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
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,
In the pioneer era this limestone rich soil produced
luxuriant meadows filled with game, and fields ripe for
trails and passes in Clinch Mountain that provided access to the
Holston Valley and its Great Kentucky Road required forward
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
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.