Christiansburg is the county seat of Montgomery County. The county was created after the dissolution of Fincastle County (named for Virginia’s last royal governor, John Murray, Earl of Dunmore and Viscount of Fincastle) during the American Revolution. The town was established in 1792 at the site of Hans Meadow, the estate of John Craig, whose son James donated land for the development of a new county seat. Christiansburg is named for Colonel William Christian (c. 1742-1786), a member of the committee that passed the Fincastle Resolutions (a statement of solidarity by the colonial county legislature against the British Parliament’s Intolerable Acts) and a militia commander in the Revolution. Christiansburg sits on the route of the Great Wagon Road, which ran from Philadelphia to North Carolina in colonial days. Thousands of families migrated westward along this road, which corresponds roughly to modern day Route 11.
In the nineteenth century, Christiansburg was a center of activity in Southwest Virginia. Evidence suggests that both Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett spent time in the town. Thomas Lewis and John McHenry fought the commonwealth’s first duel with rifles here in 1808. During the Civil War, Confederate leaders Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart visited Christiansburg, and Union general George B. Stoneman headquartered here in April 1865. After the war, Charles S. Schaeffer founded the Hill School for freed slaves, which became Christiansburg Industrial Institute and provided education for local African Americans from 1866 to 1966.
This tour includes buildings from the hundred year period between 1850 and 1950, when most standing historical structures in Christiansburg were built. There are a couple of exceptions—homes dating to the town’s first period of settlement in the eighteenth century. The tour focuses on commercial and public buildings, again with just a few notable exceptions such as the Charles Miller house. Charles Miller was the nephew and frequent host of folk artist Lewis Miller, whose over 2,000 surviving sketches provide an intriguing look at Christiansburg’s past. Lewis Miller is buried in the Craig Cemetery, located near the intersection of Rt. 11 and Rt. 111.
The tour begins on East Main Street with some of the oldest homes in Christiansburg and runs down Main Street with several sites on Franklin Street. You can start the tour at any point and follow our suggested route or make up your own. Almost all recommended sites can be reached comfortably on foot, though there are some which are better to visit by car.
For more information, please come see us at the Montgomery Museum & Lewis Miller Regional Art Center, 300 South Pepper St., Christiansburg, VA 24073.