York County was originally named Charles River County, and was one of the first eight counties created in 1634. Nine years later it was renamed, shifting the honor of the name from King Charles I to his younger son James, the Duke of York. Charles I was still recognized in the colony by the name of Charles City County.
In the 1650's, Virginia had only 500 blacks in a population of 14,000. Though the overall colonial population was 3% black then, York County was 15% black.1
Yorktown was the major port in Virginia during the 1600's, and many of the early deliveries of slaves were made to that destination.2
The responsibility for the Yorktown Trustees to manage the waterfront ended in 2003,. The 2003 General Assembly passed legislation to eliminate the Yorktown Trustees and to transfer property under their control to the County of York.3
The trustees had been established in 1691 by the House of Burgesses to help govern port cities. Today, elected councils govern incorporated towns and elected supervisors govern counties and the unincorporated areas in counties, and the role of the five court-appointed Yorktown Trustees was an anachronism.
colonial Yorktown waterfront
Source: National Park Service, Colonial Yorktown Waterfront (Sidney King painting)
colonial Yorktown street
Source: National Park Service, Main Street Yorktown - East (Sidney King painting)
Yorktown, rather than Newport News, could have become the destination port for a railroad competing with the Norfolk and Western
Source: Map showing proposed routes of the Richmond and Southwest Railway (by Jedediah Hotchkiss, 1875)
power plant at Yorktown, with one oil-fired unit and two coal-fired units, viewed from Gloucester across the York River