History of Greenbrier County
History of Greenbrier County:
Greenbrier County was created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly in October 1777 from parts of Montgomery and Botetourt counties. It was named in honor of The Greenbrier River, a 173 mile long tributary of the New River. The river forms at Durbin and flows through Pocahontas, Greenbrier and Summers County at which point it flows out into the New River at Hinton.
Bold Indian Attacks:
Small colonial settlements had been erected in the areas now known as Alderson, Lewisburg and Ronceverte. However, in June 1763, Cornstalk, a young Shawnee Chief, led a band of 60 tribesmen into the county. He pretended to be friendly and gained the confidence of the settlers at Muddy Creek, the town now known as Alderson. When the colonist’s defenses were down, Cornstalk’s warriors killed the settlers. The next day, Cornstalk repeated the attack killing more than 50 settlers at the Clendenin Settlement near current day Lewisburg.
Following these two Indian raids on the Valley, Governor Dunmore of Virginia instructed Colonel Andrew Lewis to gather “willing and able” men to go to the great Kanawha River to current day Point Pleasant and stand against the Indian forces. Over 1,490 men were assembled, including General Lewis’s brother Charles, who was later killed in battle. Lewis and his men reached Point Pleasant before Dunmore and his troops. Lewis and his men were surprised at dawn by heavy fire from Indian forces. In an attempt to overcome the Indians, Lewis rushed in reinforcements and the battle raged with increased intensity until nightfall. Lewis moved companies to the rear of the Indian forces and they opened with strong fire. Mistaking this as Dunmore’s reinforcements – the Indians retreated and the battle was won. Many historians believe this is one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War.
Religion Comes to The Valley:
The first organized religious affiliations in the county are attributed to Rev. John Alderson Jr, Rev. John McCue and Rev. Ben Brigsby.
Alderson settled in the former Muddy Creek region. His newly organized congregation met regularly at the Old Greenbrier Baptist Church at Alderson. Around this same time, McCue and Brigsby organized Presbyterians in Lewisburg, Union and Spring Creek. In 1796, a fire destroyed the Presbyterian Church in use and the congregation campaigned to build a larger and more permanent structure. That facility is now known as the Old Stone Presbyterian Church in Lewisburg and has the distinction of being the oldest, unrestored church still in continuous use west of the Alleghenies.
Education Comes to The Valley
In 1808, the Presbyterian minister John McElhenny and his wife Rebecca Walkup opened the first school in Lewisburg. Classes were initially held in their living room. In 1812, the community finished the construction of a two-story, brick schoolhouse. Later that same year, Lewisburg Academy was commissioned as an independent co-educational institution. The Academy was considered progressive for its day because it served both men and women equally.
The Civil War Divides Lewisburg:
The Civil War divided the nation and Lewisburg did not escape the war unscathed. In May 1862, Federal Colonel George Crook took control of the town from a small garrison of the Confederate Calvary. And although the region was considered a Southern outpost throughout the war and the entire county sits below the Mason-Dixon Line, Confederate General Henry Heth was unable to retake the town. Old Stone Presbyterian Church served as a hospital throughout this time period. And although it was located in the center of the battle, it remained untouched by the fighting.
Lumber was a predominant industry in Greenbrier County throughout much of the 20th century. The Meadow River Lumber Company operated in Rainelle, named after the lumber company’s founders the Raine brothers, from 1906 to 1975. It was the largest hardwood sawmill of its type in the world. The mill had the capacity to produce 30,000,000 board/foot of lumber annually and made finished lumber, flooring, furniture and even shoe heels. Known for the quality of its oak hardwood flooring, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City as well as the Governors Reception Hall in the WV State Capitol building was shod in Greenbrier County Lumber.
The Greenbrier Valley is a golfer’s Mecca. In fact, White Sulphur Springs is the home of the first organized golf course in the US. The famous Montague family from Scotland established their very own club and course in 1884, where sheep roamed freely keeping the greens mowed. The course was named Oakhurst Links after the estate of Russell Montague, where the course was designed. During the early years of existence the facility hosted games and competitors would face off for the “Oakhurst Challenge Medal”, which is recognized by the USGA as the earliest known golf prize in the United States.
In addition, to boasting the foundation of organized golf, Greenbrier County is home to The Greenbrier, a world renowned course. The Greenbrier was home for professional golfer Sam Snead, Slammin’ Sammy, and hosts the PGA Tour FedExCup Series Event.