Place:Montgomery, Virginia, United States

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Montgomery County is a county located in the Valley and Ridge area of the U.S. state of Virginia. As population in the area increased, Montgomery County was formed in 1777 from Fincastle County, which in turn had been taken from Botetourt County. As of the 2020 census, the population was 99,721.[1] Its county seat is Christiansburg. Montgomery County is part of the Blacksburg–Christiansburg, VA Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is dominated economically by the presence of Virginia Tech, Virginia's third largest public university, which is the county's largest employer.



The following discussion is taken from National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form. SEP 2 1989. While the intent of the original discussion was to provide a research framework for the Montgomery County Multiproperty Historic District, it provides a good description of the area in terms of its historical context, and is of use for genealogists in understanding the setting in which their pioneer ancestors (and descendants) found themselves. The material excepted here focuses on the settlement period, but considerably more information is available in the original concerning 19th and 20th century developments and history of the area.

Montgomery County is located in southwestern Virginia between the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains. The western portion of the county is drained by the New River and the eastern portion is drained by the headwaters of the Roanoke River. The eastern continental divide bisects the county from north to south.

Based on archaeological evidence, the New River Valley was inhabited by prehistoric Native Americans for a great period of time from approximately 15,000 B.C. to 1580 A.D. Very little is known of these early dwellers because only a limited amount of archaeological research and testing has been conducted. The upper reaches of the Roanoke River in Montgomery County are included with the New River Valley in this narrative. There are few differences in archaeological remains from the two river systems. Despite the fact that limited research has been conducted in the region, we still are able to interpret the past by making comparisons of local sites with those of other parts of Virginia and nearby states. These comparisons, along with the local research that has been conducted, give an increasingly clear picture of past lifeways. Human occupation of the Montgomery County area has been nearly continuous since as early as 8000 B.C. Sites may date back to previous millennia during the Paleoindian period. Permanent settlements may date as early as 1200 B.C. during the Woodland period. After about 1600 A.D., there was increasing contact with Europeans. Near the end of this period the New River Valley seems to have been largely abandoned, except for hunting parties passing through. The burning of large portions of the area to promote an open hunting, planting, and grazing area may have been practiced. When the early expedition led by Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam reached the New River Valley they noted extensive clearings and abandoned cornfields along the river. Batts and Fallam explored the area in 1671, on an exploratory trip sponsored by the colonial government and private interests.

The land comprising Montgomery County was claimed by the British Crown and by Virginia long before white men actually entered it. At the time of the area's earliest settlement in the early 1740s it was a part of Orange County. 1 In 1745 Augusta County was formed from Orange, and it included Montgomery until the formation of Botetourt County from Augusta in 1779. After 1772 part of the county was in Botetourt County and part in the new county of Fincastle. In 1776, due mostly to the agitation of its westernmost inhabitants, Fincastle County was dissolved and three counties formed from it: Kentucky, Washington, and Montgomery. Montgomery stretched from the North Carolina border to the Ohio River. The county seat was established at Fort Chiswell in present Wythe County and the first county court convened there on January 7, 1777. The formation of Wythe County in western Montgomery in 1790 necessitated the removal of the Montgomery County seat. By 1791 the court was meeting in a new courthouse in the new town of Christiansburg. 2 During following decades several counties were formed from Montgomery and by 1839, when Pulaski County was formed from the western portion of Montgomery and the eastern portion of Wythe, Montgomery County had assumed roughly its present form.

Two features of Montgomery County that invariably appear on 18th century maps are the New River and the Alleghany Mountain. The New River was the great discovery of the Batts and Fallam expedition of 1671 a river flowing westward to an unknown destination. Even after it was fully mapped and understood, the New River had a special importance as Virginia's prime potential water connection to the Ohio River and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Alleghany Mountain was often portrayed as a sinuous ridge separating the waters of the New and the Roanoke rivers. It was commonly referred to in 18th- and 19th-century deeds and persisted on maps as late as the Blacksburg Railroad Map of ca. 1881. In fact the Alleghany Mountain is merely the name applied to a series of spurs between the relatively elevated tablelands which make up the western half of the county and the valleys drained by the Roanoke River to the east. However, the Alleghany Mountain was very real to travelers in the early 19th century. After a series of gaps and gradually ascending valleys, the slope from the Roanoke River up to Christiansburg or Blacksburg must have been perceived as the first major obstacle the traveler had to overcome in his progress from the north.


