Northumberland County Historical Society

Preserving the history and genealogy of Northumberland County, Virginia since 1963

WELCOME to the Northumberland County Historical Society website. Northumberland County, Virginia is situated between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers on a peninsula known as the Northern Neck. Colonists settled in the area, which was known by the Indians as Chicacoan, circa 1640; however, settlement was not officially permitted by the Governor and the Virginia Grand Assembly until 1648. It was probably named Northumberland because, like Northumberland County, England, which forms the northern border of England, it defined the Northern border of the Virginia Colony. 

THE NORTHERN NECK comprises Northumberland County and the four counties that were created from its original territory. Lancaster County was carved out in 1651, and Westmoreland County was created in 1653.  Richmond and King George Counties were created through further division of Lancaster County.

OUR MISSION since our founding in 1963 has been to preserve the history and genealogy of the people and the memory of the historical events of Northumberland County, Virginia, and to educate the public about the “Mother County” of the Northern Neck of Virginia.


which is NCHS headquarters, is located just off the historic Courthouse Square of Heathsville, Virginia in Northumberland County. We offer a well-stocked genealogical and historical library, a meeting room, and a museum filled with local historical artifacts. Stair lifts are available for all three levels. A wheelchair ramp provides access to the meeting room on the first floor. Although the library is in the basement, accommodations can be made so wheelchair users can conduct research.


which was completed in 1839 and operated as a jail until 1958, has been restored by the Society and is regularly open for tours, or special arrangements can be made.

The Old Jail is part of Courthouse Square, which includes the Old Courthouse and Rice’s Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern. The Ball Memorial Library and Museum is next door.

Old Courthouse

The Old Courthouse in Heathsville was constructed in 1851. It is currently used for county offices. Court is held nearby in a new courthouse building built in 1998.

Rice’s Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern is the oldest existing structure from the original Courthouse Square. The original part of the building is about 250 years old. It has been restored and offers a restaurant and craft shops.

Rice's Hotel - Hughlett's Tavern

NCHS EVENTS include four meetings per year that typically offer lectures, musical programs, or book readings and presentations. Other activities are announced throughout the year as scheduled.

Hours of Operation:
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Northumberland County Historical Society
86 Back Street • P.O. Box 221   Heathsville, Virginia 22473

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