By: Leonard M. Banks

Robert “King” Carter

His Northern Neck legacy lives on in the form of Rt. 3, Kings Highway. The major thoroughfare’s path from dirt roads to its present-day modern glory and its impact on the start of America’s early development would never be the same if it wasn’t for the vision of Robert “King” Carter (1662-1723). Although he took full advantage of the silver spoon support derived from his family, his foresight to build and develop the Northern Neck into an agricultural force in the history of America has inspired generations of builders, artisans, politicians, and craftsmen.

Not without its growing pains, the Northern Neck settlers withstood their share of social drama. From slave insurrections to Indian battles, life seemed to be a never-ending battle, as settlers fought to keep their land and stay alive. Every day living was never taken for granted.

Geographical history of Rt. 3

State Rt. 3 is a primary Virginia state highway in America that extends from Culpeper County south to Gloucester east in Virginia’s east middle peninsula area.

The major intersections that connect Rt.3 encompass 12 counties: Gloucester (Gloucester Court House), Mathews (Dixie, Soles, Fort Nonsense), Middlesex (Harmony Village, Hartfield), Lancaster (Lively, Kilmarnock, White Stone), Richmond (Lively, Kilmarnock, White Stone), Richmond (Lyells, Warsaw), Westmoreland (Oak Grove, Wakefield Corner, Flat Iron, Templeman), King George (Arnolds Corner, Purkins Corner, Office Hall), Stafford, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania (Wilderness Corner), Orange (Wilderness), Culpeper.

Throughout Carter’s professional life, as a planter, builder, and politician, he always found a way to inspire everyone around him. The Lancaster native was a builder at heart. He had a large brick kiln at his birthplace Corotoman (plantation), which furnished the bricks for some of his homes and the local church. There was never a shortage of work-related activities at Corotoman for the young Carter.

The plantation was intentionally designed as a village, with a manor house dominating the plantation. Indentured white servants and slaves lived in cottages. There were buildings specifically made for barn use, farm warehouses, spinning houses, laundry houses, and milk houses. The plantation also included shops for artisans to manufacture and repair articles at Corotoman. In short, it was self-sustaining compound.

Business at Corotoman was conducted at the sloop landing, near the mouth of Carter’s Creek. Ships came directly from international ports with cargoes of clothing, furniture, household articles, and shoes. These vessels left with a hefty cargo loaded with tobacco and grain.

As time went on, thousands of settlers from around the state of Virginia, and Maryland gravitated to King’s land holdings in the Northern Neck. The Corotoman Plantation, Lancaster born native established the Virginia peninsula known as the Northern Neck. Because of Carter’s aristocratic values, he was referred by historians by his nick name, King.

Captain John Smith

Prior to the Carter family’s residency in Lancaster County, English explorer John Smith nearly lost his head as he etched out his name in the history of the Northern Neck. Although he was a prisoner of the Powhatan chief Opechacanough in the winter of 1607, Smith tasked himself to secretly map out the coastal regions, including a stop with the Nominies on the Potomac. Smith’s quest indirectly made him the first person to map out the Northern Neck.

Smith later traveled up the Potomac River, hoping to discover a pathway to China. His journey led him to freedom due to an intervention with Pocahontas, and another exploration up the Rappahannock.

Born into wealth

Inspired by his father’s (John) accomplishments, Robert was born into the Tidewater gentry of a growing colony. He gained the respect of politicians as he easily rose through the ranks of power and prestige. In fact, at a young age, he took the public stage by storm as a member of the Governor’s Council, a vestryman in Christ Church, a Justice of the Peace, and acting governor of Virginia (1726-1727), until the arrival of William Gooch. In addition, he was a rector of the College of Williams and Mary, and according to many historians he was the richest and most powerful man in his day.

Long before the Carter family resided in the Northern Neck, the Native American Indians occupied the territory for ten thousand years. However, in the 1640s and 1650s life in Virginia took on a dramatic change. White settlers acquired river land from the Indians by deed or though purchase, forcing the Indians inland into cleared forest. According to some accounts, they were starved into submission, when access to resources associated with water was taken from them. Soon, they were forced inland, and gradually pushed out of the area.

After his father’s death, Robert’s financial prospects were average at best. He had inherited one third of his father’s personal estate, which was valued at 1,000 English pounds that consisted of a few slaves, library of Latin literature, and other personal items. However, through a long sequence of family deaths, Carter soon became his family’s sole benefactor, inheriting substantial wealth. His riches took on national prominence as he represented Lord Fairfax’s Northern Neck Proprietary.

Carter acquired large tracts of land, now known as the Northern Neck, and the start of Rt. 3 indirectly through inheritance. The real estate world of Carter quickly grew into an empire that dotted the Northern Neck landscape. Legend exist that Carter rode his gilded carriage up and down Rt. 3, overseeing his property, and tending to his proprietary, thus the nickname King’s Hwy. Not to be confused with the Rt. 3 highway that is a part of the Northern Neck, but the second Rt. 3 runs from Charleston to Boston and appears locally to run up Rt. 17 to Rt. 2, to Rt. 1. It is also the oldest road in America. At the time of his death in 1732, he left an estate of 333,000 acres, over 1,000 slaves, and 10,000 English pounds—considered to be a tremendous fortune at the time. He was laid to rest at Christ Church.

The future of King George on Rt. 3

County growth and improving the quality of life are on the top of the list for King George County Administrator Neiman C. Young, PhD. “The county is trying to get ahead of the curve and trying to identify the next location for development—so that doesn’t continue to pile on in Dahlgren,” Young said. “The county has identified Rt. 3-Rt. 301 intersection as the next area for growth. The board is so invested in that idea that they pursued a $1.2 million dollar water sewer project, where they extended the public water-sewer line to the Rt. 3-Rt. 301 intersection to help encourage commercial growth.”

Thanks to the new hardware store, the corner of Rt. 3 and Rt. 301 has slowly exploded with commercial growth. “Because of that investment it provides hope and serves as an anchor for more commercial development in that corridor,” Young said.

According to Young there is currently a tourism plan about to take place before the end of the year. “Tourism is a big goal here in King George,” Young said. “In fact, the board of supervisors has tasked our tourism advisory committee with coming up with a tourism strategic plan.”