The Little River Study Unit (1), located in the southwestern part of the county, contains mostly rolling farmland punctuated by small hills. A line of hills including Calfee's Knob and Pilot Mountain occupies its southern half and separates the more elevated Brush Creek drainage from the Meadow Creek and upper Elliott Creek drainages. The Little River Study Unit seems to have been settled somewhat later and more sparsely than the Toms Creek and Crab Creek units, perhaps because it was more heavily wooded in the 18th century. Even in 1864 the level area around Riner was still forested. Today this area is one of the most intensively cultivated in the county and is in large part made up of agricultural/ forestal districts.

Lead and zinc mining was carried out at Calfee's Knob in the 1870s and 1880s and some sort of mining occurred at the county poorhouse site near Christiansburg. A small gold rush took place at Brush Creek in 1880. Brush Creek was later the site of flue-cured tobacco production evidenced by the survival of several tobacco barns in the area.

The Crab Creek Study Unit (2) is located in the central western part of the county, in hilly terrain with Barringer Mountain at its center and Price Mountain as its northern border. The early-settled Crab Creek Valley stretches almost the full extent of the unit, which also includes the bottom land along the New River now occupied by the Radford Arsenal. A high neck of land (the top of the Alleghany or Christiansburg Mountain, as it was once known) forms that portion of the unit to the east of Christiansburg.

Settlement in this area took place along the New River and Crab Creek in the 1740s and somewhat later at Hans Meadows near Christiansburg. The area is traversed by Southwest Virginia's major transportation routes, past and present: the Great Road (crossing the New River at Ingles Ferry, now in Radford) and its successor, the Southwestern Turnpike, the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad and the Virginian Railroad (both now a part of the Norfolk Southern system); the Lee Highway (Route 11); and Interstate 81. The Christiansburg Town Study Unit (3) is located on the headwaters of Crab Creek at the western end of the Crab Creek Study Unit. In the late 18th century most of the land in the unit was known as Hans Meadows. In 1790 the county court of Montgomery received from James Craig, owner of much of the land at Hans Meadow, 175 acres on the Great Road as the site for the county buildings and shortly thereafter a town and public square were laid out. The town was incorporated as Christiansburg in 1792 and was from its inception the location of a number of taverns.

The Toms Creek Study Unit (4), in northwestern Montgomery County, is a rolling plateau extending from the chain of hills (the Alleghany Mountain) east of Blacksburg to the bluffs and bottoms along the New River, and is walled in by the parallel ridges of Brush Mountain and Gap Mountain on the north and Price Mountain on the south. The area is drained by Stroubles Creek, Toms Creek and its tributary Poverty Creek, and Norris Run. Contained within this study unit is the Patton Tract of 3500 acres which was selected by James Patton about 1745. A group of German settlers arrived on Toms Creek at roughly the same time. The Patton Tract, also known as Drapers Meadow, was the site of the famous Drapers Meadow Indian massacre in 1755, in which Patton and several others were killed. Later the Preston family dominated the central section of the study unit and built Smithfield, probably the county's earliest surviving structure (1775), and two notable later houses. By the 1850s James R. Kent had amassed 6,400 acres (nearly two thousand improved acres) at the mouth of Toms Creek; it was the largest and most valuable farm in the county. The post-Civil War black community of Wake Forest was settled in part by Kent's former slaves on the northern edge of his holdings.

The Blacksburg Town Study Unit (5) is located on the headwaters of Stroubles Creek at the western end of the Toms Creek Study Unit. Most of the land in the unit originally constituted the eastern end of the Patton Tract and belonged to the Black family. Blacksburg was planned by William Black and incorporated in 1798. Despite its close proximity to Christiansburg, the county seat, Blacksburg managed to prosper, perhaps because it was located on the Pepper's Ferry branch of the Great Road. The Upper North Fork Study Unit (6), in the northern corner of the county, includes the North Fork of the Roanoke River and the headwaters of Craigs Creek, a tributary of the James River, which flows between Brush Mountain and Sinking Creek Mountain on the northern edge of the unit.

Paris (Pearis) Mountain defines the southern and eastern sides of a continuous strip of bottom land along the North Fork. A rolling shelf of land occurs at the southern base of Brush Mountain roughly five hundred feet higher than the river elevation. The earliest settlement may have been in the vicinity of Lusters Gate, a late 19th-century crossroads community probably named for a turnpike toll gate. A substantial portion of the study unit is in the North Fork Valley Rural Historic District, being nominated as part of this submission.

The Lower North Fork Study Unit (7), in the east central part of the county, includes a good deal of rugged mountain land drained by the North Fork of the Roanoke River and its tributaries, Wilson Creek and Bradshaw Creek. Portions of the Peddlar Hills, Paris Mountain, and Fort Lewis Mountain are within the unit.

