By Aila Boyd
A kickoff event was held on February 1 at Lord Botetourt High School to mark the 250th anniversary of Botetourt County. Numerous other events to mark the anniversary will be held throughout the year.
Brent Watts, who was raised in Pico, served as the master of ceremonies for the event. He holds the title of head meteorologist at WDBJ 7.
“It’s hard to believe how much Botetourt has changed in 250 years,” Watts said. “But one thing that is certain… Whether you grew up here and moved away or you’ve lived here for generations or you just moved here, you can always count on feeling at home in Botetourt County.”
He went on to say that without the “amazing citizens” that comprise the county, it wouldn’t be where it is today.
The Botetourt County Fire and EMS Departments and the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Department presented the colors at the beginning of the event. After that, Boy Scout Troop 211 from Daleville led those in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance. Teresa Hamm then performed the national anthem.
Greetings were delivered by Billy Martin, chair of the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors, and Gary Larrowe, Botetourt’s county administrator.
“Happy Birthday, Botetourt County,” Martin said. “Botetourt County was founded in 1770. Back then, there were six other states that were part of Botetourt County, including West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and a little part of Wisconsin. We were much larger back at that time.”
He went on to say that it’s hard to imagine what all has changed over the course of the past 250 years. “From our earliest time as a vast frontier land stretching to the Mississippi River to our years of growth and prosperity, Botetourt has been special. We are the jewel of the Commonwealth and we’re only getting brighter,” he said.
Martin added that the county has a clear vision of where it has been and where it is going.
Larrowe said, “Today I have a once in a lifetime opportunity to actually be present whenever a county, which is older than the United States, actually has a 250th anniversary. I doubt I, or anyone else on the stage, will end up having that opportunity ever again.”
He explained that the event was made possible by the 250th Anniversary Committee Co-Chairs Angela Coon, Lois Switzer, Donna Vaughn, and Wendy Wingo, who the Board of Supervisors appointed roughly 18 months ago to spearhead anniversary efforts. “These ladies are some of the best ambassadors that Botetourt could ever imagine,” he said.
In between remarks from local officials, Michael Milam led the Cloverdale Elementary School Chorus and the Troutville Elementary School Sound in a medley of patriotic songs.
Rep. Ben Cline, who represents the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia, and Del. Terry Austin, who represents the 19th House District of Virginia, provided brief remarks about the anniversary.
Cline noted that he relocated to Botetourt County last year with his wife and 7-year-old twin daughters. “We’re loving life in Fincastle. It’s a wonderful community with great people. We truly look forward to jumping in and being an active part of the Botetourt community,” he said.
He went on to read a speech that he delivered on the floor of the House of Representatives earlier in the week that recognized the county’s 250th anniversary. “Madam Speaker, I rise today to recognize the 250th anniversary of Botetourt County, Virginia. When initially founded, Botetourt County extended far and wide, all the way to the banks of the Mississippi and encompassed parts of seven present-day states. Named for Governor Norborne Berkeley, Lord Botetourt, this scenic county serves as a gateway from the Shenandoah Valley to Southwest Virginia and beyond. As you walk through the quaint towns and explore the diverse parts of Botetourt County within the borders, you’re filled with a sense of awe not only because of its beauty, but because of the history that surrounds you. Thomas Jefferson was famously involved with the design of the county courthouse in the Town of Fincastle and Lewis and Clark departed on their great expedition westward from within Botetourt County. And even after explore the vast western expanse of America, William Clark returned to marry county resident Judith Hancock following his journey. Just as the James River flows through Botetourt County, our citizens will continue to carve out their path forward towards prosperity with excitement and hope in the centuries to come. Madam Speaker, may God continue to bless the people of Botetourt County,” Cline said, reciting the speech.
Austin noted that prior to becoming a delegate, he served 16 years on the Board of Supervisors and before that four years on the Planning Commission. “I’ve had the privilege to see the county transition,” he said.
He went on to say that among his colleagues in the General Assembly, Botetourt is “revered” and is a place that they say they would like to represent.
When he was growing up, he said, Botetourt was a bedroom community for Roanoke. County residents would drive into Roanoke for work and then return home to Botetourt in the evenings. Now, it’s viewed as a county that has improved the lives and opportunities of people in the “whole region.”
Choirs from Rising Mount Zion Baptist Church and Lapsley Run Baptist Church then took the stage and performed “I’m Not Tired Yet,” and “How Great.”
The anniversary address, “The More You Learn,” was delivered by Malfourd “Bo” Trumbo, a retired circuit court judge from the 25th Circuit of Virginia.
“Where My Home and My Heart Meet,” the 250th anniversary song that was written by David Austin and Ted McAllister, was performed by Austin and Friends.
After that, Watts recognized the contributions of Lauren Rakes, a high school student who designed the 250th seal, and Anita Firebaugh, who edited the 250th Anniversary Magazine.
At the end of the ceremony, Austin performed “Happy Birthday, Botetourt” and asked the audience to sing along.
Those in attendance then moved from the auditorium to the cafeteria, where cake and punch were served. Copies of the 250th Anniversary Magazine and decals of Rakes’ seal were given out for free. Exhibits of regional, historical, and genealogical significance were set up for people to look at.