Significant houses like Tuckahoe were built along the fertile flood plains of rivers, which were the major arteries of commerce in colonial Virginia. For that reason Tuckahoe’s front entrance faces south towards the James River. Once the Kanawha Canal was completed this far by 1814 it provided safer, reliable transportation for people and products along the James. Packet boats provided comfortable, fashionable transportation. (Note that our current video does mention that some of the enslaved of Tuckahoe were likely leased out by the Randolphs to help dig the canal) In 1880 the railroad built its tracks on the canal’s towpath.
Before the Randolph family purchased the land this fertile area served as meeting grounds for Native American tribes to gather food and trade since the Monacan, Powhatan and Nottoway nations, who spoke the Siouan, Algonquian and Iroquian languages, respectively), all converged in this part of the state.
The word “Tuckahoe” is derived from an Eastern Algonquin name for a variety of arrowroot that thrives in the region. The Native Americans processed and cooked the Tuckahoe root for many hours to rid it of its natural toxins before consuming, often burying them in the ground and building a large fire on top to cook them for a day or more. The root was often dried and ground into flour, while the berries were long-boiled and considered a delicacy, with a flavor similar to chocolate.