Norfolk County Historical Society

The Norfolk County Historical Society of Chesapeake, Virginia was organized on October 10, 1963, the same year that the City of Chesapeake was formed through the merger of Norfolk County and the City of South Norfolk. The society is committed to the preservation and dissemination of the history of the City of Chesapeake and surrounding areas. NCHS is a tax-exempt corporation chartered by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

You can contact a member of the Norfolk County Historical Society by calling 757.410.7152. They can also be reached by email at Visit the NCHS website for current information on programs and activities: 


The Society:

  • Provides Historical programs that are open to the public;
  • Contributes to the development of the Wallace Memorial History Room Collection;
  • Makes information available concerning the history of Chesapeake, Norfolk County and the surrounding area;
  • Provides volunteer assistance in the Wallace Memorial History Room;
  • Publishes and sells books and pamphlets dealing with local history;
  • Identifies, registers and marks Chesapeake structures of historic significance;
  • Sponsors the development of a collection of oral histories;
  • Sponsors genealogy classes;
  • Supports the concept of an Architectural Review Committee for the protection of the City’s historic structures and sites.


Tracing Chesapeake's Roots

1606 - On 10 April 1606, King James authorized the creation of two companies to settle Virginia (defined as the land between the 34th and 45th degrees of north latitude - from the Cape Fear River in North Carolina to Passamaquoddy Bay in Maine).  The London Company would settle the southern region and the Plymouth Company, the northern region.

1607 - On 13 May 1607, representatives of the London Company and their band of settlers began a settlement on the river they named James at a place they called Jamestown.

1618 - On 11 November 1618, the number of settlements and settlers in the regions along Chesapeake Bay and the James River having increased, the Council in London ordered that the colony be divided into four "corporations" for the purpose of local administration with each to be a parish of the Church; Sir George Yeardley was appointed governor and the county-parish system of government began.; A bicameral legislative assembly was established with representatives from each of the corporations.; The corporation of Elizabeth City included the area that later became the counties of Elizabeth City, Warwick, Isle of Wight, Southhampton, Nansemond, Norfolk and Princess Anne and the cities that were carved from them.

1634 - Elizabeth City County was created from part of the corporation of Elizabeth City.

1636 - The County of New Norfolk (area south of the James River and Hampton Roads) was partitioned from Elizabeth City County.

1637 - The county of New Norfolk was subdivided into Upper Norfolk County (formerly Nansemond County, now the City of Suffolk) and Lower Norfolk County.

1691 - Lower Norfolk County was divided into Norfolk County and Princess Anne County.

1705 - Norfolk was established as a town and port.

1736 - The borough of Norfolk was established.

1752 - Portsmouth became a town.

1845 - The city of Norfolk was partitioned from Norfolk County.

1858 - The city of Portsmouth was partitioned from Norfolk County.

1919 - South Norfolk was partitioned from Norfolk County as a second-class city.

1953 - South Norfolk became a first-class city.

1963 - The remaining part of Norfolk County and the City of South Norfolk merged to become the City of Chesapeake.

Information compiled for the Norfolk County Historical Society of Chesapeake, Virginia by Elizabeth Baum Hanbury.

Wallace Memorial Room

The Wallace Memorial Room is part of the Chesapeake Central Library at 298 Cedar Road. Mrs. Sabine Wallace Drury, through the Historical Society, donated the cost of construction of the original room, which is a memorial to her father William Wallace (1878-1950). It houses a collection of materials for use in historical and genealogical research with emphasis on the City of Chesapeake and the surrounding areas of Southeastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina.   

The Wallace Memorial History Room features two separate historical collections:

The Norfolk County Historical Society (NCHS) Collection includes materials for use in historical and genealogical research with emphasis on the City of Chesapeake and the surrounding areas of Southeastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina. In addition to research materials, the Wallace Room has a collection of artifacts of local interest on display. 

The Virginia Regional History (VRH) Collection is a newly developed collection of materials provided by the Library. The VRHC covers all aspects of Virginia’s history and includes items of interest in the Atlantic coastal region, centered on Virginia. A large variety of books have been collected over the last year to launch this collection. 

Note: All items in both the NCHS and VRH collections are for reference and available for use in the library only. They may not be checked out of the library. 

The Library and the Norfolk County Historical Society of Chesapeake contribute to the continuing development of the collection. In addition to research materials, the Wallace Room has a collection of artifacts of local interest on display.

The Wallace Room is located on the second floor of the Chesapeake Central Library. The Wallace Room and the Library are open:

Monday - Thursday 10:00 AM - 8:00 PM 
Friday - 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM 
Saturday - 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM 
Sunday - 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM


Reference Requests by Mail

The Wallace Room is staffed by volunteers from the Norfolk County Historical Society of Chesapeake and does not have a formal research service in place. The volunteer staff cannot undertake extensive research or photocopying projects, however, they will research questions using Wallace Room materials as time permits.

Mail reference requests can be made to:

Chesapeake Public Library, Wallace Memorial Room, 298 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322

Please include a self-addressed stamped envelope with your request.

All materials in the Wallace Room are for reference use only, and therefore may not be checked out from the library. Photocopiers are available for patrons using Wallace Room materials. The current price is 20 cents per page. Library patrons are responsible for observing posted copyright laws.

The Battle of Great Bridge

Great Bridge Battlefield and Waterways History Foundation


The personal sacrifices and energies invested in building our nation need to be kept alive to teach the values of freedom to future generations of Americans. The Great Bridge Battlefield & Waterways History Foundation seeks to preserve the heritage of a battle that helped create our country and the waterways that carried its commerce.

