Elk Garden
© All Rights Reserved
Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.
Big Stone Gap, VA  24219
January 25, 2013


Earliest Settlement
The Mansions of Elk Garden
The Great Awakening
The Stuart Family
Lead, Salt, & Cattle
Wealth Leads to Politics

             Elk Garden is a profoundly interesting place.  Roughly only about half a dozen miles across, this limestone cove to the north of Clinch Mountain in Russell County, Virginia, is special to American History in several ways. 

            In Indian times it represented both the natural boundary between Indian tribes, as well as a hub of their trails as these tribes engaged in the commerce of salt from the great salt deposits located to the south of Clinch Mountain at Saltville, Virginia.   

            In the pioneer era this limestone rich soil produced luxuriant meadows filled with game, and fields ripe for planting.  Its trails and passes in Clinch Mountain that provided access to the Holston Valley and its Great Kentucky Road required forward defensive fortifications.  It was one of three such limestone zones that were incubators for settlement of Tennessee and of Kentucky, the other two being Castlewood and Rye Cove. 

            Its rich soil served as a magnet for the Fine Families of Virginia, who used the great Colonial Land Companies to send their sons and daughters into the area to build huge plantations more reminiscent of the Tidewater section of the Commonwealth than of the western reaches of the State.  A plantation culture like that of the James River between Richmond and Williamsburg developed here. 

            A fortune made at Saltville during the Civil War was used to buy up the bankrupt Confederate plantations, and to build the largest cattle farm east of the Mississippi.  One would have to go to the Western Slope of Colorado to find similar intermountain expanses of open cattle range. 

            This social structure led to Elk Garden becoming the center of Virginia politics at the turn of the Twentieth Century.  Both a new Virginia Constitution and the Governorship emanated from this backwater cove. 

            The scions of these FFV, and their plantation homes are still in Elk Garden.  Cattle still graze in open range further across than the eye can see. 


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© Elk Garden 2013 Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr., Big Stone Gap Publishing®
Text may not be copied or reproduced in any form without written permission of the author(s).