Nottoway County was first inhabited by native American Indians of the Iroquoian nation tribe called Nadowa. The Nadowa lived along the County’s only river and the name of their tribe became associated with the area they inhabited. This name was Anglicized with the coming of English settlers to ‘Nottoway’.
The area was visited by explorers and traders as early as 1650. English settlers began to populate the area in the early 1700’s, bringing with them their traditions and customs. Most of the land was claimed by the mid-1700’s and these early inhabitants operated self-sufficient farms and plantations, taking advantage of the area’s favorable topography and wealth of natural resources. Together with a substantial number of craftsmen and laborers from west Africa and continental Europe, the difficult task of frontier living produced an independent and resourceful population.
Before the County established its own government, it was known as Nottoway Parish, a district of Amelia County. Nottoway Parish became Nottoway County by legislative act in 1788. The County, by virtue of its favorable location, contained numerous early crossroads settlements connecting the new western frontier with the population centers to the north and east. Railroad construction also followed early, first occurring around 1850.
The County was the site of one battle during the War Between the States, the “Battle of the Grove,” which was fought over control of the rail line in Nottoway (a line that served as a major supply line to General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia).
The County’s three towns were incorporated in the late 1800’s, all along what was to become the U.S. Highway 460/Norfolk Southern Railway corridor that bisects the County. Industrialization blossomed at the same time, exploiting the ease of moving raw materials in and finished products out. County manufacturing often utilized the area’s abundant natural resources, particularly agricultural products, timber, and wood products.
The 20th century saw an increase in the diversification of the County in its agricultural, industrial and commercial sectors. This diversification created an economy and community that mirrored its citizen’s attitudes, skills, and talents. During this time, major state and federal facilities were created in the County. Fort Pickett, established at the outbreak of World War II, is noted as one the finest military training facilities in the east.