On December 9, 1775, at Great Bridge in the region of Hampton Roads, American troops defeated British Redcoats in the first battle of the Revolutionary War fought on Virginia soil. George Washington himself believed that the victory was critical to American's quest for independence.

In 1772, plans were made to construct a canal from Great Bridge to North Landing River but our nation's struggle for independence rendered it impossible. When the Revolutionary War ended, Governor Patrick Henry believed a more westerly course to the Albermarle Sound was feasible and so authorized the construction of the Dismal Swamp Canal in 1792. The Albermarle & Chesapeake Canal was not completed until 1859.

The Foundation

Now the Foundation seeks to create a Battlefield Waterway Visitor Center telling the story of the battle and of the historical Albermarle & Chesapeake and Dismal Swamp canals. With artifacts and videos and costumed interpreters we want to make history come alive; history that should not be forgotten.

We have broad-based community support and a number of civic leaders have expressed enthusiasm.  But we need YOU!  We need contributions of time and money. We need volunteers willing to shoulder all the tasks that will make this visitor center possible.

Your participation in the early stages of this effort will be meaningful and rewarding. Won't you join us in making sure that the past is once again present so that future generations will know these stories of courage and dedication.

For more information contact the Norfolk County Historical Society at:

Norfolk County Historical Society
298 Cedar Rd
Chesapeake VA 23322

Or visit the Foundation's Website at:

Publications of the Norfolk County Historical Society of Chesapeake, VA

An Affair of Honor: The Biography of Commodore James Barron, by William O. Stevens.
Norfolk County Historical Society in cooperation with the Swem Library of the College of William and Mary, 1968, 198 pages, illus., index. The life of the Commodore and the Chesapeake when attacked in 1807, his court martial and resulting duel with Stephen Decatur.
Around the World in Old Ironsides; The Voyage of the USS Constitution, 1884-1946, edited by Alan B. Flanders, 1993, 164 pages, photos, nautical charts. A two and one-half year world voyage as seen through the eyes of Ship's Carpenter Henry Thomas. Hardcover
The Battle of Great Bridge, by Elizabeth Wingo and Elizabeth Hanbury.
Revised Limited edition, 1997. 26 pgs., softbound. Describes the incidents and the people involved in the Revolutionary War's Battle of Great Bridge in Norfolk County, VA, on December 9, 1775. Illustrated with maps and drawings by Wilbur Chadwick.
Mark Carey's Chesapeake Collection. Ten years of art, history, and humor. By Mark Carey with introduction by Tony Stein, 1998. 248 pages of original drawings documenting the histories of Norfolk County and Chesapeake. Hardcover
The Chesapeake: A Biography of a Ship, by Charles B. Cross, Jr., 2nd ed., 1973, 86 pages, illus., bibliography. hronicle of the frigate "laid down" at Gosport (Norfolk County) in 1795, its surrender to a British ship in 1807, and its return and capture in the War of 1812. Paperback
Chesapeake Landfalls by Alexander C. Brown, 1970. 200 pages, illus., index. Authentic history of the ships, people and places on the lower Chesapeake Bay & Hampton Roads from 1607 to present. Paperback
Chesapeake, A Pictorial History, by Charles B. Cross Jr. and Eleanor Cross, 220 pages, illustrations, index, several hundred photos of Norfolk County/Chesapeake from 1607 to 1985. Reprint 1999. Some illustrations never before published and an excellent area history. Hardcover
Child of Glencoe
New edition in production!
Paperback available soon
Glencoe Diary ($15 hardbound), War Comes to Glencoe Civil War diaries of Elizabeth Curtis Wallace and her daughter Katie Darling Wallace. All are limited editions. Hardcover
Juniper Waterway,
A History of the Albermarle & Chesapeake Canal, by Alexander Crosby Brown. Mariner's Museum and Norfolk Co. Historical Society of Chesapeake, 1981. 255 pages, index. An illustrated history that traces the varying fortunes of one of America's most heavily used, commercially important and scenically beautiful man-made waterways.
Memoirs of Helen Calvert Maxwell Read, edited by Charles B. Cross, Jr., 1970. 80 pages, illus., index. Personal account of the opening years of the War for Independence in Virginia, as told to her son by the author. Paperback
Thomas Jefferson, Passionate Pilgrim: The Presidency, the Founding of the University, and the Private Battle, by Alf J Mapp Jr., 1991 Paperback
Tombstone Inscriptions of Norfolk Co., Virginia Published by the Norfolk Co. Historical Society of Chesapeake, in cooperation with the Great Bridge Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, 1979. 176 pages, illus., index. Tabulation of known graves: names, birth and death dates, and locations. New Edition Coming Soon

Historical Societies and Organizations

Eastern Shore
Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society

Hampton Hampton Historical Society
P.O. Box 69062 Hampton, VA 23669-9362

Fox Hill Historical Society (Hampton)

Newport News
Newport News Warwick Historical Preservation Association

Norfolk Norfolk Historical Society

Portsmouth Historical Association
221 North Street Portsmouth, VA 23704

Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society

Virginia Beach
Princess Anne County/Virginia Beach Historical Society


State Historical Societies and Organizations

Archeological Society of Virginia

Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities

Great Bridge Battlefield & Waterways History Foundation

Jamestown 2007

Virginia Canals & Navigations Society

Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Virginia Historical Society

The Bells Mill Historical Research and Restoration Society
Dr. E. Curtis Alexander
(757) 547-5542


Tidewater-Area History Museums

Hampton History Museum

The Hampton Roads Naval Museum

Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center

Lee Hall Manor

The MacArthur Memorial

The Mariner's Museum

The Newsome House Museum and Cultural Center

The Old Coast Guard Station

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum

Riddick's Folly

Virginia War Museum


Guide to Virginia Historical Rsources


Back to Top