Settlement and Formation of County.-Adventurous pioneers from the Virginia colonies to the east first settled in Carroll County territory in the eighteenth century. With bravery and with love for this mountainous region which they recognized as richly endowed in beauty and resources, these settlers built their rude cabins and began a century of struggle against Indian attacks and the privations of the wilderness. Other pioneers came-some from Carolina on the south, some from other than Virginia colonies along the Atlantic seaboard. It is logical, even inevitable, that such environment should produce men of such courage and love of liberty as brought forth the first Declaration of Independence.
On January 20, 1775, a band of patriots from Carroll and Grayson territory and other sections along the New River valley met at the old Lead Mines, located about 13 miles northeast of Galax on the edge of Wythe County, and prepared a document now authoritatively recognized as the first step toward an open declaration of independence. The men who drew up this document were known as the Freemen of Fincastle County, which at that time composed the area from which the counties of Washington, Montgomery, and Wythe were later formed.
This document was directed to the Delegates of this (Fincastle) Colony, then in attendance upon the Continental Congress at Philadelphia. It is addressed “To the Honorable Peyton Randolph, Esq., Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Jr., Richard Bland, Benjamin Harri son, and Edmund Pendleton, Esquires, the Delegates from this Colony who attended the Continental Congress held at Philadelphia,” and said, in part:
“…We are ready and willing to contribute all in ourpower for the support of His Majesty’s government if applied toconstitutionally and when the grants are made by our ownrepresentatives, but we cannot think of surrendering our libertyand property to the power of a venal British Parliament, or to thewill of a corrupt Ministry.
“We by no means desire to shake off our duty, or allegiance toour lawful sovereign, but . . . if no pacific measures shall beproposed or adopted by Great Britain, and our enemies attempt todragoon us out of those inestimable privileges which we areentitled to as subjects, and to reduce us to a state of slavery, wedeclare that we are deliberately and resolutely determined never tosurrender them to any power upon earth but at the, expense of ourlives.”
Operation of these old Lead Mines has contributed richly to the county’s history. Their products were used mainly in making ammunition for General Washington’s army in the Revolutionary War and for General Lee’s army in the War Between the States. It was also on this spot that Colonel William Preston ordered the militia of Montgomery to assemble. On the day appointed, February 10, 1781, 350 men responded and on the 18th day of the month these men took part in the attack upon the British at Guilford Courthouse.
In 1842, fifty-two years after the counties of Washington, Montgomery, and Wythe were formed from territory belonging to Fincastle, Carroll County was cut of from Grayson, which in turn had belonged to Wythe until 1793. The county was named in honor of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the Maryland patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Colonel Carroll was at that time the only survivor among those whose signature declared the Colonists a free people. He was also one of the chief promoters of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. In 1845 a portion of Patrick County was annexed to Carroll by an act of the state legislature. This area is now known as Fancy Gap District.
Historical Statement. Unlike many counties, Carroll has never found it necessary or desirable to change her county seat. Hillsville continues an unbroken era as the seat of justice. Here the first court was held in the dwelling house of James Stafford, in May, 1842. This old building still stands and is to this day used as a residence. Records show that A. W. C. Nowlin was the first judge of the county court, and William B. Lindsay the first clerk. William (Billy) Hill is believed to have been the first prosecuting attorney of the county, and Benjamin F . Cooley, elected 1842, was the first sheriff.
Hillsville.-Situated near the center of the county in the basin of the Blue Ridge on Little Reed Island creek, is Hillsville, the county seat, with a population of approximately 1,000. The town is not located on a railroad, being about ten miles from the nearest point on the Norfolk and Western. Considerable business activity prevails, however, the volume of trade showing a slow but steady increase each year. This upward trend reflects the steady development of Carroll County along industrial and agricultural lines.
Galax.-This community, for a short time known as Bonaparte, the principal town in Gray son and Carroll Counties, is situated about ten miles from the North Carolina state line and on the dividing line between the two counties. This division almost equally separates the town, making it half in Grayson and half in Carroll. The town has an altitude of 2,500 feet and a well deserved reputation for healthfulness. The Pulaski and Galax branch of the Norfolk and Western Railway has its terminus here. The town has worthy social and civic advantages, considerable manufacturing activity and other industrial enterprise.
There are 18 unincorporated towns in the county, many of them being very small with few if any civic or industrial enterprise, and thus are of lesser importance. Laurel Fork has one bank. Byllesby and Buck, on New River and less than a mile apart, are sites for the huge power developments of the Appalachian Electric Power Company but are without other enterprise. The unincorporated towns are:
Population: The population of Carroll County showed a sizeable increase in the decennial period from 1900 to 1910 but a much smaller increase during the next decade, according to United States census reports. The figures for the last three decennial periods are:
|Fancy Gap district||3,017||2,983||2,810|
|Laurel Fork district||5,047||4,967||5,061|
|Pine Creek district||3,577||3,759||3,454|
|Piper’s Gap district||4,344||4,323||3,654|
|Sulphur Springs district||5.298||5,084||4,324|
Galax, the principal community, which is divided by the Carroll and Grayson County line, showed exceptional increase in population between the last two census dates (1910 and 1920). The population was 755 in 1910 and 1,250 in 1920 – an increase of 40 per cent. in a decade. The increase has continued steadily since 1920. In the 1920 report, 363 of Galax’s total of 1,250 inhabitants were in Carroll County. There are approximately 4,000 people in the community at the present (1929).
The composition and characteristics of the population as given in 1920 census reports are shown below:
|Native white-native parentage||21,053|
|Native white-foreign parentage||3|
|Native white-mixed parentage||17|
|Per cent. native white||98.7|
|Per cent. foreign-born white||.3|
|Per cent. negro||1.0|
The above figures show that less than one-half of one per cent. of Carroll County inhabitants are foreign born.
Highways. Carroll County has 894.80 miles of public roads, 78.66 miles of which are in the state highway system. A total of 42.26 miles of the state roads are hard surfaced, 17.56 miles are soil surfaced, and 19.84 miles are conditioned. A large portion of the public road mileage of 894.80 is non-hard surface but most of the more important county connecting roads are semi-improved. There are approximately 24 miles of hard surfaced county roads.
Federal highway No. 121, which runs from Winston Salem, N. C., to Fort Chiswell, Wythe County, where it joins the Lee Highway, traverses Carroll County in a north-south direction. Hillsville, the county seat, is at the intersection of this Federal road and state routes No. 12 and No. 205. Route 12 is fully hard surfaced from Hillsville to Galax, which lies to the southwest about 13 miles. It enters the lower eastern section of the county from Floyd and is unimproved a distance of about 15 miles until it reaches Hillsville.