The South Fork Study Unit (8), in the southeastern corner of the county, like the Lower North Fork Unit, is mostly mountainous land, carved into numerous hollows by the small tributaries of the South Fork of the Roanoke River and Elliott Creek (itself a tributary of the South Fork). The county's lowest and highest elevations are in this unit: 1,190 feet where the Roanoke River flows out of the county and 3,770 feet at the top of Poor Mountain. Along the southern boundaries of the unit are Pilot Mountain and Fishers View Mountain. At the headwaters of the South Fork is Bottom Creek Gorge and Virginia's highest waterfall, Puncheon Run Falls. Early settlement occurred on the wide bottoms of the lower South Fork. Near present-day Shawsville stood Fort Vauses, which was destroyed by Indian attack in 1756.

Historical Overview

Settlement of the region began in the mid-1740s, after the signing of the Treaty of Lancaster whereby the Six Nations of Indians gave up their claim to lands in Virginia. Traders and trappers had been familiar with the region for many decades. The area had been accessible since the 17th century by the well-traveled Trader's Path, which may have followed the Little River from the east to its junction with the New River. Virginia leaders did not encourage settlement beyond the mountains, but directed their principal interest to the region's fur trade. Settlement of the Shenandoah Valley in the 1730s by immigrants from Pennsylvania and Maryland began an era of rapid expansion into the largely uninhabited areas of the western frontier. By the 1740s these settlers had reached the Roanoke River and may have penetrated into the eastern portions of present-day Montgomery County, on the north and south forks of the Roanoke.

James Patton, an Ulster ship captain and agent for land developers in the Shenandoah Valley, arrived with several relatives in Virginia in 1738 and by 1740 had purchased all the shares in a 100,000-acre group of tracts on the James and Roanoke rivers. He later was active in the government of Augusta County, serving in the most powerful positions. In 1745 the colony of Virginia began granting large tracts of land west of the Alleghenies to selected citizens and groups of speculators to be resold to settlers at a profit. Among the earliest and most important of these was the Wood's River Company Grant of 1745, which gave to Patton and his partners in the Wood's River Company 100,000 acres of land to be selected in smaller tracts in any location on the waters of the Clinch, Holston, and New rivers.

Far more important than any of Montgomery County's local turnpikes was the Southwestern Turnpike, chartered in 1835 to link Salem and points north and east with Tennessee. The road, when built in the late 1840s, became one of four major western Virginia turnpikes (the Kanawha, the Northwestern, the Staunton and Parkersburg, and the Southwestern) that connected the rapidly expanding frontier with eastern markets. One historian remarked that their length (approximately two hundred miles each) and their ambitious purpose would have earned them the title of "superhighway" in the context of the period.

When the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad was surveyed in 1848, Montgomery County offered the most practical east-west route for the line. Mountains blocked the way in counties to the north and south, whereas in Montgomery County the Alleghany Mountain posed the only obstacle separating the level valley of the Roanoke River from the chain of valleys leading along the New River and beyond to the Tennessee line.

The first move towards the building of a railroad into Southwest Virginia was made in 1831 with the incorporation of the Lynchburg and New River Railroad Company. The railroad lost out to the James River and Kanawha Canal in the sectionally motivated funding battles of the era. The Lynchburg and Tennessee Railroad, chartered in 1836, also had difficulties. The Panic of 1837 and the ensuing depression did much to suppress such internal improvement projects as the Lynchburg and Tennessee Railroad. On May 24, 1848, the Lynchburg and Tennessee Railroad was . reincorporated. On March 6, 1849, the Lynchburg and Tennessee was renamed the Virginia and Tennessee, and on August 7, 1849, a convention was held in Christiansburg to stimulate interest in the railroad. When the question of exact route was finally settled, the Virginia and Tennessee began to acquire rights of way and sites for depots, shops, etc. beginning in 1851. The railroad opened to Christiansburg Depot on April 1, 1854

Tourism was an important aspect of Montgomery County's economy in the late 1850s, and the railroad helped to further it. The sizable Alleghany Springs and Montgomery White Sulphur Springs were built in response to the railroad. The railroad's effect on the economy as a whole was dramatic. In 1855, 1857, and 1858, a total of 6,641 tons of leather, lumber, mineral, and agricultural products were shipped out of two of the county's three depots and only 4,100 tons of goods were imported, indicating a favorable balance of trade. (As for the volume of trade, Christiansburg Depot dwarfed Big Spring and Central Depot, with Central Depot being the least active in trade of any station on the Virginia and Tennessee line). Montgomery County land values rose from an average of $5.84 an acre in 1850 to $91.30 an acre in 1860 an increase of 1,463% and that by the beginning of the Civil War, the economic importance of the railroad to the country "linked Montgomery County to eastern Virginia, whereas western Virginia, not well served by improvements, split to the north." 23 Patton and his partners began in 1746 to select and survey the best land in the region. Two tracts had already been surveyed, one of which was on Stroubles and Crab creeks in present-day Montgomery County. This tract represents one of the first tracts recorded in the New River lands. Starting in 1745, settlers had entered the area in anticipation of gaining title to land.

