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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