Emporia City

Greensville County, Virginia

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Emporia City Hall is located at 201 South Main Street, Emporia, VA 23847.
Phone: 434‑634‑3332.

While designated the county seat of Greensville County, Emporia was incorporated as an independent city in 1967.

Beginnings [1]

The area along the Meherrin River was first explored in 1670. The Hicksford area was settled in 1710 where the Fort Road of eastern Virginia crossed the Meherrin River en route to Fort Christanna. In 1796, the town of Hicksford was founded on the southern bank of the Meherrin River and in 1798 the town of Belfield was established on the opposite bank. Although the two towns constituted a county seat with its courthouse, they remained subsidiary to the county at large for the first half of the nineteenth century.

As the area experienced growth with the creation of new railroads, capital, and industries, the extent of this growth constituted the impetus for Emporia's establishment as it related to Benjamin Tillar's charter for the Atlantic and Danville Railroad. Tillar, president of the Atlantic and Danville Railroad, supposedly took the suggestion of U.S. Senator Preston B. Plumb of Kansas in naming the new town of Emporia, Virginia, after Plumb's hometown of Emporia, Kansas. As a member of the Virginia General Assembly, Tillar was not only thinking of his hometown when he asked the legislature to reconstitute Hicksford and Belfield but also his newly chartered railroad and the anticipated boom which would benefit both. Soon after, the two Greensville County towns merged in 1887 to form Emporia.

Incorporated for a second time in 1892, Emporia's boundaries were increased and the powers of the town council clarified in order to manage the quickly developing businesses and neighborhoods. In 1900, the General Assembly authorized Emporia to issue bonds to establish the first of modern public facilities such as a water plant, electric service, and street improvements. Commercially the town grew in the 1920s, 30's, and early 40's with many of the same types of stores and services that had already been established: grocery stores, real estate companies, fertilizer companies, dry goods stores, automobile dealers, lumber related businesses, insurance companies, cotton related companies, etc. A statistical retail account from the 1940 census listed 18 grocery stores, 15 restaurants, 14 filling stations, 10 general merchandise stores, 6 furniture stores, 6 automobile businesses, 5 lumber-building businesses, 4 drug stores, 4 hardware stores, 2 general stores, 2 apparel stores, 2 feed and farm stores, and 9 other types of stores.

Emporia showed a boom typical of most communities following World War II. The town annexed additional property in 1947 including about 600 houses. Activity in real estate subdivision increased to a level not equaled since the early part of the century. Development in the 1950s and 60's also followed national trends with outlying neighborhoods further from the town core and with infill brick ranch houses looking ill at ease among their more elderly neighbors in the old parts of town. Emporia and the country at large had become more independent upon the automobile as the tell-tale signs of drive-in movies, outlying restaurants, motels, and shopping centers appeared. In 1967, Emporia officially became a City, symbolically entering a new era in which so much of its past had, and would, become only a memory.

  1. City of Emporia, Virginia, Comprehensive Plan: 2015-2035, www.ci.emporia.va.us, accessed August, 2015.

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