History of Craig County

Visitors at Looney School on Meadow Creek

Visitors at Looney School on Meadow Creek

Between the “Great Road” of the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains of what would soon be West Virginia, Indians traveled looking for game and pioneers from Europe and Britain began to settle.  An outpost called “Craig’s Camp” was established and visited by Col. George Washington in 1756 as he toured the frontier.  Farmers and tradesmen continued to settle the valley where Johns Creek, Meadow Creek and Craigs Creek flow together en route to the James River. This settlement, first called “Newfincastle”, became the county seat when Craig was formed in 1851 from parts of six neighboring counties.  New Castle remains the only incorporated town in the county, with a historic district that includes the Jeffersonian-style courthouse and nearby Old Brick Hotel.

When Virginia joined the Confederate States of America in 1861, a large percentage of Craig County men and boys left home to fight in the War Between the States.  In June of 1864, Union troops commanded by Gen. David Hunter passed through the county searching for food, and tried to set fire to the courthouse where early records were dragged into the courtyard and destroyed.

In the 1880’s, iron ore was discovered, railroads were laid and turnpikes improved to provide transportation for the ore.  In the area now called Fenwick Mines Recreational area a town was built to support the employees of the Low Moore Iron Company with 300 residents.  The town had a white church, a black church, equipment for ore processing, a hospital, school, playhouse and a large mule barn.  In 1910  70 immigrants from Italy arrived and moved into the town. The area produced  high quality iron until 1924 from two open and one deep mine and numerous small mines.   There is no record of what became of the almost all male immigrants when the mine closed.

The town of Fenwick Mines was effectively erased when the mine closed. Buildings were moved or used for lumber.  Machinery was scrapped.   Rails from the railroad were removed and even water pipes carrying water for the ore washer were removed.

Iron ore was shipped from the area on the Chesapeake and Ohio Craig Valley Branch.  This also served to transport ore from Barbours Creek mine.  Ore was shipped to furnaces at Clifton Forge or perhaps Quinnamont WV.   This railroad branch closed in 1961.

Healing springs resorts, schools, timber production, and agriculture increased the county population until the Great Depression.  Roosevelt’s WPA program established a Civilian Conservation Corp Camp on Barbour’s Creek, providing work for county residents. As a result,  new roads, telephone lines and fire towers were built throughout the county.

Nearly 500 Craig citizens served the Armed Forces during WWII; thirteen gave their lives.  The patriotism of area residents is seen in VFW Post 4991, the UDC which was active from 1910 to 1969, and Craig Valley Chapter DAR, formed in 2007.

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