Understanding the Present and History of Blacksburg, Virginia
The Town of Blacksburg was originally known as Draper’s Meadow in 1748 by those people who sought to move westward from the east coast and claim their own land. The land that Blacksburg is now on was founded by a group of explorers sent out by the commander of Fort Henry, Abraham Wood in 1671. The land was eventually divided into Montgomery and Pulaski County where the land was split among settlers for their service during the Spanish-Indian Wars. The original settlement was from one-hundred and fifty to six-hundred acres.
Unfortunately, in 1755 during the French and Indian war, Draper’s Meadow was deserted after several attacks by the surrounding Shawnee Indians. Through 1768 to 1774 the land that was reclaimed by the natives was again cleared by colonies of white men.
In 1772 Samuel Black and his family settled in Stauton, Virginia on six-hundred acres of land that included a part of Draper’s Meadow. He built Smithfield Plantation in 1774 and the land was then divided in two sections between Samuel’s two sons, with the dividing line being Draper Road. John Black’s property covered the area that is now the main campus of Virginia Tech , and William Black owned the area that is now downtown Blacksburg. William later made a small grid of streets that created sixteen blocks which was bordered by present-day Draper Road, Jackson Street, Wharton Street, and Clay Street. Today’s town logo contains sixteen squares that represent the original sixteen blocks.
On January 13, 1798 the Town of Blacksburg was established, and on August 4th of that same year Black signed over the deed to the town of trustees. The original Town Hall is located on Jackson Street in Downtown Blacksburg (near Station 1 fire house). The building now known as Solitude on the south end of the Drillfield was built in 1801 for future colonel Robert Preston, and later two Virginia governors. The post office that we now go to today in downtown Blacksburg has always been in the same location since April 8, 1827.
Thomas W. Jones became Blacksburg’s first mayor in 1871 and then one year later the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College opened on October 2, 1872. The institution first started with only three members and later grew to become Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, now known as Virginia Tech. Through the early 1900s the town began to grow as it incorporated its first Fire-fighting unit and rescue services crew, automobiles came into view, a train station was built (now known as the Huckleberry), the first filling station opened, an airport became operational, and buses started to make rounds.
The first location for Blacksburg High School was on South Main in 1952 and later became Blacksburg Middle School. Margaret J. Beeks and Gilbert F. Linkous Elementary Schools were completed in 1963 and Harding Avenue Elementary was completed in 1972. Patrick Henry Drive became the new site of Blacksburg High School in 1974 after issues of overcrowding over the years before.
Through the 1960s and 1970s commercialization took an all time high, bringing more people into the Blacksburg area. These business included Corning Glass Works (now known as Corning Incorporated) and Montgomery Regional Hospital. Construction of Interstate 81 through Virginia began in 1957 and nine years later it reached Blacksburg. About 4 years after that U.S. Route 460 bypass opened. These roads made it significantly easier for people to travel to and from the area. In just a decade the population more than tripled from 9,000 to 30,000. Today, there are over 40,000 people in the area once school is in session.
Getting Involved with the Community
This past Saturday I attended Blacksburg’s Farmers market and had the opportunity to meet the local farmers and merchants of the area. There was continuous music being played, food samples being handed out in all different directions, and people representing their pride in their community. I feel that attending this event helped me to broaden my view of what Montgomery County helps to provide us with on a daily basis.
I was not really surprised by the produce being sold from the area due to the fact that I work in horticulture on a daily basis with my job in the Virginia Tech Vegetable Entomology Lab. On the other hand though, it was amazing to see the people that this Appalachian region has produced. I have noticed that they are extremely unique and refreshing for me compared to the Tidewater area that I am originally from. They seem more connected to the earth and thankful for what is laid out in front of them everyday. Unfortunately, the people from back home come across as abrasive, opinionated, in a rush, and materialistic. I believe that the reason for the people being like this is because of their roots, the people of Tidewater are in a much more urban area that has been that way for a long time and they tend to be focused on what they have achieved or attempting to achieve rather than the little satisfying things in life, their ancestors had free will to shop and go where they wanted to meet their needs and wants also which carried on to their subsequent generations. The people in the Blacksburg area seem to appreciate what you have to say and all together pleased with life. I see this as a result of their harsh background of ancestors working in the mines and then overtime grew to appreciate what the earth had given them and to be happy with what they had rather than what they did not.
This event made me feel right at home and that they truly appreciated me being there. You were able to walk up to anyone and have a full length conversation about their work and life, this was not a one way conversation either, they would always as you about your connection to the area and what your opinion of the community was (even though they probably knew I was a college student at Tech). At large the group of people there seem to be liberal free willed people who were open to opinions and wanted to make the community a better place for everyone else, even the college students that make up the large majority of the Blacksburg population, but were only there for eight months of the year. The atmosphere at this Farmers Market gives one a feeling on peace and deep connection with the area, the music, smells of the produce, and interactions of the people is the perfect example of a well knit community that promotes nothing by positive thoughts among it’s people.
Map it Out
This section of the project is in the photos provided on this post. Each dot on the graph represents the areas that they fall in-between (I was not able to put them into strict categories, sorry if this is incorrect in any way.
The two main issues that Blacksburg faces today is overcrowding of both buildings and people, and a strong drug presence in the area.
My plan of action for the first issue, overcrowding, is to become more adherent to the environmental laws to make it more difficult for any new buildings to be put up. This plan not only helps the environment, but also crowd control. Blacksburg does not only have to hold the people who live there all year around in the community, but also the student body that is present for eight months out of the year, this in it’s self increases the population by 31,000. This many people in one area calls on a need for more resources such as housing and parking. Lets make Virginia Tech admissions more difficult to limit the number of students, and not allow new, incoming freshmen to bring vehicles for their first year. All together I believe that Virginia Tech needs to reassess their student to resource ratio and consider the consequences that the school and Blacksburg community may very well experience in the future.
I believe the solution to a drug issue is to require mandatory drug tests for all those who work with others in the community on a daily basis. This includes, but is not limited to: Doctors, State Employees, Professors, Food Service Personnel, and Construction Workers. I understand that this would not rid the area of the issue, but it would make a dent in it. I would also recommend for the state to implement a system to be kept on ambulances and in police cars that would record those who had already received a dose of a drug known as Narcan in the past. This drug has been developed to rid the body of any overdose of a harsh drug. Unfortunately, people have seemed to abuse this privilege and overdosed many times because they know that there is a “miracle” drug out there that has the ability to save their lives. I know it is harsh to say, but I believe that everyone deserves only one chance to have this drug. After overdosing more than one time I believe that one does not see the value of life and does not deserve the privilege anymore. I know that this is probably and widely unpopular opinion, but some kind of movement like this must be made to fix an issue.
If changes like these are implemented in the Blacksburg area the community will become a better area all around.
- “History.” Town of Blacksburg. N.p., 2016. Web. 12 Aug. 2016. <http://www.blacksburg.gov/community/community-profile/history>.
- “Blacksburg, Virginia.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 July 2016. Web. 12 Aug. 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blacksburg,_Virginia>.