Formed in 1776 during the early months of the Revolution, Washington County was one of the first localities known to be named for George Washington. Carved out of the now-extinct Fincastle County, Washington is located at the south end of the Valley of Virginia but is so cut up by knobs and mountain ranges that the outline of the Valley is difficult to discern. Well-watered by the North, Middle, and South forks of the Holston River, the county is traversed by Copper Ridge, Moccasin Ridge, Clinch Mountain, Walker Mountain, and Great Knobs, all running in a southwest direction.
In 1748 the area was explored by physician Thomas Walker of Albemarle County, who became an agent for the Loyal Land Company, which was formed in 1749 with a grant of eight hundred thousand acres. Walker also was granted several large tracts, including land that later became Abingdon. Most settlement, however, waited until after the Treaty of Paris in 1763 ended the French and Indian War. Walker's sale of his lands helped open the area to settlers who came out on what became known as the Wilderness Road (now U.S. 11), an east-west spur of the Warrior's Path (later known as the Great Wagon Road) used by Native Americans. To protect settlers against Indian incursions, Black's Fort was erected in 1776 in today's Abingdon. In 1778 Abingdon was made the county seat.
The county's rich central valley with its bright-green meadows of limestone soil are excellent feeding grounds for the many cattle raised here as well as for growing corn and other vegetables, wheat, and burley tobacco. Although the iron industry is no longer part of the economy, timbering and quarrying, along with manufacturing, are still mainstays of the local economy. The construction of I-81 has made the county a transportation route and, at the same time, a destination point for outdoor enthusiasts using the Appalachian Trail that passes through Damascus.
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