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Manchester, Virginia was an independent city in Virginia in the United States. Originally known as Rocky Ridge, it was located on the south bank of the James River at the fall line opposite Richmond, of which whom it merged by mutual agreement in 1910.
Fall line settlements
The fall line marks the area where an upland region (continental bedrock) and a coastal plain (coastal alluvia) meet. The fall line is typically prominent where a river crosses it, for there will usually be rapids or waterfalls. Because of these features river boats typically can not travel any further inland and the location is the head of navigation. Because of the need of a port, and ready supply of water power, settlements often developed where the river crosses the fall line.
The most prominent example of fall line settlement was the establishment of the cities along the eastern coast of the United States where the Appalachian Rise and the coastal plains meet. Cities (listed north to south) on this fall line include:
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Pawtucket, Rhode Island
- Troy, New York
- Trenton, New Jersey
- Washington, D.C.
- Fredericksburg, Virginia
- Richmond, Virginia
- Petersburg, Virginia
- Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina
- Raleigh, North Carolina
- Columbia, South Carolina
- Augusta, Georgia
Rocky Ridge, seaport, mills and railroads
First known as "Rocky Ridge", Manchester became a major seaport in the 17th through 19th centuries. It was incorporated as a town in 1769. Before the American Revolutionary War, tobacco industries made the town their home. It was also known as a major slave market. Manchester was commercially successful primarily due to its agricultural mills and docks, where coal from the Midlothian area 13 miles west was transported on the Chesterfield Railroad, the first in Virginia, beginning in 1831. The line followed present-day Maury Street, which was the southern border of Manchester for many years. It crossed over the steam-powered Richmond and Petersburg Railroad (later Atlantic Coast Line Railroad) tracks on a high trestle along Maury Street between what is now Clopton Street and Jefferson Davis Highway. When the new Richmond and Danville Railroad was completed between Manchester and Coalfield Station (now Midlothian) in 1851, the older Chesterfield Railroad was unable to compete and it was dismantled before the Civil War too place.
Manchester was the original county seat of Chesterfield County until it became an independent city in 1874 (and was therefore no longer located in Chesterfield County). The county seat was then relocated to the current location at Chesterfield Court House, Virginia.
Manchester agrees to consolidate with Richmond
For over 250 years, the James River divided Richmond on the north bank from its sister, Manchester, located on the south bank. A major issue for Manchester and Richmond residents in the 19th and early 20th century were the toll ferrys and toll bridges over the James River. The latter were subject to frequent destruction by ice flows and flooding on the river.
There were periodic talks and negotiations for over 35 years between the cities before, in 1910, Manchester agreed to a political consolidation with the much larger independent City of Richmond. Richmond's better-known name was used for both areas as it contained the location of Virginia's state capital. Two of the key features of the consolidation agreement were requirements that a "free bridge" across the James River be built and that a separate courthouse remain in Manchester was be maintained indefinitely. Instead of barrier between neighboring cities, under the consolidation, the James River became the centerpiece of the expanded Richmond.
Today, Manchester is recognized as a historic district in state and national registers. Although Manchester is extinct as an independent city, vestiges can be found in the Manchester Bridge, Manchester Slave Trail, and the Manchester Courthouse. Manchester and other areas south of the James River are locally referred to as "South Richmond".
- Weisiger, Benjamin B. III, Old Manchester & Its Environs, 1769-1910.
- Casuga, Jay-Anne, Richmond.com Sister City: Manchester is stepping out of the shadows2003 article
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