Rockbridge County, Virginia in the late antebellum period, 1850-1860

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Master of Arts




This thesis describes Rockbridge County, Virginia in the late antebellum period from 1850 to 1860. Located mid-way between the Potomac River and the Tennessee border in the Valley of Virginia, Rockbridge was a growing and ambitious community, largely dependent upon agriculture and education. Two colleges, Virginia Military Institute and Washington College, created a strong intellectual environment, although industry increased dramatically as well over the decade. Iron manufacturing remained one of the major industries in the period. Internal improvements, including the North River canal, the James River and Kanawha canal, the Junction valley turnpike and the Virginia Central Railroad, dominated much of the news in the period. The county court was the main arm of government, although the state was influential as well. Rockbridge native John Letcher became the first governor from the county in 1860. The county was primarily Presbyterian, although Methodists and Baptists were present in considerable numbers as well.

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