The town of Smithfield, Virginia spreads out from the banks of Cypress Creek, which flows north-south, and the Pagan River, which flows east-west and is a tributary of the James, and whose name is not derived from the heathen religions but from the Cree Indian word for pecan.
Smithfield’s roots sink nearly three hundred years, when it was settled as a port village with easy access to the Atlantic by way of the James. It is the site of Fort Huger, one of a network of forts established up and down the James to prevent a Federal fleet from sailing straight up the Confederacy’s jugular to Richmond.
Smithfield also boasts the Wentworth-Grinnan House, a hot living spot for traders of the 18th century who were looking to make their fortunes on the backs of slaves in the sugar trade with Bermuda and the West Indies.
The town’s little library is lovely.
Smithfield Station is a particular pride and joy of Smithfielders–it’s a giant restaurant.
The roads that lead into downtown are lined with softwoods and willows, and the storefronts have well-manicured facades and awnings with neatly-stenciled lettering; the downtown area is so idyllic, in fact, that one almost forgets that Smithfield is also the headquarters of Smithfield Foods, the largest meat-packing operation in the world, which is responsible for the slaughter of over a hundred thousand pigs every single day.