The Contribution of African Americans in Smithfield & Isle of Wight County
Established in 1634, Isle of Wight County has a rich history that can be traced because its records were not destroyed during the Civil War. Charged by the Clerk of Court to take the records into hiding, Randall Boothe, an African-American slave, took them by wagon to Greenville & Southampton. After the war he returned them, was freed, and asked to serve as Caretaker of the Courthouse.
Day 1: Begin at the Visitor Center, also home to the Arts Center @ 319, which offers tourist information, a gallery/gift shop, and the chance to chat with resident artists. Further down Main St. is the Isle of Wight County Museum, with its overview of the local history & the world's oldest ham. Just across the street is the 1750 Courthouse, modeled after the Capitol Building in Williamsburg. Lunch riverside at Captain Chuck-a-Muck's in Rescue. Then head to Historic Fort Huger, built mainly by slaves & free blacks, whose names are on display. The fort features earthen work battlements and a view of the ghost fleet on the James River. Afterwards, visit the Courthouse of 1800 & peruse the genealogical records. Visit Boykin's Tavern, named after Major Francis Boykin who served with Patrick Henry & George Washington. A savvy businessman, his tavern was located next door to the land he donated for the Isle of Wight Courthouse of 1800. Finish your day with dinner at the Smithfield Inn, followed by one of our local concerts or events.
Day 2: Breakfast at the Gourmet Bakery, then head to the Schoolhouse Museum. Built in 1932, it is an African American History Museum of Public Education, featuring period desks, books, and over 150 oral histories of those who attended the school. Lunch at the Ice Cream Parlor, and then browse the unique shops & art galleries of downtown. Finish with dinner at Smithfield Station and dessert at Sir Cakes-A-Lot on the boardwalk with a sunset over the Pagan River.