Pulaski County is named for General Casimir Pulaski, a Polish count who offered his military services to the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. The county was formed in 1839 from portions of Wythe and Montgomery counties. European settlement of the area began in 1745 when Ulster-born speculator James Patton and his partners in the Wood's River Company acquired a grant of one hundred thousand acres to be divided into smaller tracts on the waters of the Clinch, Holston, and New rivers. Tracts were sold to German, Ulster, and English settlers from Pennsylvania, the Valley of Virginia, and eastern Virginia. Although settlement was temporarily interrupted by Native American uprisings in the 1760s and the Revolutionary War in the 1770s, a steady rate of growth continued into the last two decades of the eighteenth century.
Newbern, platted in 1810 on the Wilderness Road, became the county seat in 1839, and Snowville on the Little River developed after 1833 with mills and other small manufacturing facilities. But when the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad was built through the county in the mid-1850s, it bypassed both towns. From 1881 the Norfolk and Western Railroad's expansion through the county led to the development of railroad towns, including New River Depot, which provided access to the coalfields, and Allisonia, which served the iron and zinc mines in the region. By 1890, the railroad town of Martin's Tank had been replatted to accommodate the expected industrial boom. Renamed Pulaski, the town became the county seat after the courthouse in Newbern burned in 1893.
In 1940 the prospect of war led to the establishment of the Radford Ordnance Works, also known as the Radford Arsenal, in the eastern section of the county. The federal government designated the area an emergency housing location, and sponsored housing developments in close proximity to the arsenal.
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