Grayson County, Virginia History

Grayson County was formed in 1793 from part of Wythe County and was named for William Grayson, delegate to the Continental Congress form 1784 to 1787 and one of the first two U.S. Senators from Virginia, the county seat is Independence.

Galax was first called Bonaparte, incorporated as a town in 1906 and became a city in 1954, named for the galax plant, a mountain evergreen.

William and Rosamond Bourne came to the Knob Fork area on the New River in 1765. They found eight other families already living here. William Bourne was elected as first Clerk of the County at the first court session held in a log barn located on the Bourne farm near the present town of Fries.

In 1850, the county seat was moved from Old Town in the eastern part of the county to Independence, a more centrally located site. The first courthouse was built in Independence and served until 1904, when it was condemned. A new courthouse was completed by builder E.L. Robbins in 1908, and although it was replaced in 1981 by a new structure, the 1908 Courthouse stands today in the center of Independence as the arts and cultural center of Grayson County.

Isolated by its topography, Grayson saw little action during the Civil War, but after the war, the period of its greatest economic growth and prosperity began. Railroads were built; power dams and sawmill industries created jobs; farmers grew "cash crops" and livestock. The county's first textile mill was built at Mouth of Wilson by Col. Fields J. McMillan, and Col. F. H. Fries harnessed the power of the New River for a second mill. The most accessible timber and iron ore was depleted before World War I and many of the prosperous boom towns like Fairwood, Troutdale and Whitetop nearly disappeared. Between the two World Wars Grayson people coped with the depression by working the land and enlisting in the Civilian Conservation Corps. About 2500 Graysonites saw service in World War II, but after the war many found work elsewhere. After a lifetime of working away from the county, many older people come back to retire and enjoy the beauty and splendor of the mountains.


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