History

graphicA Rich Past a Bright Future

The first European settlers, primarily Scots-Irish and German families, arrived in Franklin County in the 1740s after traveling by river and by the Carolina Road (formerly called the Great Indian Warrior Path) from Eastern Virginia and Maryland.

Here they found a land of great beauty and abundant natural resources. Rich pasture lands, a plentiful water supply and a six-month growing season made the land perfect for agriculture, and farming was the dominant occupation until recent times. Tobacco was a leading crop in early Franklin County, and a growing animal husbandry industry established Franklin County as one of Virginia’s largest dairy producers, a position it still holds today.

The county was officially formed in 1786 by carving out parts of neighboring Bedford and Henry County and named after Benjamin Franklin. The population at the time was a mere 6,842.

Manufacturing took root early in Franklin County’s history. Washington Iron Works, established in the 1780s, was the precursor of a thriving economy that now ranges from small locally owned business to the corporate headquarters of national manufacturers. In 1892, the Norfolk and Western Railway ran lines through the county, making it easier for manufacturers to bring products to market. The population of the county had grown to almost 26,000.

graphicTwo notable men were born in Franklin County during the 1800s: Jubal Anderson Early, a Confederate general and historian, in 1816; and Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee Institute, in 1856. Early’s antebellum home, which is currently being restored, provides a look back into a time of tradition and turmoil, while Washington’s home, now a national monument, depicts his life and his influence on the country.

The 20th century was marked by slow, steady population and business growth. Of special significance was the completion of two man-made lakes, Philpott Lake in 1953 and Smith Mountain Lake in 1966, and the opening of the Center for Applied Technology and Career Exploration in 1997.

Now with a population of almost 50,000 and the seventh largest land area in Virgina, Franklin County offers a unique quality of life in an area that is still as beautiful as when it was settled more than 200 years ago.

 

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