Petersburg: Pocahontas Island Historic District

Buildings in Pocahontas Island Historic District
Buildings in Pocahontas Island Historic District

Virginia Department of Historic Resources

The historic district is one of Petersburg’s earliest predominantly African American neighborhoods. It is located on a peninsula on the north side of the Appomattox River. Some of the area's earliest slaves were brought to the peninsula in 1732. They were to work in John Bolling’s tobacco warehouses. In 1750, the land was subdivided and renamed Wittontown. It was named for Pocahontas in 1752 when the area became a town. By 1797, free blacks and slaves from the Davenport parish in Prince George County established the Sandy Beach Baptist Church. They worshipped at this church until 1818. The congregation then moved to Gillfield. By 1800, 310 free blacks lived in the integrated neighborhood. These included men like John Jarrett and John Updike who earned their living as boatmen, fishermen, and watermen.

The Pocahontas Island Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Place on November 3, 2006. The Pocahontas Island Black History Museum is located on Pocahontas Island. The now home museum was once a stop on the Underground Railroad. The museum features artifacts and other historical items that showcase over 200 years of black history. The museum was established in 2003 by Richard Stewart. The museum is located at 224 Witten Street. For more information, please call (804) 861-8889, or e-mail: The website is: Pocahontas Island Black History Museum.

Last updated: August 16, 2017