Tappahannock is the oldest town in Essex County, Virginia, United States. The population was 2,068 at the 2000 census. Located on the Rappahannock River, Tappahannock is the county seat of Essex County. Its name comes from the Algonquian language word lappihanne (also noted as toppehannock), meaning "Town on the rise and fall of water" or "where the tide ebbs and flows. " In 1608 John Smith landed in Tapphannock but was driven back by the local Native American tribe. The town is older than Richmond, Fredricksburg, and Williamsburg and was established as a port for the surrounding counties.