Emporia has long been a transportation crossroads. Although rivers further to the north empty into the James River and Chesapeake Bay, the Meherrin River, like the Nottoway River and the Blackwater River, empties to the southeast into Albemarle Sound. The Town of Hicksford (also sometimes called Hick's Ford) was settled in 1710 in the Virginia Colony, where the Fort Road of eastern Virginia crossed the Meherrin River en route to Fort Christanna, as well as on a major north-south trail used by native peoples and sometimes called the "Halifax road".
Greensville County separated from Brunswick county in 1781 and Hicksford became the county seat (court convening monthly at a nearby tavern). In May 1781, British Col. Banastre Tarleton's cavalry crossed at Hicksford while raiding Greensville and Southampton counties.
After statehood, the Virginia General Assembly recognized the Town of Belfield on the river's northern bank in 1798, and Hicksford on the southern bank the next year.
In the following decades, the surrounding area remained rural, and development in Hicksford exceeded that in Belfield. An 1847 account documented 12 to 20 dwellings in Hickford worth about $10,025 and Belfield's buildings at $3050, while in 1865 Hicksford's buildings were valued at $20,700 and Belfield's at $3650, although by 1885 Hicksford had only grown to $22,915 while Belfield had grown to 7300.
During the American Civil War, the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, built in 1855, was a tactical prize as Union troops sought to isolate the confederate capitol. Two battles for the control of the Weldon Railroad were fought near Petersburg during the Siege of Petersburg in June 1864 and September 1864. On December 7, 1864, 28,000 Union troops led by Major General Gouverneur K. Warren tried to sever that key supply route further south by uprooting tracks, and managed to stop Confederate troops under Major General Wade Hampton from destroying the Meherrin river bridge. However, when they retreated, Confederates rebuilt the railway line. After the war, the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad was leased to the Wilmington, Columbia and Augusta Railroad, which went bankrupt in 1878.
Greensville County native and delegate Benjamin D. Tillar Jr. (1855-1887) received a charter for the Atlantic and Danville Railway, which he planned would go from Portsmouth as had the Weldon railroad, but more westward through the Meherrin river towns. In 1887, Hicksford and Belfield merged, forming the new incorporated town of Emporia, which was named after the town of Emporia, Kansas, home town of Tillar's friend U.S. Senator Preston B. Plumb of Kansas. However, the railroad boom proved short-lived, as poor farm conditions and the Panic of 1893 caused the county's population to decrease between 1880 and 1890. The Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad also ran through Emporia.
Emporia was re-chartered in 1892, and the town issued its first bonds (to establish a water plant, lighting and street improvements) in 1900. It hosted an agricultural fair in 1906, and brick buildings replaced frame structures. Banks were chartered, followed by land improvement companies and insurance companies, then various stores, automobile companies and cola bottlers.
The Virginia General Assembly re-chartered the Town of Emporia as an independent city in 1967, five years after the Norfolk and Western Railway purchased and reorganized the Atlantic and Danville Railway. Now, a major north-south CSX railway line crosses a Norfolk Southern east-west line in Emporia. Also, U.S. Route 58 cross Emporia east-west and Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 301 cross north-south, so providing services for travelers continues important in modern Emporia.
Historic buildings in Emporia include the Belfield-Emporia Historic District, Hicksford-Emporia Historic District, Greensville County Courthouse Complex, Greensville County Training School, H. T. Klugel Architectural Sheet Metal Work Building, Old Merchants and Farmers Bank Building, and Village View, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Emporia is located at 36°41′34″N 77°32′17″W (36.693018, -77.53809).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.0 square miles (18.1 km2), of which 6.9 square miles (17.9 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (1.1%) is water. The city is located about 65 miles south of Richmond, about 80 miles west of Norfolk and about 60 miles north of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The City of Emporia is very close to Gaston, North Carolina. The City of Emporia also has the high school, Greensville County High School and the Emporia branch of Southside Virginia Community College.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 5,927 people residing in the city. 62.5% were Black or African American, 32.7% White, 0.7% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 2.1% of some other race and 1.5% of two or more races. 4.4% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race).
As of the census of 2000, there were 5,665 people, 2,226 households, and 1,406 families residing in the city. The population density was 821.9 people per square mile (317.5/km²). There were 2,412 housing units at an average density of 349.9 per square mile (135.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 42.45% White, 56.15% Black or African American, 0.07% Native American, 0.53% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 0.30% from other races, and 0.42% from two or more races. 1.48% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 2,226 households out of which 29.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.5% were married couples living together, 21.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.8% were non-families. 32.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.05.
In the city, the population was spread out with 25.2% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 25.6% from 25 to 44, 20.6% from 45 to 64, and 20.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 83.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,333, and the median income for a family was $35,743. Males had a median income of $27,772 versus $21,657 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,377. About 11.4% of families and 16.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.5% of those under age 18 and 14.5% of those age 65 or over.
The Emporia Bicycling Club hosts regular group rides, including the annual Great Peanut ride which attracts hundreds of bicyclists who ride to visit a peanut farm and are treated to hearty meals and live entertainment at camp. The Virginia Pork Festival is held each second Wednesday in June.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Emporia has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.Joe Rowe NFL http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/joe-rowe-playerWillie Gillus, former NFL quarterbackJune Harding, actress, artistMaurice Hicks, former NFL running backHenry Jordan, former NFL player, member of Pro Football Hall of FameWynne LeGrow, Democratic politicianSharon Manning, pro basketball playerTheresa Merritt, actressVern Morgan, baseball player and coachHermie and Elliott Sadler, NASCAR racecar driversRaynor Scheine, actorBryant Stith, star basketball player at University of Virginia, and former NBA playerE.J. Wilson, NFL defensive lineman for Tampa Bay Buccaneers