Three Notch'd Road

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Route of the Three Notch'd Road. Reproduced from the Virginia Highway & Transportation Research Council.
A surviving portion of the road located in Henrico County.

Three Notch'd Road (also called Three Chopt Road) was a colonial-era major east-west route across central Virginia.


Originally a Native American and game trail, it is believed to have taken its name from a distinctive marking of three notches cut into trees to blaze the trail.[1] By the 1730s, the trail had been extended from the vicinity of the fall line of the James River at the future site of Richmond, westerly to the Shenandoah Valley, crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains at Jarmans Gap.[2] Entering the limits of Albemarle County near Boyd Tavern, Three Notch'd Road served as the dividing line between the Anglican parishes of Fredericksville in the north and St. Anne's in the south as well as a crossing point for the Rivanna River.[3]

On June 3,1781 during the American Revolutionary War, the young Albemarle County native named Jack Jouett traveled along portions of the road to alert Governor Thomas Jefferson and Virginia's legislature of the approach of a British force under the command of Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who had been dispatched by General Charles Cornwallis to capture the prominent revolutionary leaders sheltering in Charlottesville at that time. Noticing the march of Tarleton's mounted troops from Louisa County, Jouett rode his horse for over 45 miles through the night in order to reach Jefferson in time to warn him of the danger. As a result of Jouett's efforts, the majority of the legislators were able to escape along Three Notch'd Road to reconvene in Staunton, Virginia. Later in the war, Marquis de Lafayette and the troops under his command camped along the road while guarding important munitions being stored at the Old Albemarle County Courthouse.[4]

In the modern era, a large portion of U.S. Route 250 follows the historic path of the Three Notch'd Road, as does nearby Interstate 64.[5]. In the City of Charlottesville, which was established at the head of navigation on the Rivanna River, West Main Street and part of University Avenue near the University of Virginia follow its original course.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Web. Three Notch'd Road, government website, City of Charlottesville, retrieved Oct 4 2011.
  3. Web. Rivanna Greenbelt Trail, City of Charlottesville, retrieved 30 July 2012.
  4. Web. When Jouett Rode to Save Jefferson, Richmond-Times Dispatch, 12/02/1934

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