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Alleghany County, Virginia

The Alleghany County Courthouse is located at 266 West Main Street, Covington, VA 24425; phone: 540‑965‑1730.

The City of Covington is the county seat of Alleghany County.


Beginnings [1]

Alleghany County is located in the mountains of the western portion of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The word "Allegheny" is an old Indian word meaning "endless", and it is used to describe the mountain ranges of the Appalachians. The Alleghany Highlands was first settled around 1746. On January 5, 1822, Alleghany County was formed from parts of Bath, Botetourt, and Monroe Counties by an act of the Virginia Legislature. The Town of Clifton Forge, the Town of Iron Gate, and the City of Covington lie within the County's boundary. The County, City, and Towns are generally known collectively as the Alleghany Highlands.

Up to the mid-eighteenth Century, the area was mostly undeveloped with a few staggered homes. Most families were self-sufficient and required little trading with outside communities. A few Indian villages existed on the outskirts of the County. Many boundary adjustments over the years have changed the shape and area of the County. The population of the County in 1830 was 2,816 compared to the year 2000, when the population was 12,926. Early family names included Carpenter, McAllister, Wright, Merry, Persinger, Humphries, Jordan, Smith, and Pitzer, to name a few. Many descendants of these families still live in Alleghany County.

By 1760, roads and turnpikes were being constructed to connect the area to Warm Springs, Sweet Springs, Lexington, Fincastle, and Lewisburg. The James River and Kanawha Canal that was to connect Covington with Richmond by way of the James River, was formed in 1824. Freight and passengers would be boated up the James River to Iron Gate and then up the Jackson River to Covington where they would be hauled overland to the Greenbrier River. The Canal was only constructed as far as Eagle Rock and it never reached Covington. The railroad development caused the canal project to be abandoned.

Forts were built in the area to protect settlers from Indian raids. One of the first forts built in the area was Fort Young. By order of George Washington, Fort Young was built in 1756 in Covington. Some of the other known forts were Fort Mann in Falling Springs and Fort Carpenter in Low Moor.

In the first year of the Civil War, there were more soldiers enlisted from Alleghany County than there were voters. Some residents in the southern portion of the County were against the Confederate cause. In general, the soldiers from Alleghany County served in the famous Stonewall Brigade. The most noted of the local commands was Carpenter's Battery that fought at the battles of Manassas, 2nd Manassas, Winchester, Gettysburg, and Bloody Angle. Most were killed in battle and the few surviving soldiers surrendered with Robert E. Lee at the Appomattox Courthouse.

The Alleghany Highlands has always had a strong agricultural history. The backbone of the area is farming. Some of the chief agricultural products in the past have been cattle, corn, oats, wheat, orchards, garden products, and dairy. Water Cress was a primary agriculture product around 1907. The Virginia Cress Company had eight acres of cress located in the Falling Springs Valley. Cattle were a major industry for early residents due to the number of tanneries in the area. There were also many dairy farms in the area that bottled milk or produced milk in bulk, such as Evergreen Dairy, Rich Patch Dairy, Fork Farm Dairy, White Oak Dairy and Peerless Dairy and Creamery. Today, many residents raise cattle on a smaller scale and there is still one dairy producer in the area, Watahala Dairy of Rich Patch.

Covington was designated as a town in 1818 and in 1833, it was incorporated as a city by the Commonwealth. Prior to that, the area was known as "Mouth of Dunlap" or "Merry's Store." For many years it was disputed as to whom the City of Covington was named for, either Peter Covington, who may have been a citizen of the area, or General Covington of the War of 1812. In 1986, Covington officially documented and adopted that General Leonard Covington was the individual that Covington was named for. In 1870, the railroad arrived in Covington and the first sidewalks and sewerage system were installed in 1892. As a result of the industrial boom, the population of Covington grew from 704 in 1890 to 5,632 in 1920.

  1. Alleghany County Virginia, Comprehensive Plan, 2013, www.co.alleghany.va.us, accessed July,2015.

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