Farrar's Island

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Farrar's Island is a peninsula, jutting out from the south bank of the James River 17.5 miles (28.2 km) south of Richmond, Virginia, known as the Dutch Gap Conservation Area and Henricus Historical Park.[1]

Historical Marker, Farrar's Island


1864 Naval Scout drawing of James River and Farrar's Island
Farrar's Island as it appears today

In 1611, Sir Thomas Dale, then governor of the Colony, contracted with a Dutch engineer to straighten the James River at “Farrar's Island", and thus fortify the fort at Henricus Citie. The cut became known as Dutch Gap, and was the site of a Civil War Battle.In August 1864 troops under command of Genera Benjamin Butler tried to dig a canal to divert ships being pummeled by confederate artillery on Farrar’s Island. The job was too much but in 1870 the Army Corps of Engineers straightened the James River by completing the cut, which had previously impeded commerce. the first vessel to make the passage was the steamship Sylvestre [2][3]

Henricus Citie was attacked and destroyed during the “Jamestown Massacre" and never rebuilt until the late 20th Century as a historical site/museum.[4]:205

Farrar's Island was the last of the peninsulas called the Curles in the River before reaching the falls at Richmond about 10 miles upriver. There were two Curles peninsulas immediately down river from Farrar's Island that received the same treatment as Farrar's Island. The Curles peninsulas are cut by a new dredged river bed that thus making the former peninsulas now islands.

Farrar's Island cutoff is the third in the upriver cutoffs. The first up river cutoff from the mouth of the James at Chesapeake Bay is called Turkey Island. On it was located the Randolph Plantation, associated with the Randolph family of Virginia. Thomas Randolph bought Farrar's Island in 1727, and were the next succession of owners. Turkey Island came into the possession of a Huguenot family, the Piquettes, who Anglicized the name to Pickett and produced George Pickett.[5]

The land was a patent granted by Governor John Harvey, the Crown Governor of Virginia to William Farrar's son, which was earned by Farrar through headright for transportation of 40 persons from England to the Virginia Colony. [5] The original registration of the patent reads:

"1637 11 June. Patent to Capt Wm Farrar, 2000 acres on the north side of James River Bounding and abutting lands of Varina, thence extending westerly to the bottome of ___ Island, southerly upon the maine river, and northerly into the woods... Due for transportation of 40 persons...And upon survey there shall not be found the said quantities of 2000 acres of lands within the aforesaid bounds, that then the said Wm Farrar measured his full quantities upon the northerly bounds of the said lands into the woods."[6]

The peninsula was a neck of land around which the James River flowed. An attempt was made by Sir Thomas Dale to shorten the flow of the river, and the result was known as Dutch Gap; the job was finished in April 1865.[2] Dutch Gap exists today as a parking lot and boat launch.[7]

Completion of the cut turned the former peninsula or neck of land, into an island from which the name Farrar's Island is derived. The Farrar family had sold their land to Thomas Randolph[5]

In May of 1771, a deluge fell on the mountains to the west of Richmond that lasted 12 days, causing a flood which they called a Fresh on the Rappahanock and James River. At Farrar’s Island 80 acres , including buildings and livestock of ColonelThomas Mann Randolph along with arable top soil were washed away.Leaving in it’s stead a pavement of stones.[8]:381[9]


Farrar's Island is no longer an island as the upriver part of the old river has silted in and it is now joined to the south bank of James River.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Henricus Park/Dutch Gap Conservation Area". Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Farrar's Island". Son of the South. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  3. ^ "Henricus National Park".
  4. ^ Pickett, Margaret F.; Pickett, Dwayne W. (2014-01-10). The European Struggle to Settle North America. ISBN 9780786462216.
  5. ^ a b c "Virginia Magazine of History and Biography". 9 (2). Virginia Historical Society. 1901: 203–205. JSTOR 4242430.
  6. ^ "Records of the Farrar Patent Lands". University of Rochester School of Arts and Sciences. University of Rochester. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  7. ^ "Dutch Gap Boat Ramp". MapQuest. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  8. ^ "Scots Magazine, Vol 33". Jul 1771.
  9. ^ "The Great Fresh of 1771" (PDF).

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°21′58″N 77°22′30″W / 37.366°N 77.375°W / 37.366; -77.375