Tazewell and Mercer Counties share a rich heritage dating back to the 1700s that has helped shape the values and traditions maintained by the regions modern-day families.
Indian tribes used the area now known as Tazewell County for hunting expeditions, and sometimes battles erupted between the Shawnee and Cherokee who were both intent on staking a claim to the hunting rights. By the early 1790s the Indians had established a peaceful lifestyle, even with the white settlers who had arrived on the scene. The regions abundant supply of water, fertile soil, lush bluegrass and timber led to the development of agriculture as the dominant industry until the 1900s when the mining of coal and iron deposits became the main source of revenue.
In the early 1880s high quality coal was discovered near the Bluefield area in Pocahontas, Virginia, later known as the Pocahontas Coalfields. This discovery brought the Norfolk and Western Railway into the area and the first carload of bituminous coal was hauled from Pocahontas to Norfolk, Virginia, in 1883. The coal boom attracted hundreds of new residents and brought growth to the area. Early settlers were primarily Scots-Irish, English, Welsh and German, while Hungarians, Italians and Czechoslovakians arrived later to mine the coal. The contributions of these immigrant groups to the area created a rich blend of customs and provided a heritage which is still evident today.
Northern entrepreneurs invested heavily in the Richlands area on the Clinch River, promoting the town as the "Pittsburgh of the South" based on the production of iron ore. Local entrepreneurs focused more on coal mining and the production of brick. Together they contributed to the emergence of Richlands as the largest town in the county.
Cedar Bluff was strategically located on the Old Kentucky Turnpike and grew as travelers halted their journeys to build homes and businesses there. The town of Jeffersonville was established as the county seat in 1800. Holders of farm and mine properties settled in Jeffersonville, which became known as Tazewell in 1892.
The Bluefield area traces its origin back to 1780 when two American pioneers, Andrew Davidson and Richard Bailey, built a fort there to protect their families from hostile Indians. The land was used mainly for farming until the discovery of the Pocahontas Coalfields, which marked the beginning of the Bluefield areas development as a commerical and industrial center.
Bluefield, West Virginia, named by early residents for its blue landscape colored by blooming chicory, is a "sister" city to Bluefield, Virginia. The Virginia city had been known as Graham in honor of community leader and railway surveyor Thomas Graham, but residents voted in 1924 to change the name to Bluefield to reflect the close economic and social ties with its West Virginia "sister." In 1941 H. Edward Steele, manager of the Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, developed a plan to promote the areas pleasant summer climate by agreeing to serve free lemonade when the temperature reached an official 90 degrees. The lemonade tradition continues today in Bluefield, West Virginia, which has become known as "Natures Air Conditioned City."
Mercer County and the town of Princeton were incorporated almost a quarter of a century before the Civil War by an act of the Virginia General Assembly. The county was formed from parts of Tazewell and Giles counties in Virginia and was named for General Hugh Mercer, a revolutionary war hero mortally wounded in battle in Princeton, New Jersey. The original census in 1840 placed Mercer Countys population at 2,243. The town prospered until the Civil War, when confederate troops burned much of Princeton to prevent approaching Union troops from reaching supplies stored there. Revitalization of the town began in 1908 when Virginian Railroads first passenger train arrived along with businesses and industries that supported the rail industry.
As the history of the two counties has unfolded, visions for growth are taking shape in such diverse areas as tourism and retirement living, providing families and entrepreneurs even more reasons to call Four Seasons Country home.
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