Learn About The History Of Alexandria VA

Alexandria's rise to power

Alexandria, VA owes its rise into a city mainly to its waterfront which was attractive to traders and farmers. European settlers, mainly interested in Tobacco trade, turned Alexandria into a major port which made it also territory of interest during the civil war and that led to it being seriously damaged. The city was at one time part of the Columbia district but was eventually returned to Virginia where it remains to this date.

Native American Times

Alexandria has a history that dates back to the times of the Native Americans who leaved along the Potomac River which they depended on for fish fresh water and an attraction for game which they hunted. Later came the European settlers who established the biggest slave market and then one of the top 10 ports in America, trading in tobacco and later the home of the largest population of free black people.

Native American Settlement

There is not a lot of documentation about the native American population that lived in Alexandria VA before the European settlement but archaeological finds can confirm that groups belonging to the Conoy Chiefdom lived along the river. Some artifacts discovered identify some of the groups as the Tauxenents and the Nacotchtanks. Records of John Smith's travel along the river indicate that he mate with some of these groups living along the river.

European Settlement

Present day Alexandria was given to an English Captain, Robert Howson by the Governor of Virginia, in 1669 after he had brought 120 people to settle in Virginia. Howson was awarded 6000 acres of land, by authority of the King of England, but being a ship captain, land was probably not a priority to him so he sold the same land to John Alexander for 6000 pounds of tobacco, only a month after he was awarded the land.


This land became a big producer of tobacco and the port was busy with the transportation of tobacco. Naturally this attracted more settlers to the land along the river but many of them settled farther inland where they discovered the land was good for the production of corn and wheat.

In 1732

There was a Tobacco warehouse established along the Potomac river and this increased the interest in the land. Scottish and English merchants took particular interest in the land and petitioned the Virginia General Assembly to establish a town at the West Hunting Creek Warehouse. In 1749, the town of Alexandria was formed and named in honor of John Alexander who bought the land from Captain Robert Howson.
Later according to tradition, the land was surveyed and it is worth noting that one of the assistant surveyors at the time was a 17 year old George Washington who later on became President of America.

Major Trade in Alexandria

Alexandria proceeded to become even busier than before as a major port for trade and many large ships would dock there. British troops also used the town as a staging area during the French and Indian war.

Before the civil war

Alexandria also became a major slave market as ships from Africa would dock here and then the salves would be auctioned to go and work in huge farms of tobacco and other crops.
Later when the slaves were freed, Alexandria became their home and many runaway slaves also sought refuge in Alexandria.
Alexandria continued to go through a number of events including the civil war which destroyed a great part of the city.
After the civil war, Alexandria like the rest of America underwent industrial revolution which helped to rebuild the town.
It has continued to grow ever since then and a lot of its history can be found in the museums.