Mountains, creeks, and valleys generally run northeast to southwest in Scott County and unlike the gorge-like valleys in other southwestern Virginia counties, here they have wider rolling landscapes. The northern region is dominated by Powell Mountain, and the central by Clinch Mountain. The county's rivers, the Clinch, North Fork of the Clinch, and North Fork of the Holston, served as natural highways for eighteenth-century trappers and the English, Scots-Irish, and German settlers who began arriving around 1770 and laying claims to the best river bottomlands. In 1775 Daniel Boone and fellow pioneers carved part of the Wilderness Road through Big Moccasin Gap in southern Scott County on their way to the Tennessee and Kentucky frontiers. In their wake followed hundreds of settlers, mostly from other parts of Virginia and the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina. For those who stayed and carved a homestead out of the wilderness, protection from Indian raids was a major concern. During the turbulent years of the American Revolution, settlers built at least seven log forts at strategic locations in what is now Scott County. One of the most significant was Fort Blackmore that was situated where a community of the same name exists today on the Clinch River. Daniel Boone commanded frontier forces at Fort Blackmore and other forts on the Clinch River in 1774.
A second wave of settlers followed the American Revolution, and by 1814 the population was sufficiently large to warrant the creation of the county from parts of Washington, Russell, and Lee counties. Named in honor of Virginian general Winfield Scott, a military hero of the War of 1812, Scott County continued to grow in population through the nineteenth century. The county seat, which became the county's principal town, was laid out in 1815 and named Winfield, renamed Estillville in 1817, and then Gate City in 1886. In a county with several wide rivers, ferries were established across the North Fork of the Holston and Clinch rivers. After the Civil War, railroad transportation was key to the county's economic development. The South Atlantic and Ohio Railroad, whose president, Major Henry Clinton Wood, was a resident of Scott County, arrived in Gate City in 1887. The county's economic base through the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth was agriculture.
Today, much of Scott County remains little touched by human hands. Its natural beauty attracts tourists to Natural Tunnel State Park, which features an eight-hundred-and-fifty-foot-long tunnel carved by a creek through a mountainside, and to the camping and hiking facilities in the Jefferson National Forest. Country music fans come to Hiltons at the old Maces Spring to see the Carter Family Memorial Music Center (SC6), which honors country music pioneers A. P. and Sara Carter. Although much of the county has experienced only pockets of modern development, commercial sprawl is quickly spreading northward along U.S. 23 from Kingsport, Tennessee, to Weber City in southern Scott County.
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