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What is: The Pamunkey Reservation and Railroad Tracks

What was: The 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation created an 6-mile wide, 18,000-acre exclusive Native American zone by prohibiting colonists from living within three miles of the settlement on Pamunkey Neck.

In 1693, the colonial government allowed the Pamunkey to sell 5,000 acres of their land. That helped them pay debts and relieved some pressure to extinguish the reservation completely.

Starting in 1836, the Pamunkey were threatened by an effort to terminate their reservation for various reasons and on numerous occasions. It could have led to sale of the lands and dispersal of the tribe.

Over time, more slices of land were transferred out of Pamunkey control, leaving the tribe with an inadequate land base for subsistence by hunting and gathering. Today, the Pamunkey Reservation consists of 1,200 acres. That is 7% of the land originally granted by the 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation.

The railroad tracks that run through the reservation are a reminder of the effects of modernity and how the indigenous peoples have been disrespected.  The tracks were first laid in 1855, across 22 acres of the Pamunkey reservation, without permission from the Pamunkey and with no compensation to the Pamunkey for this unsolicited and unwanted use of their land.

In 1975 the Pamunkey began a suit against the Southern Railroad Company which in 1979 resulted in reparations of $100,000 being paid to the Pamunkey for the location of these tracks. The terms of their settlement also required that the railroad continue regular rent payments for use of that land in the future, and determined that if the railroad should at any point discontinue use of the tracks, the land will be returned to Pamunkey.

What is: A mound on Pamunkey Neck, described as the gravesite of Powhatan.

What was: Powhatan, was the leader of many Algonquian tribes and met on several occasions with Captain John Smith in 1607 in the earliest recorded meetings between a Native leader and the English. On one visit in 1609, the English forced Powhatan to bow so they could crown him as a ruler in Virginia.

He died around 1618, and the ceremony for the “taking up” of his bones was a signal for the uprising that initiated the Second Anglo-Powhatan War in 1622. Colonists did not know the details of Powhatan’s death or burial, so the written records do not document the location of his grave.

His bones may have been placed in a mat and kept in the Uttamusak temple complex, rather than interred in the ground. Whether or not Powhatan’s remains ended up on what is today the Pamunkey reservation, no one knows for sure.  However, it highlights the association with the paramount chief and father of Pocahontas and gives the Pamunkey tribe special status today.

The railroad tracks running across the Powhatan mound were first laid in 1855, across 22 acres of the Pamunkey reservation, without permission from the Pamunkey and with no compensation to the Pamunkey for this unsolicited and unwanted use of their land.

In 1975 the Pamunkey began a suit against the Southern Railroad Company which in 1979 resulted in reparations of $100,000 being paid to the Pamunkey for the location of these tracks. The terms of their settlement also required that the railroad continue regular rent payments for use of that land in the future, and determined that if the railroad should at any point discontinue use of the tracks, the land will be returned to Pamunkey use.

What is: Cohasset Depot, is an unincorporated community in Fluvanna County, Virginia

What was: Cohasset became a community because of the Virginia Air Line Railway, with the train station being known as the Fork Union Depot. The station served the community of Cohasset itself which grew up around the depot soon after it was built – a general store and post office, four houses, a very early gas station, all of which still stand. Mrs. Lettie Dickey, who with her husband sold the land for the station to the railroad, had named the community Cohasset for her hometown in Massachusetts.

The train traveled from Strathmore Yard on the James River to Cohasset, Carysbrook, Palmyra, Troy and to Gordonsville or Charlotttesville. The railroad was completed and began operating in October 1908. This branch route was built to handle cargo that would have otherwise been too tall or wide to fit through the tunnels that crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains between Charlottesville and Waynesboro.

Coal destined for Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia was sent down the James River Line to the southern junction of the route at Strathmore Yard, near Bremo Bluff. The shipments then proceeded up the Virginia Air Line to the northern junction at Lindsay, and continued on to Gordonsville. The Fork Union Depot served as a typical small railroad station of its day. Much of the local commercial business was associated with the nearby sawmill, canning factory, and two small oil storage companies. The passengers came from the surrounding farms, small towns, and the Fork Union Military Academy. The train was the main transportation for Cadets attending nearby Fork Union Military Academy for many years.

The railway also became an important line of communication that connected the small communities along the route with larger cities, such as Washington, D.C. C&O began to operate the company directly in July 1909, and acquired it outright in July 1912. In 1927, dedicated passenger rail service was reduced to one train per day in each direction, and replaced by mixed (passenger and freight) trains in June 1932. Mixed trains stopped running in 1954. The growing adoption of automobiles, trucks and airplanes had been taking business away from railroads since the 1930s.

On October 26, 1971, the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors unsuccessfully sued the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad to keep the railway in operation; it was abandoned in November 1975. Source: Wikipedia

What is: the railroad running through the abandoned rail yard towards the mountains.

What was: Transportation across Texas was originally hindered by impassable roads across large expanses of land often damaged by unpredictable weather. Shallow rivers and desert prohibited major water routes across the State. The railroad changed that. For about 160 years the trains have rolled across the large state of Texas. Freight trains, a mile and half long or more, roll right on by the small towns, around the mountains and pass through the countryside. The railroad was not just a path to economic development, but also settlement. The early steam locomotives needed water every thirty miles and so across great swaths of Texas, there was a small town every 30 miles. Wherever the train went, a community built up and commerce bloomed. Short lines connected to larger cities connecting people and commerce throughout the State. The longer rail lines went across the country and connected to both coasts and the midwest.