The area of Gloucester County, Virginia, known as Guinea began to be defined by land patents as early as the 1600s. The Lower Gloucester land patent was granted in the 1650s, first to John Perrin in 1651 for 400 acres and then to Edward Dobson in 1653 for 950 acres. A portion of the Dobson property would much later be called “Bena,” supposedly named after a woman one of the Hall brothers fancied.
The Hall family was the original owner of the general store before its purchase by Clarence Benjamin Rowe, Sr., in 1920 (the year “Buck” was born). In 1926, a new Route 17 was constructed formalizing it as the main artery in the county. However, it wasn’t until 1952 that the Coleman bridge replaced the ferry crossing from Yorktown to Gloucester and welcomed new businesses and residents to the county.
Included now in the area called Guinea are the communities of Achilles, Bena, Jenkins Neck, Maryus, Perrin, Rowes Haven, Severn, and Big Island. Located near Gloucester Point, the area has been the center of the county’s seafood industry. Some family names among those who work the water are: Brown, Shackelford, Rowe, West, Jenkins, Green, Kellum, King, Bonniville, and Belvin. The industry, although changing, remains a cultural core of the community, and the fishermen are known locally as “Guineamen.”
The origin of the name “Guinea” is uncertain but was mentioned in documents as early as 1730. Did the name come from:
- The exchange of British Guinea coins after the American Revolution?
- Old maps that showed the Guinea marshes?
- Merchant trade from African Guinea?
The Guinea Heritage Association, LTD
The Guinea Heritage Association (GHA) was established in 1995 to celebrate the people and traditions of this unique area of Gloucester County and focuses on charitable and educational purposes including the preservation of the C.B. Rowe & Son General Store as a living history museum, awarding scholarships, and sponsoring events like the Guinea Jubilee and Wonders of the Water. The GHA strives to honor the history and celebrate the future of Guinea, a community distinguished by the seafood industry and connections with the water!