Alleghany County’s bicentennial celebration has been set for Saturday, Sept. 17, at Mountain Gateway Community College.
Festivities begin at 3 p.m. and include free live music and fireworks, a 4-H and kids festival, food vendors, local arts and crafts, a car show and beer garden. Performers include Eaglemania, Caleb Bailey & Paine’s Run and Caleb Carpenter.
“Alleghany County’s bicentennial celebration is a great opportunity for the community to step back from their normal day-to-day and appreciate not only our present but also our past and everything that brought us to this point,” said Chad Williams, Alleghany County director of parks & recreation and chairman of the Alleghany County Bicentennial Celebration Committee. “Alleghany County is a wonderful area with many things past, present and future to celebrate.”
The committee tasked with planning the bicentennial celebration was appointed over the last several months by the board of supervisors. Members of the Alleghany County Bicentennial Celebration Committee include Williams, Suzanne Adcock-Nicely, Beverly Bowers, Ricky Bourne, Teresa Hammond, Megan Persinger, Paul Linkenhoker, Shelly Mongold, Reid Walters, Pam Warren and Michelle Rucker.
A banner commemorating the county’s 200th anniversary has also been designed and is on display at various locations throughout the county.
Hammond, the executive director of the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, said her organization is pleased to help highlight and celebrate the county’s bicentennial.
“This milestone is an opportunity to explore Alleghany County’s rich 200-year history; to bridge the past, present and future; and bring the community together during this celebration,” Hammond said.
Alleghany County was formed from parts of Botetourt and Bath along with a portion of Monroe County, now a part of West Virginia, on Jan. 5, 1822, by an act of the Virginia General Assembly. Its name was taken from an old Indian word meaning “endless,” which was used to describe the Appalachian mountains that surround the county.
The city of Covington serves as the county seat. The sale of public town lots in Covington began on Aug. 24, 1818, and were recorded in Botetourt County, since Alleghany County would not be formed until some four years later. Over the years, Covington grew from a village known as “Merry’s Store” or “Mouth of Dunlap” and was incorporated in 1833. By 1855, 43 houses were located on two streets, and one of those main streets for years was known as Bath Street, referencing its former connection to Bath County.
Covington was named in honor of Gen. Leonard Covington, a hero in the War of 1812. It became a Second Class city in 1952 by an act of the General Assembly.
To the east, Clifton Forge was originally called Williamson Station. It was settled in the late 1700s by Scotch-Irish pioneers and named for a family that had settled in the area. Williamson became a town in 1884 and the name was changed to Clifton Forge, the name derived from the iron furnace located in the Iron Gate gorge and chosen by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway for its new depot. Clifton Forge became a town in 1906.
During the Civil War, iron from Longdale Furnace in eastern Alleghany County was used for the CSS Virginia (Merrimac). Regiments from Alleghany County were present at Appomattox when Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, marking the end of the Civil War.
As the iron mines began to disappear, Clifton Forge became noted as a railroad town until the railroad industry began a decline in the 1970s and 1980s.
Alleghany County is composed of the city of Covington and the towns of Clifton Forge and Iron Gate. Located to the south and east of Clifton Forge, Iron Gate was truly a byproduct of the Iron Age and served as an industrial hub from the late 1800s into the early 1900s.
Industrial development pivoted to the paper industry when in 1899 the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company located its mill in Covington. Today, WestRock continues to be a major employer in Alleghany County.
“Alleghany County has gone from being on the fringe of the western frontier to an industrial hub and a recreational destination,” said Linkenhoker, president of the Alleghany Historical Society. “We’ve endured some growing pains along the way, but we’re quite proud of our heritage, and we look forward to the next 200 years.”
Alleghany is spelled in a number of different ways, but Alleghany County has a second “A,” different from the Allegheny Highlands, spelled with a second “E.” According to legend, Alleghany County and Pocahontas County were formed at about the same time, but the names of the two counties were transposed; Alleghany County was originally slated to be called Pocahontas County, now in West Virginia, and vice versa.
Alleghany County is comprised of 449 square miles, much of which is national forest land. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, its population stood at 15,223.
(Editor’s Note: Much of the information in this article was taken from a book on Alleghany County heritage that was published in 1997.)