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
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
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.