Scenic mountains, spectacular waterfalls, farms, crossroads towns, and industry make up the character of Giles County. Established in 1806, the county takes its name from William Branch Giles, governor of Virginia from 1827 to 1830. The mostly rural county is watered by the New River and its tributaries, and bounded by Gap, Brushy, Salt Pond, North, and Walker mountains. Although settlers came in the mid-eighteenth century, it was not until the Revolutionary War era that permanent settlements took hold and these were mainly along fertile Sinking Creek. Ferry crossings of the New River dictated the location of the area's earliest roads, which in turn determined where commerce and industry developed. Construction of the Cumberland Gap Turnpike through the county after 1833 linked the county's producers and consumers to the James River and points east of the Blue Ridge.
The county's earliest towns developed around such agricultural industries as tanyards, linseed oil, and gristmills. By the 1850s, the arrival of the railroad in Christiansburg in neighboring Montgomery County stimulated recreational tourism and aided shipment of the county's products. The late-nineteenth-century railroad lines that ran west through the county toward the coal fields spurred development of large-scale extractive and manufacturing industries in several communities. Proximity to Virginia Tech (MO17) in Blacksburg has encouraged a growing commuter population, who are building new or renovating old houses. But the county's traditional economy based on recreation, industry, and agriculture continues to sustain the county's residents.
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