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Richmond is located approximately 70 miles southeast of Charlottesville. The city of Richmond is in the Piedmont region of Virginia, at the highest navigable point of the James River. The Rivanna River, a 42-mile-long tributary of the James River, flows southeast through Albemarle County, skirting the eastern edge of Charlottesville and breaching the Southwest Mountains near Monticello. The Rivanna continues southeast through Fluvanna County, passing the communities of Lake Monticello and Palmyra; it enters the James River at the town of Columbia.

The headwaters of the Rivanna lie in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains west of Charlottesville; historically known as "Mountain Falls Creek" and "River Anna", it was an important transportation artery in the 1700s and 1800s.

Richmond was named by William Byrd II, who envisioned the development of a city at the falls of the James River and with the help of William Mayo laid out the town in 1737. It was incorporated as a town in 1782 and as a city in 1842.

The initial town charter allowed male property owners to elect a council, known as the "Common Hall," twelve citizens who appointed the mayor from their membership.

Mary-Cooke Branch Munford (September 15, 1865 - July 3, 1938) lived in Richmond throughout the majority of her life and did much to further the causes of educational reform and civil rights there. An elementary school in the city's West End neighborhood is named after her.

Railroad connections

In 1850, completion of the Virginia Central Railroad connected Charlottesville with Richmond. More than 400 slaves, some purchased specifically for building the railroad, made up the construction crew. When completed, the connection was described as:

"an important link in the connection of the metropolis with the West. The traveler may now leave Richmond soon after six in the morning, arrive in Charlottesville at one, and reach Staunton the same night." - Quoted in the Virginia Historical Register, 1851

The first engines were small wood-burning trains running at speeds of 12 to 15 miles per hour. That meant a trip to Richmond took about five hours. By 1860, first- and second-class passengers were traveling every day on "mail trains." To speed their trip along, second-class passengers helped load wood at train stops.[1]

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  1. The Railroad Arrives in Charlottesville

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