Get Smart: History & Culture
Home to presidents and inventors and the fields on which battles were fought, the Shenandoah Valley is rich with history and culture. For thousands of years, American Indians thrived in the bountiful hunting ground. By the 1600’s, the English began to settle the area. Soon after, adventurous Europeans – mostly of German and Scots-Irish heritage – were lured by the excellent farmland of the Shenandoah Valley.
Trace the legacy of these early settlers at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton. It is a captivating outdoor living-history museum that provides a unique way to discover the life and cultural heritage of our forefathers.
In Lexington, you can take a horse-drawn carriage or walking tour of historic sites in downtown, including the Stonewall Jackson House. Washington & Lee University, where Confederate General Robert E. Lee once served as president, houses the Lee Chapel & Museum. At the Marshall Museum, located on the Virginia Military Institute post, you can learn about General George C. Marshall’s efforts to create military service opportunities for minorities during WWII.
Not far away, you can visit the historical McCormick Farm in Raphine where Cyrus McCormick developed the mechanical grain reaper in the 1830s.
Key Civil War battle sights are described on historic markers dotting roads and fields throughout the Valley. Due to the crossroads, railways, and the prosperous agrarian culture, the Shenandoah Valley was known as the “bread basket of the Confederacy” and the entire region was a prime location for Civil War campaigns. Museums and trails highlighting the American Civil War can be found in all of the localities.
And there’s more. A portion of the Lewis & Clark Historic Trail runs through Rockbridge County. The Waynesboro Heritage Museum portrays the city’s history and legacy. Historic Staunton Foundation provides guided architectural walking tours (free!) every Saturday morning from April-October. The Virginia Quilt Museum in Harrisonburg has not only a collection of Civil War era quilts but also highlights contemporary quilting with exhibits throughout the year. A large Confederate monument in Staunton’s Thornrose Cemetery marks the location where 1,777 soldiers are buried.