A BRIEF HISTORY OF DAMASCUS, VIRGINIA
is beautifully situated in the rugged, rustic mountainous
region of southwest Virginia.
Natives, tourists, and newcomers
have long been attracted to the lovely and diverse natural
areas in and around the town. Scenic views of the mountains,
a recovering and maturing forest, and an abundance of unspoiled
natural streams all meld harmoniously with the built environment
to create a unique sense of place and a shared
need to belong and care about both community and the natural
Historians have recorded that the earliest known inhabitants
to roam the area were the Cherokee and the Shawnee, fierce
enemies who contested rights to the area as late as 1768.
Boone opened the area to European settlement when he blazed
a trail, in 1759, from east Tennessee through the Iron Mountain
water gap into what is now Damascus and Abingdon and on to
Kentucky. One of the early settlers, Henry Mock, was following
this trail on his way to Kentucky with his family. The family
was so impressed with the beauty of the area where the Laurel
and Beaverdam Creeks converged that they decided to stay,
buy land, build a home, and build a grist mill. The first
name given to the community was Mock's Mill.
name of the community changed to Damascus in 1886 when General
John D. Imboden purchased much of the land from the Mocks.
Imboden, one of Lee's chief officers in the War Between the
States, had become a land and development speculator following
the war. After failed enterprises at Big Stone Gap, he came
to Mock's Mill with a dream of building a steel city
on the site. He believed that under the millions of board
feet of virgin timber that covered the nearby mountains were
rich and unlimited deposits of iron ore. He selected this
site as the very best in the United States for a modern
'Damascus,' destined to become as famous...as its ancient
namesake in Asia.
iron deposits turned out to be on the surface only and the
dream was doomed. But the surface timber was another story.
With an eye on millions to be made from virgin oak, chestnut,
pine and poplar, Northern capital rushed into the Damascus
mountains were denuded of their forest cover. The National
Lumber Magazine reported in 1912 that Washington County, Virginia
was producing more lumber than the entire state of Pennsylvania.
Most of this was from the Damascus area.
lumber boom lasted 25 short years. The creation of the United
States Forest Service to conserve and restore forest resources
resulted in federal acquisition of much of the land around
the spirit of trailblazing and the sense of community responsibility
continue in the town. Damascus is known both as Trail
Town, USA and the friendliest town on the Appalachian
Trail. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the Virginia
Creeper National Recreation Trail, the Transcontinental Bicycle
Trail, the Iron Mountain Trail, and the Daniel Boone Trail
all intersect in Damascus. While the town does have other
diverse interests, the natural world and the legacy of trail
blazing still influence the course of the future.
and adapted from "A History of Damascus" by Louise
children play on Laurel Avenue. Photo taken approximately