Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Episode 458 (2-4-19): Nonesuch in the History of Richmond's James River Location

Click to listen to episode (5:01).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 2-2-19.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of February 4, 2019.

MUSIC – ~5 sec

This week, that music opens an episode about an early colonial Virginia riverside settlement with an unparalleled name and a capital legacy.  Have listen for about 30 more seconds.

MUSIC - ~31 sec

You’ve been listening to part of “Nonesuch,” an English dance tune first published in 1651, and performed here by Timothy Seaman of Williamsburg, Va.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines “nonesuch” as “something which is unparalleled, incomparable, or unrivalled.”  For historical significance, Virginia’s Nonesuch might just fit that bill.

In 1609, two years after English colonists founded Jamestown, Captain John Smith established a settlement called Nonesuch on land acquired from the Powhatan Confederacy.  The spot was near the falls of what colonists called the James River and the native tribes’ confederacy called Powhatan—both names honoring each group's respective king.  Smith described the location as “No place we knew so strong, so pleasant and delightful in Virginia, for which we called it Non-such.”   With fertile land and riverfront access, Nonesuch was a successful inland port for colonial Virginia.  After Robert Rocketts established a ferry there in 1730, the location came to be known as Rocketts Landing.  In 1733, the surrounding area was established as the town that would eventually become Virginia's capital: Richmond.

As Richmond grew, so did the role of Rocketts Landing as a transportation center, connecting Richmond and points beyond to Atlantic Ocean trade.  Before the Civil War, a tragic and terrible part of that role was as the arrival and departure point for tens of thousands of slaves sold in markets in Richmond.  When the Union captured the Richmond in April 1865, Rocketts Landing was the arrival site for the Union general who took control of the Confederate capital, and for Abraham Lincoln, who visited the city the next day.  Through the rest of the 1800s and into the early 1900s, the area was home to various enterprises, including a cedar woodworking factory, a power plant that supplied Richmond trolley cars, a beer brewery with riverside beer-storing caves, and possibly a steel mill.  By the end of World War II, in the face of railroad competition and other factors, the area had lost its residents and industries, while retaining a burden of environmental contamination.  Twenty-first Century environmental remediation started a new chapter for Rocketts Landing, and today the Village of Rocketts Landing is a residential and commercial redevelopment.

Has any other single riverside location in Virginia had such a history and evolution?  Perhaps, none such.

Thanks to Timothy Seaman for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with a few more seconds of “Nonesuch.”

MUSIC - ~10 sec


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


The “Nonesuch” version heard in this episode is from the 2006 album “Jamestown: On the Edge of a Vast Continent,” copyright by Timothy Seaman and Pine Wind Music, used with permission.  More information about Timothy Seaman is available online at

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at


View of Rocketts Landing and James River from Libby Hill, sometime between 1861 and 1865. Photo from the collection of the Library of Congress, online at

View of Richmond from the James River downstream of the city, June 22, 2007.


Encyclopedia Virginia, “Richmond during the Colonial Period, by Matthew Gottlieb, online at

Brandon Fox, Exploring Richmond's Beer Caves at Rocketts Landing, Style Weekly, 2/18/16.

Historical Marker Project, "Rocketts Landing," online at

Harry Kollatz, Richmond’s Moving First, Richmond Mag, 5/4/04.

Andrew Kuntz & Valerio Pelliccioni, “The Traditional Tune Archive/Nonesuch,” online at

Oxford English Dictionary, “Nonesuch” online at

T. Tyler Porterfield, Nonesuch Place: A History of the Richmond Landscape, The History Press, Charleston, S.C., 2009.

Richmond Slave Trail Commission, “Richmond Slave Trail” (undated brochure), accessed 2/2/19 online (as PDF) at

Richmond Times-Dispatch, Details for Public Notice: Voluntary Remediation [at Village of Rocketts Landing], 11/9/18.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, Getting to Know: Richmond Slave Trail, 10/16/16.

Rockett’s Landing, “Right Around the River Blog/The History of Rocketts Landing, Part 1: The Land of New Opportunity,” 7/3/14, online at; and “The History of Rocketts Landing, Part 2: An Industrial Community Thrives,” 8/1/14, online at

Style Weekly, Look Away, Look Away, 5/7/08.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “History” and the “River, Streams, and Other Surface Water” subject categories (in the latter category, see the “James River” entry).

Following are links to some other episodes on history at Richmond or along the James River.
Episode 87, 11/7/11 – Falls of the James.
Episode 164, 6/3/13 – Role of rivers, including the James, in the Civil War.
Episode 201, 2/17/14 – Abraham Lincoln and the James River.
Episode 265, 5/11/15 – An introduction to geography, featuring the James River watershed.
Episode 273, 7/6/15 – Virginia's Peninsula and Historic Triangle.
Episode 373, 6/19/17 – James River Batteau Festival.


The episode—the audio, extra information, or sources—may help with the following Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs).

2013 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 English SOLs

Reading Theme
6.4 and 7.4 – meanings of unfamiliar words.
8.4, 9.3, 10.3, 11.3, and 12.3 – knowledge of word origins, analogies, and figurative language to extend vocabulary development within authentic texts.

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 – Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Earth Science Course
ES.8 – influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Grades K-3 Civics Theme
2.7 – relationship between environment and culture of the Powhatan, Lakota, and Pueblo peoples.

Grades K-3 Geography Theme
1.2 – Virginia history and life in present-day Virginia.
2.3 – lives and culture of Powhatan, Lakota, and Pueblo peoples.

Grades K-3 Economics Theme
2.8 – natural, human, and capital resources.
3.8 – understanding of cultures and of how natural, human, and capital resources are used for goods and services.

Virginia Studies Course
VS.1 – impact of geographic features on people, places, and events in Virginia history.
VS.2 – physical geography and native peoples of Virginia past and present.
VS.3 – first permanent English settlement in America.
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

United States History to 1865 Course
USI.2 – major land and water features of North America, including their importance in history.
USI.3 – early cultures in North America.
USI.5 – factors that shaped colonial America and conditions in the colonies, including how people interacted with the environment to produce goods and service.

World Geography Course
WG.3 – how regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants.
WG.4 – types and significance of natural, human, and capital resources.
WG.15 – past and present trends in migration and cultural diffusion, including effects of environmental factors.

Virginia and United States History Course
VUS.2 – early European exploration and colonization and interactions among Europeans, Africans, and American Indians.
VUS.6 – major events in Virginia and United States in first half of 19th Century.
VUS.7 – knowledge of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras.
VUS.8 – industrialization after the Civil War.
VUS.13 – changes in the United States in the second half of the 20th Century.
VUS.14 – political and social conditions in the 21st Century.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.
Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.