Original Name: Abbeville then Evansham
Wythe County was founded in 1790, primarily because of the good access to water (the New River and many creeks). The County was named in honor of George Wythe, the first teacher of law at William and Mary, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and designer of the Seal of Virginia. The county seat was first known as Abbeville, then as Evansham. On October 29, 1792, the General Assembly of Virginia passed an act establishing a town in Wythe County. The Town was incorporated under the name Wytheville on March 6, 1839. The Wilderness Road passes along Wytheville's Main Street and Historic District. The Wytheville Museums provide excellent exhibits of the historical importance of the early migration and to the settlement of the area. The 1821 Rock House Museum is a testament to early German stonemasons and their craft skills can be seen on the decorative tombstones at historic Saint John's Lutheran Cemetery. The Homestead Living History Festival is an annual event at the Willowbrook Jackson/Umberger Homestead Museum on Tazewell Street next to the E. Lee Trinkle Regional Visitor Center. The festival interprets and preserves the history of the farm life with log barns, a loom house, and a spring house. Interpretive re-enactment of pioneer life includes molasses and apple butter making, sugar cane grinding, soap making, along with spinning and weaving.
During the 1770's, Fort Chiswell served as a militia fort and rest stop for the migration into the Wilderness. It is likely that Fort Chiswell began as a rude blockhouse and was expanded into a fort. In its prime, the fort contained as many as twenty buildings. Prior to 1800, approximately sixty thousand settlers passed through. The fort was vital as a place of refuge, as a trading post and in its connection with the lead mines at nearby Austinville. The Shot Tower is an engineering masterpiece built to make lead shot for ammunition. Overlooking the New River, Shot Tower was built more than 150 years ago to make ammunition for the firearms of the early settlers. Lead from the nearby Austinville Mines was melted in a kettle atop the 75-foot tower and poured through a sieve, falling through the tower and an additional 75-foot shaft beneath the tower into a kettle of water. For a small fee, guests may ascend the tower which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The old Wilderness Road from Draper's Meadows to Cumberland Gap, often trodden by Daniel Boone and others, goes by Fort Chiswell and what is now Wytheville.
Another historical site near Wytheville is Wolf Creek Indian Village and Museum. Visitors will see a recreated Indian Village based on an actual archaeological site that carbon dated 1215 A.D. Interpretive guides lead a hands-on exploration of primitive skills, including handmade replicas of tools, baskets, pottery, weapons, tanned animal hides and displays of local plants and their uses. Nature walking trails wind through the village complex. The museum houses a gift shop with Native American made items.