Over 10,000 years ago, glacial melting caused sea level to rise, flooding the ancient Susquehanna River Valley to form the Chesapeake Bay. The Potomac River carved its course into sedimentary rocks that are from 6 to 14 million years old, forming distinctive cliffs. At Westmoreland State Park, you can see mollusk, shark and fish fossils embedded in the strata.
Paleo-Indians were the region’s earliest inhabitants, dwelling in the area between 13,000 and 8,000 BC.
By the time English colonists arrived in the 1600's, the natives had established villages along the shore. You can view related artifacts at the Westmoreland County Museum and Kinsale Museum.
Birthplace of a Nation
Westmoreland is best known for its Revolutionary leaders. In 1766, Richard Henry Lee of Stratford Hall wrote the Leedstown Resolves. Considered the forerunner of the Declaration of Independence, these resolutions were the first organized resistance to British tyranny. Among the signers were six Lees, five Washingtons and Spence Monroe, father of President James Monroe. Richard Henry Lee and his brother, Francis Lightfoot Lee, later signed the Declaration of Independence.
George Washington took command of the Continental Army and was later elected the nation's first president. George Washington's Birthplace is now a 538-acre national monument located on Popes Creek between Montross and Oak Grove.
Our fifth president, James Monroe, also was born in Westmoreland County. A visitor’s center at the farm where he grew up, near Oak Grove on State Route 205, now is open to the public.
A Nation Divided
When the Civil War broke out, Westmoreland found itself on the dividing line between the North and the South. Robert E. Lee turned down command of the Union armies, refusing to "take part in an invasion" of his homeland. Instead, he returned to Virginia to command the Confederate forces. His beautifully preserved birthplace and boyhood home, Stratford Hall, has a vast library, exhibits and programs about the Lees of Virginia.
Steamboats & Summer Resorts
The first regularly scheduled steamboat stops in the county began in 1855 at Kinsale. In 1893 the Colonial Beach Improvement Company was formed to build a steamboat wharf and summer resort. Soon people from nearby cities were flocking to the white sandy beach. Inventor Alexander Graham Bell's father, A. Melville Bell, owned one of the most impressive homes in Colonial Beach.
Today, visitors are still drawn to the county for its history, its water and relaxed, rural lifestyle. To learn more about the history of Westmoreland County, contact or visit the Westmoreland County Museum.