Lexington & Rockbridge County

The Great Wagon Road
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Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University
Founded by Scots-Irish pioneers, Augusta Academy was founded 20 miles ... read more

Wade’s Mill in Raphine, Virginia
An early Shenandoah Valley settler, Scotsman Captain Joseph Kennedy, ... read more

The Natural Bridge of Virginia
This amazing natural wonder was surveyed by George Washington in ... read more

Lexington & Rockbridge County

Rockbridge County was created by a land grant obtained by Benjamin Borden from Governor William Gooch. The land was surveyed by John McDowell in 1737 in exchange for 1000 acres of it. Stipulations of the grant called for one hundred families to settle the area and erect a 1300 by 900 foot town in the center of the County. The required amount of families promptly came to settle in what would be called Lexington (1778) in honor of Lexington, Massachusetts and Rockbridge County after the Natural Bridge.

The academia one will find today in Lexington actually started at the very beginning of the city's history. The Arsenal, now Virginia Military Institute (1839), was established in 1739. Washington and Lee University's roots in Lexington started with Liberty Hall Academy in 782. Though a little larger now, neither institution has moved away from its original architecture. Walking today's campuses are nigh on to walking in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Pioneering west along the Wilderness Road involved skirmishes with Native Americans. In 1742 the first of such skirmishes in Rockbridge County broke out near Buena Vista at the edge of what is now the George Washington National Forest. Thirty-three Iroquois Indians and 34 settlers fought until 17 Iroquois and 8 settlers lost their lives. One slain settler was James McDowell, son of John McDowell, surveyor of the grant. The Iroquois fought for their right to the land regardless of the grant, but finally relinquished those rights under the Treaty of Lancaster in 1744.

The mostly Scot-Irish settlers of the area were self-sufficient farmers and blacksmiths who provided for themselves and their neighbors. Borden and John McDowell were among the first settlers in Rockbridge County and homesteaded in the Timber Ridge vicinity. Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church is one of the first churches established in the area (1746). The original 1756 limestone building still stands is the only colonial-era Presbyterian Church still in use today.

Other British Crown land grantees of the time included German settler John Peter Salling, who was granted 400 acres in Glasgow in 1740. A mountain bears his name and Salling House (1815), built by his son Peter, stands near the Salling Family Cemetery. Neighbor James Greenlee received 550 acres in 1737 and Stephen Arnold obtained land in 1755, giving that location its present name of Arnold's Valley.

The Wilderness Road's mark is visible everywhere in Rockbridge County. One will easily find homes, churches and mills dating from the late 1700s. There are 12 sites built during this settling period that are on the National Register of Historic Places.


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