Indian River History

Arthur Barlowe, from the Roanoke expedition, documents first reports about the southside of the bay and its inhabitants, the Chesepian Indians.
Captain John Smith from the Jamestown Colony explores the Elizabeth River describing “the shore overgrowne with the greatest Pyne and Firre trees we ever saw in the Country”.
Establishment of Lower Norfolk County encompassing today’s Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach
Mid 1600's
First Land Grants along south shore of the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth to Englishmen with names of Portluck, Halstead, Cornick, Sparrow, and King around 1650

Early mentions of "Indian Creek".  
  • William Whitehurst granted patent for 1000 acres at the head of the Indian Creek in the County of Lower Norfolk in 1665.

  • Nathaniel Tatem of the island of Bermuda purchases 550 acres on the south side of the Eastern Branch in 1710.  In 1723 purchases another 200 acres of land … being on the head of the western branch of Indian Creek joining the land of Capt. John Halstead.  (1887 map shows Tatem land at site that became the Ford Plant).
Late 1600’s
The Great Road (precursor to today’s Rt 168) laid out between Berkley and North Carolina.   In 1690 Colonial Governor Francis Nicholson reported that the road was in poor condition and needed to be improved.   Today Liberty St. in Berkley and Campostella Rd in Chesapeake follow on or about the original alignment of the Great Road.
Providence Road skirts just south of the tidal Indian River estuary and can be found on maps as early as 1770's
The community name of Oaklette first appears in a deed.
Indian River Turnpike and Toll Bridge Company formed.   Slightly improves existing path and builds toll bridge over the Indian River estuary around 1880 establishing today’s Indian River Road.   The road was then known as the Princess Anne Shell Road because it was paved with leftover oyster shells from the then abundant oyster houses that lined the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River.   To the south lies great area of forested swamp known as Buck Trout Swamp.
Early 1900’s
Farms begin to be sold off for development of new communities.   Norfolk Highlands street grid is laid out along east side of Indian River.   Dairy, poultry, and “truck” farms continue to exist into the 1950’s.
The land of Indian River Park is deeded to the City of Norfolk as part of the real estate plans to develop Norfolk Highlands and Indian River Estates.
During the nation's first wave of sub-urbanization, the Norfolk City and Suburban Railway Company extended the streetcar line from downtown Norfolk out along Indian River Road and builds a new bridge over the Indian River. That same company also established a real estate company and bought up the farms on the east side of the river and laid out the plan for the community they named Norfolk Highlands. Streetcar travels down Indian River, then continues on Hawthorne and Rokeby ending at Providence Road at the edge of the new park.   Streetcar operated for about 10 years before being discontinued.
Norfolk Highlands Primary School opens with four classrooms.  
Shipyard magnate Will Colonna builds mansion in Oaklette along Indian River.   House was burned to the ground in 1925 but floating hunting lodge/houseboat owned by Colonna – and stranded inland during a hurricane in the 1933  – is still maintained in Oaklette.
Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth, including Indian River closed to shellfish harvesting (oysters and clams) by the Virginia Department of Health due to high bacterial contamination from sewage.    Fishery still not re-opened today.
Ford Plant begins operations.
By public referendum, the Hampton Road Sanitation District is created and works begins on construction of sewage treatment plants for the areas waste water.
Military Highway built during World War 2 to connect Norfolk Naval Base and Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
City of Chesapeake formed by merging the City of South Norfolk and the remaining parts of Norfolk County.    This includes the neighborhoods of Indian River.
Indian River Junior High School opens on Old Greenbriar Road.   This continues to be home to students through 12th grade and graduates its first high school class in 1969.  The building becomes Indian River Middle School after the bigger Indian River High School building opens in 1972.
I-64 completed through Chesapeake.
Clean Water Act enacted.
New bridge is built over the Indian River at Indian River Road.  
Elizabeth River Project founded to restore the environmental quality of the Elizabeth River.
Work starts on expanding Indian River Road to 3 lanes each way by removing most of original median.
The City of Chesapeake acquires Indian River Park from the City of Norfolk.
Last vehicle rolls off assembly line at Ford Plant.
Cuffee Community Center opens in Campostella Square.
Friends of Indian River founded
Eastern Branch Environmental Restoration Strategy created
Indian River Planning Area Study and Redevelopment Strategy adopted by City Council

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