"Avillage with a population of thirty people in 1880, Newport News — The
Golden Gate of the Atlantic — situated at the confluence of the James River
and Hampton Roads, is not one of the largest cities in the State.
In 1881 the first train over the C & O Railway ran into the city. From that moment the growth of Newport News was assured, and in 1888 the ground was first broken for the now mammoth plant of the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company. The railroad, the shipyard and the unexcelled natural and artificial harbors are now the city’s chief claim to greatness.” — Blue Book, Newport News Police Department, 1915
of Wilbern Farm
The home of Captain William Jones Wilbern was located near Newport News Point in Warwick County. The Wilbern tract originally contained 155 acres which fronted about 1250 feet on the James River. In 1867, Wilbern contracted to sell the property to William Giddings for $300 an acre. Fourteen years later, a deed dated June 18, 1881, transferred the property from Giddings to Collis P. Huntington and his wife. Huntington in turn transferred the property to the Old Dominion Land Company (ODLC). The house and outbuildings were removed when the Warwick Hotel and Casino were constructed in 1884.
1871 Briarfield Farm Map
Briarfield Farm began in the 17th century as 900 acres on a long strip of land on the James River. Just prior to the death of owner Baker Perkins Lee, Sr. in 1867, the land was divided between several people and these sections were all eventually conveyed to the ODLC. For example, Selwyn E. Bickford conveyed 87.95 acres of Briarfield on November 18, 1880 to Collis P. Huntington who later conveyed it to the ODLC.
“Father, when he bought the Newport News farm about 1831 had an idea that it would be at sometime a city on account of its fine harbor.”
—George Benjamin West, Newport News A Centennial History Parker West originally purchased Newport News Farm which was transferred to his heirs in 1871. George Benjamin West, one of his sons and founder and president
of Newport News’ first bank, Citizens and Marine Bank, inherited the farm.
William Ivy gave the land to Joshua Couch as payment for a $1000 bond on October 24, 1850. Later Couch sold his bond to Benjamin F. Butler who then brought suit in Couch’s name against Ivy and this led to a foreclosure on the property. Ivy’s son Edward T. Ivy purchased the land and conveyed it to Thomas Tabb who then gave it to Alexander B. Green. Green then conveyed the land to the ODLC.
Information on the early farms was taken from W. T. Stauffer’s “The Old Farms…,” William and Mary Quarterly, 1934–1935.
William Causey was forced to foreclose on his farm on October 3, 1873 as a result of a suit brought upon him by Benjamin F. Butler and F. A. Schmelz to secure payment for a bond. Within one day the land was conveyed from Schmelz to Thomas Tabb and then to Alexander B. Green, Collis P. Huntington’s land agent. Green then turned the land over to the ODLC.