Alleghany County

Alleghany County

Alleghany County

Alleghany County


The Discovery of America would soon lead to European colonization of the New World. While the 1600s produced settlements close to the coastal areas along the western Atlantic, a wave of European settlements pushed the frontier westward and into the ridges and valleys of the Appalachian Mountain Range. By 1746, homesteaders had found their way from the Cumberland and Shenandoah Valleys to the headwaters of the James River. A settlement emerged along the Jackson River where the Dunlap and Potts Creek join the waterway. This would eventually become the Town of Covington in 1819.

In the short span of two decades, the area now known as the Alleghany Highlands was in the midst of disputes over colonial rule. The French and Indian War would determine the rightful possession of the land from the Atlantic to the Mississippi and northward to the Great Lakes. Local settlers were pressed into service, George Washington surveyed the western edge of settlement and established a line of forts to protect the inhabitants from Indian raids and the skirmishes with French forces.
By 1776, the area was again embroiled in battle and the establishment of a new and independent nation was at stake. Local inhabitants went off to support the fight against colonial rule and many served in the command of General Washington.

By the turn of the nineteenth Century, the settlements along the creeks and rivers became engaged in both agricultural and industrial development. Lumber mills, brickyards, tanneries and granaries appeared in the settlements of Iron Gate, Clifton Forge and Covington. The discovery of rich deposits of iron ore and limestone, along with plentiful timber to produce charcoal, resulted in the establishment of iron smelting furnaces. Much of the iron was shipped by flatboat to Richmond foundries.

Railroads connected the tidewater, piedmont, and the ridges and valleys with the Allegheny Mountain Range. A southern rail line along the James River met a mountain route from Charlottesville at a junction in Clifton Forge prior to 1860. War came again to Virginia and the western highlands when the southern states seceded to form a separate government. The Civil War took its toll on the Alleghany Highlands. Plans to extend the railroad to the Ohio River ceased. Industrial development and commercial ventures were negatively impacted. There is evidence to support the fact that Alleghany County suffered more than any other in Virginia in terms of economic losses.

After the war, the region quickly rebounded and the completion of the newly form Chesapeake and Ohio railroad to the Ohio River at Huntington restored the economic vitality of the Highlands. Clifton Forge became a major division point with extensive rail yards and locomotive repair shops. The use of coal in the new hot air blast furnaces brought the iron industry to its peak and it thrived until 1920. A loss of competitiveness with the production of iron in the Great Lakes region resulted in its demise.

In 1899, the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company built a large mill in Covington which continues to operate some of the largest paper machines in the world. A rayon plant began operations in 1928 and despite the Stock Market Crash in 1929, jobs were available and the region was less impacted than most.

Throughout the rest of the 20th Century, manufacturing and economic development continued but also suffered setbacks because of two World Wars, military operations in Korea and Vietnam, and the new age of extremists and terrorism in the world. The paper mill continues to be the economic mainstay in the Alleghany Highlands.

Economic revitalization and diversity are now pushing the region to capitalize on its natural beauty. Lakes, streams and rivers provide fishing and water sports which attract local, regional, and national visitors. Hunting, hiking, horseback riding, camping and mountain sports are popular among locals and tourists alike. The Alleghany Highlands is truly a mountain playground.
As the United States of America approaches the 250th Anniversary of its existence, the Alleghany Highlands has been actively involved in each event that has shaped our democracy and history. We take great pride in being Virginians and being part of the original thirteen states. We look forward to the next 250 years.

Local Events

While there are currently no events listed specifically for Alleghany County, search the VA250 Statewide Calendar of Events for a comprehensive listing of programs across the state.


Teresa Hammond

Maps Generator

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