Like water can shape a shoreline, water can shape a community.
All across the Middle Peninsula, the waterways have done just that – connected its earliest settlers to the land (Captain John Smith himself explored the Middle Peninsula waterways), helped a rising region build an economy, and shaped the culture of a people.
As you explore the waterways of the Middle Peninsula in your kayak, canoe or paddleboard, you’ll likely feel the deep connection water has to the heritage of the nation.
When you get back on land, if you want to learn more about the history, and exactly how water has shaped nearly every facet of the region, consider stopping by some of the area’s museums.
Saluda: Middlesex County Museum & Historical Society
The Middlesex County Museum & Historical Society is a journey through everyday life going back through the 19th century — and beyond. Get up close with artifacts that include prehistoric whale bones and shark teeth and Native American arrow points. Celebrate the county’s military heritage with exhibits featuring soldiers going back to the Civil War as well as Lt. Gen. Chesty Puller, the most decorated Marine in Corps history.
Map lovers will find an extensive selection of historical maps for cartographic exploration.
In addition to the main museum, a short walk away is the Historic Clerk’s Office that is housed in the original 1852 Middlesex County Clerk’s office building. The exhibit explores a typical court day in old Middlesex and traces 200 years of county history through historical documents, many hid from marauding Union forces in 1863.
777 General Puller Highway, Saluda, VA 23149
Deltaville Maritime Museum
Nestled in the heart of the historic “Boatbuilding Capital of the Chesapeake,” the Deltaville Maritime Museum & Holly Point Nature Park celebrates the region’s nautical history. Learn about boatbuilding and see skilled craftsmen producing boats modeled after the signature vessels that plied the bay’s waters.
Not far from the spot where Jamestown Colony explorer John Smith nearly died in a stingray attack, the museum and grounds encompass 34 acres near Jackson Creek just off of Chesapeake Bay. With ample nature paths, a Children’s Garden, an indoor/outdoor pavilion and two outdoor gazebos, the museum rests along the Mill Creek shoreline. It’s here where you can hop on the historic 1920s-era buyboat, the 63-foot “F.D. Crockett” with its log bottom.
287 Jackson Creek Road, Deltaville, VA 23043
Urbanna: Scottish Factor Store
Home to the Mitchell Map, considered the most important map in American history, the Scottish Factor Store in charming Urbanna is a journey back into colonial America. The circa 1766 brick warehouse was once the meeting place of tobacco growers and merchants trading goods and news of the day in pre-Revolutionary War America. Today you can find the remarkable 1755 Mitchell Map and other historic exhibits that tell the story of the rise of the New World.
Prominence is also given to an exhibit titled “The Oyster is King” that celebrates the people, boats and tools of the trade that revolved around the all-important crassostrea virginica, the eastern oyster that’s a signature Chesapeake Bay species. “The Oyster is King” exhibit charts the rise of the oyster from its origins as a source of food for early inhabitants to becoming an economic engine of the region. The exhibit features artifacts, photos and models of historical boats that revolved around the oyster industry.
130 Virginia Street, Urbanna, VA 23175
Gloucester Museum of History
Travel back to “The Good Old Days” with an exhibit at the Gloucester Museum of History which includes household items, clothing, toys, photos, tools, and numerous other items that were used in Gloucester from the late 1800’s to the mid-1900’s.
“Echoes From The Past, Six Periods of Gloucester History” traces Gloucester’s rich history and varied contributions from 5 million years ago, when the area was covered by a warm tropical sea, to the Civil War, when it gave both a General to the Confederate Army and was home to James D. Gardner, who rose from oysterman to become the only recipient of a Congressional Medal of Honor from the area while serving in the Union Army.
6539 Main Street, Gloucester, VA 23061
Historic Sites and Museums in Mathews
Mathews County, with its first English settlement in 1635, is rich in historical landmarks–buildings, churches, estates, cemeteries – including a Courthouse, circa 1834, still in use today, centuries-old gravesites, a haunted house, and the Tabernacle, one of the last remaining outdoor pavilions for religious use.
Learn more about the following historic sites and museums with the Mathews County Visitor Information Center.
- Mathews Courthouse Square
- Tompkins Cottage
- New Point Comfort Lighthouse
- Fort Nonsense
- Gwynn’s Island Museum
- Mathews Maritime Museum
- Churches and Cemeteries
- Sibley’s General Store
- Thomas James Store