Our area, known as Virginia’s Heartland, is rich in history that tells a story of courage and perseverance. Located in the heart of Virginia, the Farmville area includes the Town of Farmville, the County of Cumberland, and the County of Prince Edward.
Farmville is home to some key players in the early fight for civil rights; its citizens’ crusade for equal rights in education drew Martin Luther King, Jr. and other national leaders to visit our area. The Robert Russa Moton High School, site of the 1951 student strike, is a National Historic Landmark, a civil rights museum, and the centerpiece of Virginia’s Civil Rights in the Education Heritage Trail, honoring the efforts of local students and citizens who paved the way for integrated public education nationwide. Find out more about the museum by calling (434) 315-8775 or by visiting their website at http://www.motonmuseum.com.
The Civil War left its mark on Farmville, with its last major battle at nearby Sayler’s Creek. Lee retreated directly through the town, and the Confederates crossed and then attempted to burn the railroad’s impressive High Bridge, a 120-foot-high, nearly half-mile-long span across the Appomattox River which is now home to the High-Bridge State Park. Sailor’s Creek Battlefield and other sites along Lee’s Retreat are part of the state’s Civil War Trails.
Call For Independence
The first call for independence came from Farmville’s neighbor, Cumberland County, who led the Colonies in calling for a completely independent American nation. On April 22, 1776, from the balcony of Effingham Tavern, Carter H. Harrison read the Committee’s instructions to the county delegates of the State convention:
“We therefore, your constituents, instruct you positively to declare for an Independency, that you solemnly abjure any allegiance to His Britannic Majesty and bid him a good night forever…”
The Virginia Convention decided to follow Cumberland’s lead, and this resulted in the Virginian Resolutions, which were presented to the Continental Congress and embodied in the Declaration of Independence.
In the 1850’s a railroad, known as South Side Railroad, was built between the cities of Lynchburg and Petersburg passing through Farmville, Burkeville and Pamplin City. This route was subsidized by a contribution from the Town of Farmville and required an expensive crossing of the Appomattox River. This crossing became known as the High Bridge, which went on to be heavily damaged during the final days of the Civil War. Confederate General Robert E. Lee was retreating from Petersburg towards Appomattox Courthouse for the final surrender to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in April 1865 when the Battle of High Bridge was fought.
Confederate General William “Billy” Mahone rebuilt the South Side Railroad. In 1870, it merged with the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad, as well as the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad to form the Atlantic Mississippi and Ohio Railroad (AM&O). It stretched 400 miles across the southernmost section of Virginia from Norfolk to Bristol. When the railroad was purchased in the early 1880’s, it was renamed the Norfolk and Western Railroad (N&W). Then, in 1982 the railroad became part of the current Norfolk Southern Railway system. When the costs to maintain High Bridge became too high, the Farmville service was downgraded and eventually abandoned.
Today, High Bridge is being renovated as part of the Rails to Trails project. It will be 33.5 miles of non-motorized hiking, biking, and birding trails known as High Bridge Trails State Park.
Give Me Farmville Or Give Me Death
Patrick Henry, five-time Governor of Virginia, served as Prince Edward’s representative in the Virginia General Assembly. As the county’s representative, he participated with John Randolph in debates over the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Henry called Farmville home during the time in which he delivered his famous speech.