In 1834, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation to develop a route known as the “Fincastle Turnpike” from the Wilderness Road at Fincastle to Cumberland Gap. The 248-mile road passed through the Virginia counties of Botetourt, Craig, Giles, Bland, Tazewell and Russell, then joined the Wilderness Road in Scott and Lee Counties.
The turnpike was 18 feet wide, “of good carriage way”, not to exceed 5% with soft sections “turnpiked by raising the centerline 18 inches above the horizontal line.” Toll gates were set up every fifteen miles, with each county responsible for collecting tolls and using the funds to maintain the road within their borders. The idea was to promote commerce and bind the western counties with the rest of the state.
Soon after the road was completed in 1841, trouble set in. Some counties fulfilled their responsibilities of upkeep and bonded debt while others flatly refused to service their section of the Fincastle Turnpike.
Before long, the Virginia General Assembly threw up their hands in disgust and turned the road over to the counties through which it passed. The Fincastle Turnpike slowly faded away, and the General Assembly authorized construction of the Southwest Turnpike from Salem to Bristol, thus bypassing the counties that refused to support the Fincastle Turnpike.
The Fincastle Turnpike was one of the routes settlers used to reach the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail as they traveled west across the mountains. The Turnpike ran through the heart of Scott County and visitors today can take a driving tour to visit many of the historic attractions of the county.
1. Site of Faris Station on the Wilderness Road
The Elisa Faris family was massacred here in 1787 by a band of renegade Indians marauding with the half-breed, Chief Benge. Faris Station was the last real way station for settlers heading to Kentucky from points east through the Moccasin Gap (3 miles south) and the Cumberland Gap (85 miles west) on the Virginia-Kentucky border. GPS – N36° 38.316′, W082° 34.215′. Located in front of Long John Silver’s on Kane Street in Downtown Gate City.
2. Williams Mill Dam
The original log dam constructed in the mid 1800s supported the first small corn gristmill on Moccasin Creek. The log dam was upgraded to concrete when a three-story mill replaced the original mill. The new mill produced wheat flour and corn meal as well as generating electricity for local residents in the 1940s. GPS – N36° 39.220′, W082° 32.536′. From Highway 71, turn left onto Slabtown Road.
3. Lawson Confederate Cemetery
Originally founded as the Lawson family cemetery, this is now an officially designated Confederate cemetery and also contains the graves of veterans of many other wars including the Revolutionary War. GPS – N36° 41.204′ W082° 29.953′. The entrance to the Cemetery is extremely difficult to find. When you see the large sign to Creation Kingdom Zoo, take the immediate right and follow road up to the top of the hill.
4. Kilgore Fort House
The Kilgore Fort House is thought to be the oldest building in Scott County. It was built in 1786 on Copper Creek by Robert Kilgore to protect his family against hostile Indians in the area. The fort house is privately owned and is not open to the public. GPS – N36° 44.143′, W082° 26.059′. You can get a good view of the Fort from Highway 71 just as you come down the mountain and cross the bridge.
5. Bush Mill
A working grist mill near Nickelsville. The mill is operated by the Nickelsville Ruritan Club during the Bush Mill Festival when grinding demonstrations are given and corn meal can be purchased. GPS – N36° 45.33′, W082° 26.106′. Off Highway 71, turn left onto Twin Springs Road and do down to bottom of hill. (You will have to circle back up to get to the next stop.)
6. Nickelsville War Memorial
Located at Keith Memorial Park, the War Memorial honors Scott County veterans in all wars from the Indian Wars through Vietnam. GPS – N36° 44.963′, W082° 25.285′. To get to the next stop, continue on Highway 71 until you get to Long Hollow Road, located right across from J&P Market. Turn left onto Long Hollow Road and follow for several miles down a rather twisty mountain road.
7. Fincastle Church
The church was originally constructed in 1876 by Samuel and Martha Blackwell on what was known as the Fincastle Turnpike, the road from Fincastle, Virginia, to Cumberland Gap. GPS – N36° 49.426′, W082° 26.585′. Unfortunately the church is no longer marked Fincastle Church. Stay on Long Hollow Road and church will be on the right. 36,49, 10 (N), 82, 33, 55 (W)
8. The Waterfall of Falls Creek
The splendor and beauty of this majestic falls can be ovserved from State Route 65 (Sinking Creek Highway) just north of the Dungannon town limits. Porter’s Mill once stood at this site to assist the townspeople in grinding their corn and other grains. To access the falls, once you get to the end of Long Hollow Road, turn left onto Sinking Creek Highway. Go down the mountain and on left hand side there is a small pull-off. From there, take the path to the left and you can get a good view on foot of the falls. Basically impossible to see from the road. 36, 49, 50 (N), 82, 26, 59 (W), (top of the falls on Long Hollow Road).
9. Flanary Archaeological Site
Archaic and Woodland materials unearthed here in 1977 showed intermittent occupations for about 8,000 years with a palisade village occupation during the late Woodland-Mississippian Period.
10. Hanging Rock Recreation Area
The recreation area welcomes hikers, anglers, and has group shelters with tables and grills along with the falls of of Little Stony Creek. Two waterfalls. To access this recreation area, turn left at the end of Sinking Creek Highway. Follow the road past Scotty’s Market and the old Osborne Hardware Store on the left, take a sharp left into Hanging Rock Recreation Area.
