For early explorers and hunters, scenic Southwest Virginia was a peaceful and fertile land, rich with game and ripe for settlement. For Shawnee and Cherokee Native American tribes, it was a hunting ground. And for France and Great Britain, it was the front line in the continuing struggle for control of American lands.
Treaties barred settlements, but settlers came anyway, many of Scots-Irish and German descent, longing to own land and taste freedom. Battles between settlers and Native Americans was fierce and settlers took refuge at forts and blockhouses, stations and towns. They relied on traditions of community, forming militias and volunteering their service to protect neighbors and friends.
When British and Loyalist forces threatened to destroy their homes and farms, militias met at Abingdon's muster grounds and marched south to Kings Mountain, South Carolina and it was there that the Overmountain Men defeated Loyalist forces. That victory turned the tide of the American Revolution, weakening British control of the south.
Africans first came to Virginia in the early 1500s as explorers and as members of Spanish and French Jesuit missions and by 1600 the first Melungeons, many of whom were of Portuguese ancestry with North African and Native American traits, were documented in the southern Appalachian Valleys of Southwest Virginia.
You can gain a new appreciation of America's beginnings on the first frontier of Southwest Virginia. Glimpse the past along roadsides and byways, see costumed interpreters, craftspeople and musicians bring recreated forts, farms, settlements and blockhouses to life. And trace the struggles that defined a nation.