History of Wise County

Historical Look at Wise County in 1932


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Hospital Committee on Wise County 1932

Report From The Hearing in Washington D. C. in 1932

This statement was supplementary to the brief filed on be half of Wise County by the Hospitalization committee prior to the hearing in Washington, D. C., January 27, 1932. Until 1890, only one railroad was within 100 miles away. No hard surfaced road was built in Wise County until 1910 or in any adjoining county until 1915. Until just a few years ago, the mountaineers of the Southern Appalachians lived as the pioneers had lived, the axe and the rifle were still their weapons, they still had the same fight with nature; they were still dependent upon their own resources; most of their clothing came from the home loom and the spinning wheel. They developed in hardiness, self-reliance, independence, pride, hospitality, and good-heartedness. These people retain the characteristics that have been born and bred in them for generations past.


In the brief filed on behalf of Wise County under the heading “Railroads”, the county may be reached readily from any point in the surrounding mountainous sections of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. In that same brief, under the heading “Highways”, is described the hard surfaced roads that extend north, east, south, and west from and into Wise County. Within a 75-mile radius from the center of Wise County, one may reach that center from any point upon a hard surfaced highway within five hours by public bus or private automobile.


Within a radius of 100 miles from the center of Wise County is a population of more than 2,000,000. Any highway point within this radius is not more than six hours from the center of Wise County by automobile.

Wise County is home to the mountaineer, whether he still rudely cultivates some steep, hillside farm and comes to town to “trade” with breeches stuffed in cowhide boots and wearing an old time butternut shirt, or whether he has become a merchant, banker or professional man in one of the bustling towns of the county. Regardless of occupation, education, or surface indications, he is still a mountaineer with a mountaineer’s view of life, and whether he is from Wise County or elsewhere in the Southern Appalachians, he understands the people and their ways and they understand him. In Wise County are no great cities to confuse, discourage, or spoil the mountaineer, but there are thriving towns with populations of from three to five thousand within their corporate limits and with a total trading population of more than 150,000. Good shops and stores are found in these towns, well-managed and affording fair prices, and courteous treatment to every customer. Here may be purchased every article of household or personal use usually required by any family throughout the year.

In Wise County are 89 graded schools and 9 accredited high schools occupying buildings costing more than $2,000,000.00. Here are 100 churches representing an investment of more than $1,000,000.00. Here is every form of civic and social enterprise for men and women alike. Rainbow trout abound in Ammunnega Falls and to a lesser extent in “Roaring Branch”; bass are taken from the larger streams; ruffed grouse, the king of all game birds, are found in the old fields and thickets of the mountains; and quail in the fields of the valleys.

There are walks and rides of never-failing interest for pedestrian and equestrian. There is golf and tennis, swimming and camping. There are modern sound motion picture theaters in every town where new releases are shown and where occasionally a stage play is booked. It has been said of Wise County that it is like one large city and that its people work harder and have more fun than in any other community in Virginia.

 Source of the Information

This article is the part of an existing report filed in Wash., D. C., January 27, 1932 by the Hospitalization Committee for the proposed St. Mary’s Hospital. This article was prepared in 1988 by Denise Ellen Gabriele for the 50th Anniversary of the Virginia Avenue, St. Anthony's Catholic Church.