People come from all over the world to learn about the Shenandoah Valley’s prominent role in history. And we certainly have a lot to offer!
But this time, we’re going to focus on local Staunton history.
Tourists and history enthusiasts alike are generally surprised and delighted at the richness of our own history. Because the Inn at Old Virginia has such an intricate history with Staunton, we thought you might enjoy seeing that historical journey.
Here are some tidbits about our local history and how the Inn at Old Virginia fits in.
Staunton History Started Here
The area we call Staunton was first settled in 1732 by John Lewis and his family. Then in 1736, William Beverley, a wealthy planter, and a merchant from Essex County was granted by the Crown over 118,000 acres. That land grant would later become Augusta County.
When the Crown awarded Beverley the land grant, the Lewis family became squatters on Beverley’s land, even though they settled in the area first!
But Lewis quickly corrected this error in 1739 by purchasing 2,000 acres along Lewis Creek and building a home, which is about a mile east of what we now call Staunton, Virginia.
Lewis named his new home Bellefonte.
Below, are sketches of the original Bellefonte home and property.
And here’s what it looks like today!
How Staunton Got Its Name
In 1746, Surveyor Thomas Lewis laid out the first town plat, originally called Beverley’s “Mill Place.” Later, it was changed to Staunton in honor of Governor William Gooch’s wife, Lady Staunton.
Because Staunton was located at the geographical center of the colony, which then included West Virginia, it served from 1738-1771 as regional capital for what was known as the Northwest Territory.
Savvy Governor Gooch Passes Tobacco Regulation
By 1760, Staunton was one of the major “remote trading centers in the backcountry.” The small town coordinated the transportation of vast amounts of grain and tobacco to Britain.
During Gooch’s tenure as Virginia governor, he was politically very effective for the State. One of his greatest successes was the passage of the Tobacco Inspection Act of 1730, which called for the inspection and regulation of Virginia’s tobacco, the most important crop of the colony.
Tobacco planters were required to transport their crop to public warehouses where it was inspected and stored.
The Act raised the quality of Virginia’s tobacco and reduced fraud; this greatly increased the demand for Virginia tobacco in Europe.
Robert Poage’s Contribution
So where does the Inn fit in with these bits of local Staunton history?
Robert Poague was a wealthy landowner here in Augusta County. During his lifetime, he owned over 1,000 acres! In 1739, Poague settled on a track of 772 acres three miles north of Staunton in what was called Beverly’s Manor.
Inn at Old Virginia is located in the same area as Poague’s original home.
Ready to learn more about Staunton and the Shenandoah Valley’s rich heritage? We’ve got a comfy room with a Sleep Number bed, a hearty, made-from-scratch breakfast, and great Southern hospitality waiting for you! Book here.