Alternate Tour Route Dungannon and Clinch River Scenic Tour
The tour starts in the town of Dungannon and guides visitors along the Clinch River, through many scenic areas and historical points of interest and back to Dungannon.
1. Osborne Store
Experience the charm of an old fashioned hardware store located in the town of Dungannon. Take delight in the variety of traditional items featured at the store including hand working tools, toys, grading supplies, practical housewares and gifts. The Osborne Store was first opened in 1938 and is still in operation today. GPS – N36° 49.702′, W082° 27.997′.
2. Dungannon Information Kiosk
Constructed in 2003, a project of the Dungannon Development Commission, Inc., the kiosk is a storehouse of information on the sites and natural beauties of the surrounding area. GPS – N36° 49.687′, W082° 28.046′. (In front of the Dungannon Town Hall)
3. Dungannon Depot and Community Park
From 1910 to 1912, the Depot in Dungannon was in a boxcar, open at both ends and located on a side track. The present Depot was built by hand beginning in 1910 and completed in 1912. The last regular passenger train to run was May 2, 1955. Since then, a special Santa Train runs each November just before Thanksgiving. The Depot was moved to its present location in 1978. GPS – N36° 49.659′, W082° 28.112′.
4. Rikemo Lodge
Rikemo Lodge provided a warm, rustic environment for family gatherings and vacations, small business conferences and church retreats until it was closed in 2009. Perched atop Copper Ridge amidst trees and peaceful views, 600 feet above the pristine Clinch River, Rikemo inspires introspection and good conversation. The lodge is no longer open to the public. GPS – N36° 49.040′, W082° 29.565′.
5. Clinch River Swinging Bridge
Although rarely used anymore, swinging bridges were once an everyday path for people living on the back side of the river to be able to correspond with everyone else in the community. GPS – N36° 46.995′, W082° 33.780′.
6. Mann’s Farm
Mann’s Farm is family-owned and located at the mouth of Big Stony Creek in Fort Blackmore. Known throughout the region for their strawberries in season, they offer a wide selection of fresh fruits, farm fresh vegetables, and much more in a farmer’s market roadside setting at their state of the art grading building. GPS – N36° 46.422′, W082° 34.636′.
7. Fort Blackmore Site
Blackmore’s Fort stood on the north side of the Clinch River. Daniel Boone is said to have spent the night here on his way to Castle’s Woods. Also note from this site, on the south side of the river, a steep high cliff where Indians were said to hide out waiting to attack the settlers in the fort. GPS – N36° 46.034′, W082° 34.945′.
8. Veteran’s Memorial
Located on Veteran’s Memorial Highway, the Veteran’s Memorial was dedicated on the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Month in the year of our Lord 2000 and pays tribute to Scott County men and women that made the ultimate sacrifice during their tour of duty in the Armed Forces. GPS – N36° 45.451′, W082° 34.754′.
John Salling was one of the last two Confederate veterans of the Civil War. He was born in 1846 and lived until March 16, 1959. He was awarded the honorary title of “General” by the U.S. Congress. 36, 43, 32 (N), 82, 38, 18 (W). Located on the Clinch River Highway.
10. Rye Cove Fort Site
Rye Cove Fort, also referred to as Crissman’s Fort and Carter’s Fort, was one of the major forts on the Virginia frontier during the Indian wars from 1774 to 1794. The fort was built by Isaac Chrissman in 1774 and included a stockade enclosing 1/2 acre of land. Chrissman and two family members were slain by Indians in 1776.
Rye Cove High School began as a four-room school in 1907 and was later expanded to eight rooms and an auditorium. At 1 p.m. on May 2, 1929, the school was completely demolished by a cyclone. 150 pupils and teachers were present at the time of the tornado; 12 pupils and one one teacher were killed.
12. Rye Cove Brick Church
The Rye Cove Brick Church was built in 1858. The original agreement to build an Academy and Church House included instructions for the building’s construction. The bricks were made by slaves at an area brick kiln. It was used as a school until the early 1900s and has been used as a church by both Methodists and Baptists. GPS – N36° 43.161′, W082° 43.011′. The shortest way to access the Brick Church is to turn onto Brick Church Road just across from the Wilderness Road Blockhouse. If you continue on the dirt road, you will see stacked fieldstone fences, made by early slaves in the region. Descendants of many of these slaves have a reunion every few years in the Rye Cove area.
The Wilderness Road Blockhouse is a replica of the Anderson Blockhouse that was built about 1775 in East Carter’s Valley. The Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Association in partnership with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation built the Blockhouse at this site along the Fincastle Turnpike in 2003. GPS – N36° 42.401′, W082° 33.142′.
14. Revolutionary War Patriots Memorial
This memorial, placed in 2005 by the Overmountain Men Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, honors all the patriots of the American Revolution who by their sacrifices secured our freedom. GPS – N36° 42.401′, W082° 44.142′.
15. Natural Tunnel Chairlift (RR)
An Alpine type chairlift transports visitors to “nature’s marvel in stone” from the Visitor’s Center to the tunnel floor below. The ride down offers a spectacular view of the geology of the tunnel and Lover’s Leap. GPS – N36° 42.401′, W082° 44.143′.