Route 301 & The Rappahannock River
|Old Port Royal One Room School House
photo by Kenneth Clark
Visit Port Royal's Official Web Site
Settled in 1652 when John Catlett and his half brother, Ralph Rowzee patented 400 acres, Port Royal was once the only chartered town in Caroline County. An important colonial shipper of tobacco to Britain, it later served as a warehouse center and mover of grain, freight, and passengers on 3-masted schooners. Traces of this colorful past can still be found today in the historic section of this old town.
The town grew up around a ferry and a tobacco warehouse. It's fortunes were reversed, first by the coming of the railroad, then by construction of a bridge over the river.
The Rt. 301 bridge upstream is built over part of the wharf which ran out to deep water in midstream where ships could tie up. Tobacco barrels were rolled out to the ships. Later pushcarts running on rails were used for moving cargo between ship and shore. During the Civil War, Union Army engineers built a floating wharf to mid-river for its gunboats.
John Wilkes Booth sought refuge here after his shooting of Lincoln. He was killed two miles outside the town, west of the intersection of present day Rts. 301 and 17
Regular schooner service to Baltimore and Norfolk began operations in 1828 and served as a pipeline to the outside world. The last passenger ship - the schooner Edna Bright Howe to Baltimore - left here in 1932.
Business revived in 1950 when Rt. 301 was improved. Port Royal lay a convenient distance from New York City for southbound travelers, and motels, restaurants, and service stations flourished. This was taken away in the 1960's by the building of Rt. I-95.
The area south of the Rappahannock River which is now the Town of Port Royal was first settled in 1652, when John Catlett and his half brother, Ralph Rowzee, patented 400 acres.Back to Top
Today, Port Royal, though small and quiet, is a collection of active citizens, who contribute their talents to 21st century pursuits while retaining their love and appreciation for the unique setting in which they live.
- In 1670, Col. Catlett was killed by Indians while defending the fort located at the present site of Port Royal.
- Port Royal's 17th century pirate is immortalized in the name Peumansend Creek. A French pirate, a Monsieur Peuman, was the scourge of the settlers. Eventually they chased him up the creek and killed him. Thus the name "Peuman's End", a name which appeared on deeds as early as 1670.
- The earliest dwellings in the area were probably of log construction, none of which exist today. What the visitor can enjoy, however, is a collection of 18th and 19th century homes in a setting largely unchanged in the town's 250 year old history.
- Tobacco was Virginia's money crop in its colonial days and became the medium of exchange with salaries and debts pain in paper receipts at the tobacco warehouse.
- In 1673 Richard Buckner established a tobacco warehouse which was later acquired by another early settler, John Roy.
- In 1731 a rolling road was constructed from Milford to Port Royal, for the purpose of rolling hogsheads of tobacco down to the docks for shipment.
- Port Royal was incorporated as a town in 1744. The "town green", upon which stands today the Town Hall and the firehouse, was forever reserved "for public and civic use".