Tappahannock, Virginia
Town of Tappahannock
The historic district of Tappahannock
The historic district of Tappahannock
Location in Virginia
Location in Virginia
Coordinates: 37°55′20″N 76°51′47″W / 37.92222°N 76.86306°W / 37.92222; -76.86306
CountryUnited States
 • MayorRoy Gladding
 • Total2.75 sq mi (7.11 km2)
 • Land2.67 sq mi (6.91 km2)
 • Water0.08 sq mi (0.20 km2)
46 ft (14 m)
 • Total2,375
 • Estimate 
 • Density899.96/sq mi (347.44/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Code
Area code804
FIPS code51-77568[3]
GNIS feature ID1498542[4]

Tappahannock is the oldest town in Essex County, Virginia, United States. The population was 2,375 at the 2010 census,[5] up from 2,068 at the 2000 census. Located on the Rappahannock River, Tappahannock is the county seat of Essex County.[6] Its name comes from an Algonquian language word lappihanne (also noted as toppehannock), meaning "Town on the rise and fall of water" or "where the tide ebbs and flows." The Rappahannock is a tidal estuary from above this point and downriver to its mouth on Chesapeake Bay.

In 1608 English explorer John Smith landed in Tappahannock and fought with the local Rappahannock tribe. After defeating them, he later made peace.[7][8][9][10]


In the mid 1660s, Captain Richard Hobbs had rights to 800 acres south of Gilson's Creek at the Rappahannock River. In 1680, Virginia law required warehouses to be established in port towns, and that year surveyor George Morris created a survey showing Hobb His Hole Harbour [sic]. Hole means where a ship could drop anchor in a deep part of the water, and thus it was Capt. Hobbs who parked his ship "Elizabeth and Mary" here [11] in the vicinity of present-day Tappahannock. This area became known as "Hobbs Hole".

The settlement was platted for 50 acres (20 ha), divided into half-acre squares.[12] The port was established at Hobbs Hole and called "New Plymouth",[12] later changed back to the Native American name "Tappahannock". As part of the Tobacco Inspection Act of 1730, public warehouses for inspection and exportation of tobacco, the colony's commodity crop, were established at Hobbs Hole. Ocean-going ships could reach this port.

During the War of 1812, the town was seized by British naval forces under the command of Captain Robert Barrie on December 2, 1814. The British left the town two days later, after burning down the courthouse and two jails.[13]

The Tappahannock Historic District and Sabine Hall are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[14]

On February 24, 2016, the town was hit by a large EF3 tornado, causing massive damage.[15]

On July 15, 2022, a fire destroyed many businesses along Prince Street as well as multiple homes in downtown Tappahannock, burning nearly half the town block. The cause of the fire, which started at the back of the Martin-Sale Furniture Company, remains unknown as of 2023.[16] No deaths were reported aside from a pet cat belonging to one of the displaced residents.[17]


Tappahannock is located on the east side of Essex County at 37°55′20″N 76°51′47″W / 37.92222°N 76.86306°W / 37.92222; -76.86306 (37.922180, −76.863158), on the southwest bank of the Rappahannock River.[18] The river is a wide, tidal estuary here.

U.S. Routes 17 and 360 pass through the town. US 17 passes through the center of town as Church Lane, leading northwest 47 miles (76 km) to Fredericksburg and southeast 70 miles (110 km) to Newport News. US 360 runs through town with US 17 on Church Lane, but turns east on Queen Street and crosses the mile-wide Rappahannock, continuing east 39 miles (63 km) to its terminus in Reedville near the Chesapeake Bay. US 360 leads southwest from Tappahannock 45 miles (72 km) to Richmond, the state capital.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town 2.7 square miles (6.9 km2), of which 2.6 square miles (6.7 km2) is land and 0.077 square miles (0.2 km2), or 2.84%, is water.[5]


Historical population
2019 (est.)2,402[2]1.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[19]

As of the census of 2000, there were 2,068 people, 857 households, and 495 families residing in the town.[3] The population density was 793.6 people per square mile (305.9/km2). There were 946 housing units at an average density of 363.0 per square mile (139.9/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 54.60% White, 41.60% African American, 0.10% Native American, 2.50% Asian, 0.10% from other races, and 1.00% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.40% of the population.

There were 857 households, out of which 27.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.6% were married couples living together, 18.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.2% were non-families. Of all households, 35.8% were made up of individuals, and 14.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.91.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 22.4% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 27.0% from 25 to 44, 20.7% from 45 to 64, and 21.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 78.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 73.6 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $33,688, and the median income for a family was $41,579. Males had a median income of $28,409 versus $20,431 for females. The per capita income for the town was $17,862. About 10.6% of families and 14.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 26.6% of those under age 18 and 6.7% of those age 65 or over.


Notable people

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (March 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  4. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  5. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Census Summary File 1 (G001): Tappahannock town, Virginia". American Factfinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  6. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  7. ^ "Early Settlement Up the... Rappahannock?". www.virginiaplaces.org. Retrieved May 24, 2018.
  8. ^ "John Smith 400". www.johnsmith400.org. Retrieved May 24, 2018.
  9. ^ "Second Voyage - Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail (U.S. National Park Service)". www.nps.gov. Retrieved May 24, 2018.
  10. ^ "Amoroleck Encounters John Smith N-38 - Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania Historical Markers". fredmarkers.umwblogs.org. February 27, 2008. Retrieved May 24, 2018.
  11. ^ "Essex County Virginia -History of Essex County". April 14, 2013. Archived from the original on April 14, 2013. Retrieved May 24, 2018.
  12. ^ a b http://www.vawterfamily.org/Georgine/Bartholomew%201-99.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  13. ^ Va. town's sacking in War of 1812 recalled, Associated Press (October 16, 2014).
  14. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  15. ^ "Tappahannock 'a mess' after tornado strike". www.richmond.com. February 25, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  16. ^ Blake, Jennifer (July 14, 2023). "Tappahannock on the road to recovery a year after a massive fire". WWBT. Retrieved December 15, 2023.
  17. ^ Hood, John (July 15, 2022). "Massive fire destroys multiple buildings in Tappahannock". WWBT. Retrieved December 15, 2023.
  18. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  19. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  20. ^ "Lowery's Seafood in Tappahannock sinks into bankruptcy". richmondbizsense. September 4, 2020.
  21. ^ Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission staff (June 1976). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Debtor's Prison" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
  22. ^ a b "National Register nomination form" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources. July 15, 2008..
  23. ^ "A Guide to the William Stewart, Jr., Letters, 1800–1818". Archival Records, The Library of Virginia. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  24. ^ "" Archived 2008-07-08 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ McConnell, Jim. "Big Apple beckons for Tutt". The Free Lance-Star. May 3, 2006. Retrieved on March 6, 2009.