While the Town of Fincastle celebrates its 250th anniversary, it may be good to look back to how the town even came into existence 250 years ago. During the 18th century, settlers wishing to move away from the coasts of the colonies could not always easily head due west. In Virginia, for instance, the Blue Ridge Mountains made western travel challenging. As a result, this part of Virginia was mostly populated by folks heading down from the north along the Shenandoah Valley. Englishmen, Germans, and those of Scots-Irish descent made that trek, and often chose to end their pilgrimage here in the southern part of the Shenandoah Valley.
By the 1750s, a small settlement called Miller’s Mill had grown up near here, and a local merchant and land speculator, Israel Christian, had claimed large tracts of land in the area. In 1770, Botetourt County was established out of part of Augusta County and stretched all the way to the Mississippi River (a distance not comprehended by the English at that time), and a county seat was needed. Israel Christian offered between 44-45 acres of land (“official histories” differ about the exact acreage) to the Crown for the establishment of a county seat. Along with plots of half-acre lots, Christian designated, as was required for any county seat, the locations for a courthouse, a jail, and for “the Established Church.” For history buffs, the current courthouse and Fincastle Presbyterian Church are on the exact sites of the original log courthouse and church (no longer an Anglican Church after the Revolution), and the old brick jail on Court House Square is the site of the original jail!
Officially established as the county seat in 1772 and named after Lord Dunsmore’s son, (the Earl of Fincastle, England), Fincastle, Virginia came into existence. According to town records and noted in the book Around Town, by 1784, Fincastle had “59 buildings, including 26 log dwelling houses, 21 cabins, one ‘double’ cabin and 11 frame dwelling houses.” Around Town also notes “a number of taverns, ordinaries, and other commercial endeavors” existing at that time. With that beginning, little Fincastle soon became a major stop along the “Great Western Road” for those heading south and/or west. The little town grew and thrived with wonderful stories for telling throughout the decades.
Mark your calendars for Saturday, Sept. 24 to attend the Historic Fincastle Festival and Celebration of the 250th Anniversary and have the opportunity to view and experience some of Fincastle’s history in person!