By Clara B. Cox (M.A. '84)
By the time European explorers entered the region of present-day Blacksburg in 1671, Native Americans no longer lived in the area.
Those explorers, led by Abraham Wood, followed Stroubles Creek through today’s Blacksburg and the Virginia Tech campus to a river, which they named Wood’s River. On September 17, 1671, the Wood party claimed for King Charles II all the lands drained by the river, which later was renamed New River.
During the 1740s Col. James Patton, who represented the Wood’s River Land Company, took possession of a large tract of land, part of which later became Montgomery and Pulaski counties. He sold some of the land to settlers, who began entering the region. Among them were the Draper and Ingles families, who built their homes somewhere in the vicinity between the present-day Virginia Tech campus and the Hethwood subdivision. The settlement became known as Draper’s Meadow.
After the French and Indian War erupted, a Shawnee Indian war party attacked the settlement, probably on July 30, 1755. The Indians killed four settlers, including Col. Patton; wounded one settler; and captured another five, including Mary Draper Ingles, whose wedding to William Ingles had been the first European marriage west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and their two sons. The Indians walked their captives to the Ohio Valley, but after several months in captivity, Mary Ingles escaped and wandered as much as 800 miles to return home.
In 1772 Samuel Black of Staunton bought 600 acres of land in the Draper’s Meadow area for his sons, John and William. After his death in 1792, John and William divided the land equally, with present-day Draper’s Road serving as the dividing line between their properties. John’s land covered much of the present-day central campus, while William’s land covered much of the present-day central downtown Blacksburg.
In 1797 William laid out a small grid of streets and lots—16 blocks in all—on a portion of his land. He petitioned the state legislature to establish a town at the site, which it did on January 13, 1798, giving birth to the town of Blacksburg. The following August 4, he signed over the deed to the land—38 and three-quarter acres—to the town trustees.
Today, the streets of central downtown Blacksburg remain pretty much where William laid them out more than 200 years ago.
University Libraries has gathered hundreds of historical Blacksburg photos in the Virginia Tech Imagebase.