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. This great river forms at Durbin and flows through Pocahontas, Greenbrier and Summers counties at which point it merges with the New River above the town of Hinton.
Part of Greenbrier County’s beauty exists in its rich history, preserved in the architecture, artifacts and stories that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Although we can trace life in the valley back millions of years, evidence of our European colonization begins more recently.
1700s – During this time, the Greenbrier Valley was largely uninhabited. Downtown Lewisburg was a small outpost, developing around a major Native American thoroughfare of the time: the Seneca Trail (Route 219) and the Midland Trail (Route 60).
1750 – It was the beginning of western migration, but colonists found their attempts to settle the Greenbrier Valley met with hostile Indian attacks. It wasn’t until 1769, with the backing of military firepower, that permanent structures were erected. There are several original native limestone buildings still standing today, including the Lewis Spring House and Old Stone Church.
1763 - Colonial settlements were erected in the areas now known as Alderson, Lewisburg and Ronceverte. 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 living at Muddy Creek, the town now known as Alderson. When the colonists’ 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.
1774 – After continued 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 -- 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 attackers, opening 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.
1778 – Despite an agreement, Indians continued to raid, including an attack on Fort Donnally. Dick Pointer, an African American slave, held off the invaders long enough to give settlers time to awaken and defend the fort. Today, his grave is marked beside Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg, and his gun is on display at the North House Museum.
1781 - 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 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.
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.
1862 - 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 – the Battle of Lewisburg -- from a small garrison of the Confederate Calvary. Although the region was considered a Southern outpost, Confederate General Henry Heth was unable to retake the town. Old Stone Presbyterian Church served as a hospital throughout this period. It was located in the center of the battle; however, it remained untouched by fighting.
1884 - White Sulphur Springs is the home of the first organized golf course in the United States. The famous Montague family from Scotland established their own club and course in 1884, where sheep roamed freely to keep the greens mowed. The course was named Oakhurst Links after the estate of Russell Montague, where the course was designed. During its earliest years, they hosted games where competitors would face off for the "Oakhurst Challenge Medal.” It is recognized by the USGA as the earliest known golf prize in the United States.
1906 - Lumber was a predominant industry in Greenbrier County throughout much of the 20th century. The Meadow River Lumber Company operated in Rainelle from 1906 to 1975. It was named after the lumber company's founders, the Raine brothers.
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.
Browsing “Things to Do,” you’ll find many of the landmarks, historic treasures and celebrations that chronicle the heritage and history of Greenbrier County. For more information, contact or stop by the Visitors Center. Greenbrier County is our specialty, and we have all manner of guided tours and tools that recount our colorful past.
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