The Story of Wise County, Virginia

“The Story of Wise County, Virginia” by Luther F. Addington, published in 1956 by the Centennial Committee and School Board of Wise County, Virginia, serves as a historical record of the county from its inception through its first hundred years. Wise County, established in 1856 from sections of Russell, Lee, and Scott counties, carries the name of Governor Henry Alexander Wise, highlighting its significance in the state’s political and social life. This text outlines the county’s formation, development, and the various elements that have shaped its identity, including geography, notable events, and significant figures.

Structured into several chapters, the book delves into various aspects of Wise County’s history, ranging from exploratory trips by early adventurers like Captain Christopher Gist and Dr. Thomas Walker, to detailed accounts of the county’s indigenous history, settlement patterns, and the evolution of its infrastructure and institutions. Through topics such as forts, pioneer life, the organization of the county, its courthouses and jails, and the pivotal period of the Civil War, Addington attempts to paint a comprehensive picture of the county’s past.

Despite its ambition to chronicle the rich tapestry of Wise County’s history, the book has been critiqued for its reliance on secondary sources and for offering little that is new or particularly insightful to scholars or genealogists. The author’s engagement with primary sources is minimal, drawing instead on existing literature, which may limit its value for academic research. Further, the absence of a thorough bibliography restricts the utility of the book for those seeking to delve deeper into specific topics within Wise County’s history.

However, Addington’s affection for Wise County and its people shines through the narrative. His depiction of social customs, living conditions, and the community spirit within the county offers readers a glimpse into the everyday lives of its inhabitants. Sections dedicated to the county’s governance, educational establishments, towns, and the impact of coal mining and agriculture illustrate the economic and social dynamics that have influenced Wise County’s development over time.

Despite its shortcomings, “The Story of Wise County, Virginia” provides a foundational overview of the county’s history, marked by personal love and a deep connection to the region. It documents the evolution of Wise County in a manner that is accessible to general readers, even if it may fall short of the expectations of more rigorous academic inquiry.

Table of Contents

  • Gov. Henry Alexander Wise, p. vii.
  • Exploratory Trips, p. 1
    • Captain Christopher Gist
    • Dr. Thomas Walker
  • Indians’ Choice Hunting Ground, p. 6
  • Forts on the Clinch, p. 10
  • The Adventures of Jane Whittaker and Polly Alley, p. 14
  • Benge’s Massacre in Lee County, p. 19
  • Benge’s Last Raid, p. 21
  • Early Settlers, p. 25
  • How the Pioneers Lived, p. 33
  • Birth of the County, p. 60
  • Preparing to Celebrate, p. 76
  • Organizing the County, p. 82
  • Need for Courthouse and Jail, p. 86
  • Roads, p. 91
  • The Courthouses and Jails, p. 94
  • The Period of the War Between the States, p. 98
  • Museum, p. 112
  • Geography, p. 116
  • Wise County Forests, p. 125
  • County and Town Government, p. 129
  • Schools, p. 135
  • Incorporated Towns, p. 171
    Appalachia, Big Stone Gap, Coeburn, Norton, Pound, Saint Paul, Wise.
  • Coal and Its Development, p. 205
  • The Trains Came, p. 235
  • John Box, Jr., p. 238
  • Agriculture, p. 245
  • Churches, p. 248
  • Remembered Characters, p. 263
    • “Devil” John J. Wright
    • Dr. Marshall B. Taylor
  • Newspapers and Radio Stations, p. 273
  • Political Officers, p. 286
  • Statistical Facts about Wise County, p. 293
  • Altitudes of Towns, p. 294


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