A Chatham History Quiz

By Henry H. Mitchell, 2003.

The question:

Main Street, 1909

In, 2003, is Chatham, Virginia

  1. 263 years old?
  2. 226 years old?
  3. 196 years old?
  4. 151 years old?
  5. 129 years old?
  6. All of the above?

Scroll down for the answer.

(Note: the photo is from the Preston B. Moses Collection, and was printed in the Star-Tribune, Chatham, Virginia, Thursday, October 6, 1977, p. 2B. The caption as written by Preston Moses is: “A view looking north on Main Street during the horse and buggy days of 1909. Chatham Savings Bank is on corner and Post Office and drug store are at the right. Trees are growing along Main Street.” See further photographs from 1900-1910.)

The answer:

…is, of course, “all of the above!” Chatham is 263, 226, 196, 151, AND 129 years old! Keep reading to see why all five dates mark significant beginnings in Chatham's long history!


It was established as the courthouse village when the courthouse was moved here in 1777, at the time the former western regions of the county were cut off and the present boundaries of the county were made official. So, in that sense “Pittsylvania Courthouse” (now called Chatham) is 226 years old. (Note: the photo at left is of Mansfield, likely Chatham's oldest remaining residence, which briefly served as the county courthouse in 1777. See Chatham's Oldest).

1813 Clerk's Office

In 1807 an eight-acre town called “Competition” was incorporated by the state legislature under a self-perpetuating trustee form of government. So Chatham as an incorporated town is 196 years old. (Note: the photo is of the 1813 Clerk's Office, the only remaining of Chatham's public buildings from that era. See Competition's Legacy.)

Pittsylvania County Courthouse

In 1852 the state legislature changed the name of the town from Competition to Chatham. So Chatham has been called Chatham for 151 years, and that is the sesquicentennial event being celebrated now. (Note: the photo is of the 1853 Pittsylvania County Courthouse.)

Sims-Mitchell House

In 1874 the town became governed by an elected body. So Chatham has had an elected government for 129 years. (Note: the photo is of the 1875 Sims-Mitchell House. See Wild Willie's Victorian Villa.)

And so forth … . (The previous was derived from notes made by the late Judge Langhorne Jones.)

One further item: the settlement of the Cherrystone springs vicinity (now Chatham) occurred around 1740. At least one Chatham family, the Watsons, has occupied Chatham land since that date, in their case now the eighth generation.

In that sense, Chatham has been a settlement for 263 years!

So Chatham is a Southern belle who can count her candles as she deems most appropriate at the moment — 263, 226, 196, 151, 129!

This website is sponsored by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House B&B, Chatham, Virginia.