Lee County Heritage
Lee County, the western-most county in Virginia, was formed from Russell County in 1792; a part of Scott County was added later. The county is named for Henry Light-Horse Harry Lee, governor of Virginia from 1791 to 1794 and former American Revolutionary War officer. Cumberland Gap National Historic Park lies partly in Lee County and in the states of Kentucky and Tennessee. The Cumberland Gap was the principal route through the mountains that Native Americans and early European settlers used to travel to the west and the south. Daniel Boone's son was killed by Indians here.
Death of Boone's Son
In this valley, on 10 Oct. 1773, Delaware, Shawnee, and Cherokee Indians killed Daniel Boone's eldest son, James, and five others in their group of eight settlers en route to Kentucky. Separated from Daniel Boone's main party, the men had set up camp near Wallen's Creek. At dawn the Indians attacked and killed James Boone, Henry Russell, John and Richard Mendenhall (brothers), a youth whose last name was Drake, and Charles (one of two slaves in the party). Isaac Crabtree and Adam, a slave, escaped. This event prompted Boone and his party to abandon their first attempt to settle Kentucky.
The pass was long the gateway to the west. On April 13, 1750, Dr. Thomas Walker reached the gap, which he named for the Duke of Cumberland, son of George II. A few years later Daniel Boone and numberless pioneers passed through it on the way to Kentucky. In August, 1863, Cumberland Gap was captured by a Union Army under General Ambrose E. Burnside.
This town was established in 1794 as the county seat of Lee County and was named for Frederick Jones. Here on January 3, 1864, General William E. Jones, assisted by Colonel A. L. Pridemore, defeated a Union force, capturing the battalion. Union troops burned the courthouse in 1864. The present courthouse was erected in 1933. The town was incorporated in 1834, and reincorporated in 1901.
Doctor Still's Birthplace
Andrew Taylor Still, physician and founder of osteopathy, was born two miles southwest, near the Natural Bridge of Lee County, August 6, 1828. Dr. Still served in the War Between the States. He established the first American school of osteopathy in 1892 at Kirksville, Missouri. He died there, December 12, 1917.
Jonesville Methodist Camp Ground
This Camp Ground was established in 1810 as a place for religious services for the Methodists of Lee County on lands given by Elkanah Wynn. In June 1827, Rev. Abraham Still, Daniel Dickenson, George Morris, Evans Peery, Henry Thompson, Elkanah Wynn and James Woodward were appointed trustees; the present auditorium was built in 1827-28. The massive oak columns were hewn by Henry Woodward, David Orr, Robert Wynn and Rev. Joseph Haskew.
In March 1769 Joseph Martin led a party of men to the Powell Valley, and attempted to establish a settlement nearby. By that fall they abandoned the site after conflicting with Native Americans. Martin returned here with a party of men in early 1775 and built a fort, known as Martin's Station on the north side of Martin's Creek. The wooden fort contained between five and six cabins built about 30 feet apart with stockades between each building. This site was abandoned in June 1776 during further regional conflicts between settlers and Native Americans. Visit Wilderness Road State Park to see a replica for the fort that was built by Martin.
The Ely Mound, the best-preserved Indian mound in Virginia. It dates to the Late Woodland-Mississippian Period (AD 1200-1650), during which more complex societies and practices evolved, including chiefdoms and religious ceremonies. Often, temples, elite residences, and council buildings stood atop substructure or townhouse mounds such as Ely Mound. Lucien Carr, assistant curator of the Peabody Museum in Boston, led an excavation here in 1877. By proving the connection between this mound and present-day Indians, Carr refuted the then-popular "lost race" hypothesis for Mound Builders in eastern North America.
Must See! The White Rocks have long been one of the most beautifully noted places in Lee County. These cliffs were a familiar landmark along the Wilderness Road which was blazed by Daniel Boone in March, 1775, and which was the principal route from Virginia to Kentucky. They are part of the Cumberland Mountains. Refer to the attraction tab to see the location of these magnificent rock structures. It has been photographed several thousand times and remains as a beacon of home for the locals. Very few driving views will compare with these three miles of absolute splendor! This photo opt is one worth the drive and is beautiful year round!
Cumberland Gap National Park/Hike to Hensley’s Settlement
Cumberland Gap is indeed a national park of superlatives: rich history, spectacular scenery, impressive vistas, unique geologic sandstone formations, magnificent underground caverns, and abundant and diverse plant and animal life. Tour Hensley Settlement and experience life of a by-gone age of a 20th century mountain community. Explore with a ranger Gap Cave and learn about the formation of the cave system. Walk in the footsteps of Native Americans, early settlers and Civil War Soldiers along the Wilderness Road Trail. At the park's visitor center, enjoy browsing through the museum, Eastern National Bookstore and Cumberland Crafts. Almost 70 miles of hiking trails provide numerous opportunities to explore and discover.
The gap was long used by Native Americans, as many species of migratory animals passed through it from north to south each year. It was fertile hunting territory and the only easy cut through the mountains from the southern wintering grounds of wild deer and buffalo to their northern summer range. Starting around 1775, the Gap became the primary route of transit for American settlers moving west into Kentucky; between 1775 and 1810 as many as 300,000 settlers may have used the Gap.
Two families by the name of Hensley and Gibbons moved to Brush Mountain to escape the many changes that were taking place in the early 1900s. Eventually, more family members followed and a community was begun.
Settlers continued their pioneer lifestyle until future generations began accepting employment and marriage partners off the mountain. Sherman Hensley, the founder of the settlement, was the last to leave in 1951.
Wilderness Road State Park, Ewing
Wilderness Road: The park visitor center is home to a state of the art theater featuring an award winning docudrama, “Wilderness Road, Spirit of a Nation”. The center also has a frontier museum and a gift shop with unique regional gifts. The park features the reconstructed Martin’s Station Fort, an outdoor living history museum depicting life on Virginia’s 1775 frontier.
The park hosts several special events throughout the year. For a full list of programs and events visit:
Stone Face Rock, Pennington Gap
Stone Face Rock is located near Pennington Gap. Folklore says that the face was carved by Cherokee Indians honoring their chief at the time. The name of the Chief is unknown. Others believe that the face has evolved over time by wind and rain. Nevertheless it’s a great photo opportunity for a visitor looking for something different.
Coal Miners Memorial, St. Charles
Heritage and hard work is what has made Lee County what it is today. The simplicity of this memorial perfectly depicts the simplicity of our coal heritage, the hard working men, women and children from Lee County that worked the mines in Central Appalachia. It remembers those that were lost providing for their families. These should be remembered, always!
The Appalachian African-American Cultural & Community Development Center, Pennington Gap
Preserving the life stories, history, heritage, culture and events of African Americans in far Southwest Virginia is the mission of the Cultural Center. An excellent example of a one room school house with one teacher coordinating multiple grades, the Cultural Center offers a glimpse of rural education and the culture of the past.
The building that once housed the only primary school for African Americans in Pennington Gap, Lee County, Virginia, is now the Appalachian African-American Cultural Center. In addition to preserving Appalachian-American history and houses a library of African American literature.
Tours by Appointment.
Home to National Leaders
Rose Hill native Earl Taylor and his Stoney Mountain Boys were included on the very first bluegrass LP in 1958 and were the very first bluegrass band to play Carnegie Hall in 1959.
Turkey Cove native C. Bascom Slemp was Secretary to President Coolidge in 1923.
Jonesville native Dr. Andrew Taylor Still was the Founder of Osteopathic Medicine.