Pocahontas Island, named after the legendary Native American princess, is probably Petersburg's earliest predominantly African-American neighborhood. It is a peninsula located on the north side of the Appomattox River within the limits of Petersburg. Some of Petersburg's first enslaved black were brought here in 1732 to work in John Bolling's tobacco warehouses. In 1750 the land was subdivided and named Wittontown. It was renamed Pocahontas Island when it became a town in 1752 and became a part of Petersburg in 1784. In 1797, free blacks and slaves from the Davenport parish in Prince George County established the Sandy Beach Baptist Church in Pocahontas. They worshipped there until 1818 when the congregation moved to Gillfield. By 1800, many of Petersburg's 310 free blacks were probably residing in this integrated neighborhood, including John Jarrett and John Updike who earned their living as boatmen, fishermen and watermen.
Richard A. Stewart, the unofficial "Mayor" of Pocahontas Island, was born on the 66-acre island in 1943. He purchased an 18th century house there in 2002 and began collecting and amassing artifacts related to Black history as well as Civil War history. By 2003, he had collected enough items to open the house as the Pocahontas Island Black History Museum. Pocahontas Island is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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Last Updated: 05/03/2013