Lewisburg is named after surveyor Andrew Lewis, who in 1751, established a camp near a spring (today’s Lewis Spring) behind the present-day courthouse. But many early settlers retreated to the Shenandoah Valley during the British-French War of 1755 – 1761 due to the potential of Native American attacks.(2) During Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763, the Shawnee destroyed two early settlements in the county, Muddy Creek and Clendenin, killing the men and carrying off the women and children. Around 1770, a Fort Savannah was constructed at Lewis Spring, with Virginia Governor Dunmore sensing a looming battle pitting the natives against the settlers. Four years later, Dunmore instructed then-Colonel Lewis to gather any willing man to go to the Kanawha River and show force against the Native Americans that were attacking in the Greenbrier Valley. Known as Lord Dunmore’s War, over 1,490 men were gathered who then marched down the New and Kanawha Rivers to the Ohio River, where they intended to cross over and attack the Shawnee in the Ohio Country – home of the Shawnees.(2)(5)
The Shawnee, however, surprised them at the mouth of the Kanawha and fought in an indecisive battle known as the Battle of Point Pleasant.(1)(4)
The first permanent settlement came in 1769 when John Stuart and Robert McClanahan constructed cabins on their grants in the Frankford and Savannah Mills area. Other pioneer families soon followed.(2)
In October 1782, Lewisburg was established by an act of the Virginia General Assembly,(2) and soon prospered due to the abundant farms that lay around it and the number of mineral springs that led to the development of resort hotels and spas. The completion of the Midland Trail, today’s U.S. Route 60, and the Seneca Trail, today’s U.S. Route 219, was instrumental in bringing in industry and commerce to the region. Between 1820 and the Civil War, a large number of brick houses were constructed, many of which still stand today. Lewisburg was referred to as a political and social center for western Virginia.
During the Civil War, several engagements were fought in and around Lewisburg. Unfortunately for the town, a few lives were loss and nearly all income was starved off and economic decline settled in.(2) It was not until the completion of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad (C&O) in 1873.(2) A connection north to Marlinton and to the vast timber holdings above led to further economic growth when the Greenbrier Branch of the C&O was completed in 1900.(3) A branch from Sandstone along the New River into the coal fields of western Greenbrier county added more development.
In 1882, the St. Lawrence Boom and Manufacturing Company was completed and was the first large industry in Lewisburg.(2) It was notable for being the largest softwood plant in the nation at the time of its completion, and lasted until 1908. During its tenure, 800 million board feet of lumber was produced.
Another growth period began for the city, with large frame houses appearing all over the city.(2) Large lots were subdivided to accommodate the swelling population.
In 1905, a charter was issued to five local men for the establishment of the Lewisburg and Ronceverte Electric Railway.(2) Service reached Lewisburg in May 1907 at a station on Echols Lane, extended to downtown in 1918 with a station on Court Street. The first units were Shay engines, but the entire line was electrified in 1913. The L&R lasted until 1931.
Lewisburg’s 236-acre core was designated a National Register Historic District in 1978.
Today, the city is home to the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, one of 29 such medical schools in the United States, and one of three medical schools in the state.
- Eckert, Allan W. The Frontiersmen: A Narrative. Ashland, Ky.: Jesse Stuart Foundation, 2001. 78, 98-99. Print.
- United States. Dept. of the Interior. Lewisburg Historic District. Comp. C.E. Turley. Washington: National Park Service, Feb. 1978. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Web. 17 Feb. 2012. Article.
- United States. Dept. of the Interior. IOOF Lodge Building. Comp. Michael Gioulis. Washington: National Park Service, Nov. 1999. 8.1-8.3. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Web. 16 Feb. 2012. Article.
- Swope, Kenneth D. The Battle of Point Pleasant of Lord Dunmore’s War. Lewisburg, Wv.: Greenbrier Historical Society, 1974. Print.
- DeHass, Wills. History of Early Settlements and Indian Wars of Western Virginia. Philadelphia: King and Baird, 1851. Print.