“Pop-Pop” Uncovers Shockoe Shocker 

About four years ago, Charlie called on his grandfather to start a little Richmond trivia contest on-air once a week. “Pop-Pop” took up the challenge, and the segment took off. “This thing was getting a little big,” he says, “and I decided I’d better go down and do some investigation, and see if I can work up some more questions.”

“Pop-Pop” tasted from the tree of knowledge.

Inside the library of the Virginia Historical Society, a researcher showed him a book. It told the story of a Richmond forefather, William Byrd, sent from England to help Thomas Stegge with his trading post. In 1670, Stegge died. Byrd inherited the business. As part of his expansion plans, he used a warehouse. It was named “Shocco.”

Are you sitting down?

Byrd’s son, William Byrd II, continued to help settle the area. He competed for settlers with Maj. William Mayo, founder of what is now Church Hill. In 1742, the Virginia General Assembly named Mayo’s doings a town. He called that town Richmond. Byrd II, on what is now the State Capitol, named his land “at Shoccoes.”

The rest is history.

No, wait — it isn’t. If anything, the hands of time have confused the name issue, reports Liz Triplett, a librarian with Richmond Public Libraries.

In a breezy little volume called “Hening’s Statutes at Large,” a compilation of every law passed by the state legislature since 1619, Triplett checked the index. She discovered a spelling mayhem: Shoccoe. Shocoe. Schocko. Shockoe. What were they doing in the 1700s?

Another try, closer to the source: “The Prose Works of William Byrd of Westover,” edited by Louis B. Wright. A footnote in a chapter about 1732 says it is likely that the Shocco name “derives from an old creek name, probably a corruption of the name of an Indian tribe (either the Shakori, or the Shackaconians).”

The truth? No! According to a September 1937 issue of “The Commonwealth” magazine, in which author Mary Hawes Ryland quotes from William Byrd’s journal of Sept. 19, 1733. Byrd writes “Shacco’s.” That gives its name to Shockoe Creek, Ryland writes. “But evidence has been adduced to show that it was actually named for Peter Shacco, one of William Byrd’s overseers.”

For Pete’s sake. Is it “Shacco”?

Or is “Pop-Pop” right? If he is, he says, change is in order. “I think if we found the proper spelling of it,” he says, “then we ought to correct it.”

Sure, no problem. Anyone? — Jason Roop



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