In March 1727, when the General Assembly of Virginia passed the act calling for the division of the Henrico Shire, Sir William Gooch, the man for whom the new county would be named, had not yet arrived in Virginia. Sir Gooch arrived in September of 1727 but Goochland was not officially established until 1728. When Sir Gooch came to Virginia his title became Royal Lt. Governor William Gooch. Royal Lt. Governor William Gooch was described in Colonial Virginia: A History as being the “ablest politician”. Ever tactful and charming, the new executive was a master diplomat. Lt. Governor Gooch is remembered for his stand on religious toleration. As a result, Quakers quickly settled the new county. Goochland covered a vast amount of land on both sides of the James River, extending beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains.

At the time of its founding in 1727, Goochland was a frontier area and offered a natural setting for large plantations and country estates. Tuckahoe Plantation, the boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson, is the oldest recorded River Plantation in the County, and is a popular historical attraction today. The narrow, cedar-lined lane captivated approaching visitors as horsemen galloped down the lane centuries ago. The rich fertile land, with timber and mineral deposits, brought more settlers to the area, and families from the lower James River region soon populated it. Coal was mined in the eastern section at the Dover, Manakin and Tuckahoe coalfields, while gold was mined in the western section.
With the James River running through the midsection of the new county and an abundance of creeks, mills were built to grind grain or produce oils. The original tobacco crop was replaced by wheat, which was easily transported to the larger mills in Richmond for markets in the Atlantic region of the United States. By 1840, the Kanawha Canal (created by George Washington) was operating in the county, which gave way to the railroad. Goochland has 25% of the total length of the original canal. Relics include three aqueducts, a lock keeper's house, and the only double tunnel culvert on the system.

The railroad, which was completed in 1880, served as a vital communication link in Goochland for many years. By 1916, each of the designated train stations were also telegraph stations, and post offices. Later in the century, the creation of Interstate 64 became a new link to facilitate commerce.

The economic growth of the county may be viewed from various angles. Agriculture, forestry and mining are still vital to our economy. Today we have fewer farms, but these more contemporary establishments are geared to crops, cattle and horses. The tradition of managed growth continues as many high-quality companies have discovered Goochland to be well located with an excellent quality of life.

To learn more about the county’s past, contact the Goochland Historical Society at 804- 556-3966, or visit the Historical Society website.