Drapers Meadow, near present-day Blacksburg, and the Dunkard (German-Baptist) settlement, on the west side of the New River in present-day Pulaski County, were both established in about 1745. Patton entered 7,500 acres in his own name in the meadows east of the New River; the tract became known as the Patton Tract or Drapers Meadow. The Patton Tract stretched between the future locations of Blacksburg and Prices Fork on the east and west, and Toms Creek and Prices Mountain on the north and south. The land was subdivided using the Indian Road of 1745 (corresponding to present Prices Fork Road) as a spine to either side of which smaller tracts stretched down to Stroubles and Toms creeks. Certain present-day property lines and roads (such as Route 657) may preserve these early divisions. Several nominated sites are in this area, including 60-233, 60-235, 60-240, 60-241, 60-243, 60-247, and 60-248. Patton also selected land on Crab Creek southwest of Christiansburg. Several German settlers had taken up residence on New River bottom land, including a group of previously mentioned Dunkards in what is now Pulaski County. Individual settlers included Adam Harmon on the east side of the river and Jacob Harmon on the opposite side, across from the mouth of Toms Creek. The New River region was a popular destination for German settlers from the Shenandoah Valley for twenty years following 1743. Many of the settlers were of Moravian or Dunkard background, and tended to travel and settle in family and extended family groups. John Michael Preis (Price), Adam Wall, Philip Harlas (Harless), and Casper Berger (Barger) were among the early settlers of German descent. Harmon was living in Strasburg, Virginia, in the lower Shenandoah Valley, in 1736; the others arrived together at Philadelphia on the ship Winter Galley in 1738. They settled on Toms Creek and on the higher land just to the south in the Patton Tract.

James Patton reportedly wished to encourage Scotch-Irish and English settlement in particular. By August 1746 George Draper had settled on the Patton Tract and he and other settlers by 1755 constituted a rural community known as Drapers Meadow.

The earliest route used by white men through Montgomery County was the Trader's Path, which connected Montgomery with the areas to the east beyond the Blue Ridge. It crossed the Blue Ridge between Franklin and Floyd counties and may have followed the Little River to a ford of the New River at or near Ingles Ferry. Batts and Fallam very likely followed this path on their exploration to the New River in 1671. In the mid-18th century, however, access to the region from the north was more important than a connection with Tidewater Virginia. By the terms of the 1745 Treaty of Lancaster, to which James Patton was a signatory, the road then extending as far as present-day Staunton was to be extended south for the benefit of the Indians, who expressed a desire for a road and safe passage on it as one of their terms. It was one of the few substantive gains won by the tribes in the settlement. Soon thereafter the Orange County Court ordered James Patton and John Buchanan to view the way from the Frederick County line through the upper Shenandoah Valley and beyond. They shortly thereafter reported that they had viewed the road as far as Adam Harmon's farm on the New River and had "blazed and laid [sic] with two notches and a cross."

Patton stood to gain far more than the Indians from any road to the New River because the road passed through his own settlement on the James River at Pattonsburg. In the following month the court ordered the road (referred to often as the Indian Road) to be cleared and direction posts erected, and the route was to be divided into sections with individual overseers and workgangs of tithables.

German, Ulster, and English settlers from Pennsylvania, the Valley of Virginia, and the east streamed into the region and settled on land in the hope of eventually securing title. By the mid-1750s the best tracts of land in the county had been claimed. John Elswick (and later his widow) grazed horses on Crab Creek. William Ingles, near Ellett, Tobias Bright, near Lusters Gate, and Person:Francis Cyphers (1) were the principal inhabitants of the upper North Fork of the Roanoke River. The rich bottom lands along New River (where Batts and Fallam observed old Indian cornfields in 1671) attracted numerous settlers, among them Frederick Stern, Jacob Snell, Adam Wall, John Stroud (near present-day Radford), and Henry Bingamin. The South Fork of the Roanoke may have been settled early by Ephraim Vause (near Shawsville), James Calhoun, William Bones, and John Brieniger. The southwestern portion of the county appears to have been largely unsettled until the American Revolution, with the exception of Reuben Radcliff at the mouth of Brush Creek on the Little River. In spite of the likely penetration of the area in the earliest days of exploration by the Trader's Path, the land was not seen as desirable by the first settlers, who generally preferred river and bottom land to higher elevations.

