Native Americans found Southwest Virginia a great place to hunt and to live. Wolf Creek Indian Village shows what the early villages looked like, based on archeological investigations, and the Museum of the Middle Appalachians in Saltville has a trove of early beads and other items.
The first European settlers were explorers and long rifle hunters, followed by Scots Irish and German settlers who followed the arc of settlement down the Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia to Southwest Virginia, then south and west by the Carolina Road, the Fincastle Turnpike and the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail. Visit reconstructed forts, blockhouses, stations and other structures at the Crab Orchard Museum, Wilderness Trail State Park, Natural Tunnel State Park and the Blue Ridge Institute and Farm Museum.
African American history of our region can be found at the Booker T. Washington National Historical Park, where the noted founder of Tuskegee University was born and lived until he was nine, as well as other sites like the African American Cultural Center in Lee County and Sallie's Crying Tree in the middle of Marion.
The Civil War swept over southwest Virginia because of its rich resources. Federal raids targeted salt wells and lead mines. The region's location on the border of pro-Union areas like West Virginia and East Tennessee gave rise to bushwhacking reprisals. Many of the Confederacy's generals called Southwest Virginia their home, including Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, Joe Johnston and Jubal Early.
Our rich resources created opportunities for logging, mining, furniture manufacturing and textile mills in the 19th and 20th centuries. You'll see homes from mill towns and mining camps dotting the hillsides and creek banks through the region, and in many towns and cities the mansions of mine owners, factory managers and county-seat lawyers stand nearby charming and revitalized main streets with banks, offices, stores, cafes and libraries. Get a meal, listen to live music, shop for antiques and crafts, and share in the life of these unique and vibrant downtowns.
Sample the history of our region by clicking stars on the map above. You can retrace the steps of your ancestors – and learn how this region reflected and shaped the history of our nation.