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Shenandoah Valley History

The beautiful Valley of Virginia lies between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains. Native American groups lived in and traversed the Valley for nearly 11,000 years before Europeans penetrated the mountain ranges in the 17th century. While a Jesuit priest is believed to have journeyed to the area in 1632, the man credited with first exploring the Valley was John Lederer, a German medical practitioner who visited in 1669. He left detailed records and crude maps. Additional early explorers included John Batts, Robert Fallam and Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood.

Permanent settlement began in the 1730s as German and Scotch-Irish immigrants from Pennsylvania began to arrive. Many of the early settlers were Quakers who had good relations with the Indians. The Virginia government encouraged settlement on the western frontier to provide a buffer against the potential threat of Indians friendly with the French who were pushing south from Canada into the Ohio Valley. The Indian raids during the French and Indian War (1754-1763) marked the last major presence of Native Americans in the Valley. The Warriors Path long used to traverse the Valley is today known as Route 11, part of which was surveyed by George Washington.

Along this Valley route passed giants of their day: frontiersman Daniel Boone and future presidents Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Jackson. Along the route, the patriotic priest John Peter Muhlenburg preached revolution and helped form the Eighth Virginia Regiment of Continentals, made up of Valley soldiers.

Yet another war came closer to the Valley as soldiers who wore blue clashed with those in gray under the leadership of Jackson, Early, Gordon, Sheridan, Banks and Custer. Prominent Civil War sites and museums are but a few miles in any direction from Shenandoah Caverns, including the famous New Market Battlefield, where cadets from Virginia Military Institute joined the battle against Union forces.

The Shenandoah Valley today remains a vibrant, beautiful region especially touched by Nature with beautiful scenery, rich history, incomparable caverns, outstanding recreational opportunities, fertile fields, and friendly people.

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