Between 1753 and 1755 there was a marked increase in confrontations between the Indians and the British on the frontier. These confrontations were in part a result of French and British tension on the Ohio River and its tributaries. On July 30 and 31, 1755, a party of Shawnee Indians surprised a number of families at Drapers Meadow, killing James Patton, who was visiting the settlement, and making off with Mary Draper Ingles to the Ohio River. This incident and others like it caused an exodus of settlers from the area. Many settlers gathered at first in makeshift forts, but soon left the area never to return. A renewed wave of settlement followed the cessation of hostilities. The immigrants ignored the Proclamation of 1763, which prohibited settlement on the Indians' land west of the mountains.

After the American Revolution, a further period of settlement resulted in the claiming of most of the remaining land and the resale and purchase of many earlier patents. Many settlers on the New River left their claims in Virginia for the cheaper land of Kentucky and Tennessee. A process of consolidation began in which some sections of the best lands were concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy men, although the majority of landholders were and remained yeomen farmers. This process lasted into the second quarter of the 19th century. In the last decade of the 18th century, Montgomery County's first towns were formed. Christiansburg was laid out in 1790 and incorporated in 1792 and Blacksburg was incorporated in 1798.

As the New River Valley filled up the region could be traversed by two routes, each a branch of the Great Road. The northerly route, which passed through Blacksburg and corresponded to Patton's Indian Road, was known as the Pepper's Ferry Road, and the southern road, which climbed the Alleghany ridge at Christiansburg, was called the 'Ingles or English's Ferry Road'. Each road was named after a crossing on the New River. The southerly Ingles Ferry Road was supposedly the best, according to several contemporary sources.

The Ingles Ferry Road' became the great corridor of migration known as the 'Wilderness Road' after the American Revolution, when thousands of immigrants poured through the New River Valley on their way to the newly opened territories in Kentucky and Tennessee. Previously the overwhelming majority of settlers moving south up the Shenandoah Valley had stopped at the spurs of the Alleghany Ridge and passed through the Blue Ridge Mountains and on into the Carolina Piedmont.

As the region west of the Blue Ridge became more extensively settled, Virginia leaders and merchants were anxious to secure trade generated by the region through the development of roads and canals. Much of the surplus produce of the area was being siphoned off to Baltimore and Philadelphia along the Great Road. 5 It became evident by the 1770s that the county road system then in force could not support the movement of goods and products through the mountainous West. The eastern counties were more densely settled, and capital available for roads which traversed much shorter distances was greater, while the western counties were characterized by a smaller tax base and great distances between settlements. While toll roads and publicly supported turnpikes were commissioned for the West by the commonwealth in the late 18th century, the roads of Montgomery County remained the responsibility of gangs of county tithables until the early 19th century.

Wikipedia Entry

the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Montgomery County was established on December 31, 1776, made from parts of Fincastle County, which was disbanded at this time and split into Montgomery, Washington, and Kentucky counties. Later, Montgomery lost land to form counties which now border it, including some counties which later formed West Virginia.

The county is named for Richard Montgomery, an American Revolutionary War general killed in 1775 while attempting to capture Quebec City, Canada.


Date Event Source
1750 Court records recorded Source:Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources
1750 Land records recorded Source:Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources
1773 Marriage records recorded Source:Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources
1773 Probate records recorded Source:Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources
1777 County formed Source:Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources
1790 First census Source:Population of States and Counties of the United States: 1790-1990
1853 Birth records recorded Source:Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources
1990 No significant boundary changes after this year Source:Population of States and Counties of the United States: 1790-1990

Population History

source: Source:Population of States and Counties of the United States: 1790-1990
Census Year Population
1790 13,228
1800 9,044
1810 8,409
1820 8,733
1830 12,306
1840 7,405
1850 8,359
1860 10,617
1870 12,556
1880 16,693
1890 17,742
1900 15,852
1910 17,268
1920 18,595
1930 19,605
1940 21,206
1950 29,780
1960 32,923
1970 47,157
1980 63,516
1990 73,913

Note: Wythe was reported in 1790 as part of Montgomery and Botetourt. See also note C31.

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