, he found Wilmer McLean in the vicinity of the courthouse. He asked McLean if he knew of a suitable location, and McLean took him to an empty house that was without furniture. Marshall immediately rejected the house. Then McLean offered his own home. After seeing the comfortable country home, Marshall readily accepted and sent Sergeant Tucker back to inform General Lee that a meeting site had been found. Lee arrived at the McLean house about one o'clock and took a seat in the parlor. A half hour later a clatter on the stage road signaled the approach of General Grant. Entering the house, Grant met Lee in the center of the room.
The rest is history. Lee and Grant agreed on the terms of the surrender and the Civil War came to an end. Our country was reunited. In 1892, the courthouse burned and was then moved near the railroad depot, an area then known as Nebraska. Later the name was changed to Appomattox and is the present location of the currently used courthouse. After World War II, at the original site of the surrender, the work of restoration and reconstruction was revived and slowly the buildings were opened. Today little work remains to be done on the village, and with the exception of those buildings that have not been reconstructed, the village looks very much as it did on the fateful day when Grant and Lee met in the first step of reuniting the United States. It's now a National Park and is open daily to the public.
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This page was last updated on 30 June 2012 at 4:54 pm
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