What's In A Name?
The town of Big Stone Gap is rich in history.
In the beginning, it was all wilderness that the Native Americans
used for hunting. Later the settlers came to explore and inhabit
the area. The town of Big Stone Gap was originally called Three
Forks, then Mineral City and finally in 1888 it was named Big
Stone Gap. The streets and historical markers throughout the
town are named for the Native Americans, early settlers, the
1890's developers and recent towns people. We hope you enjoy
discovering how our streets and historical markers received their
Cherokee Avenue was named for the Cherokee Indians
who originally hunted this area. About ten thousand years ago,
during the end of the Ice Age, the forefathers of the Cherokee
made their way from Asia to this continent. It is believed that
the Cherokee and Iroquois are brother tribes. They were known
for their superior height and robust stature. The Cherokee lived
off the land and used nature's resources to survive. You can
still visit the Cherokee Nation today in Cherokee, North Carolina.
Wyandotte Avenue was named for the Wyandotte Indians.
The Wyandotte Indians became known to the English and Americans
and were made up of the surviving remnants of three great Ontario
Iroquoian confederacies: the Huron, Petun, and Neutrals. They
spoke a northern language. The Wyandottes worked to maintain
their old position as a favored middleman in the fur trade with
the French, however, their population did not exceed 1500. Hence,
they were constantly involved in political changes, playing
allies against one another. Eventually, they were not trusted and
their old allies threatened war with them.
The town of Big Stone Gap originally consisted of three farms
owned by the Horton, Gilley, and Flanary families. This area
was explored by such people as Dr. Thomas Walker, Daniel Boone,
Elisha Wallen, Ambrose Powell and others. Many people traveled
the Wilderness Road cut by Daniel Boone and his men and settled
in this area.
Wallens Ridge Boulevard was named for Elisha Wallen, who was
an early explorer during the time that Daniel Boone trail blazed
through these mountains and Little Stone Mountain made a V with
its point at Little Stone Gap. Within the V lies Powell Valley
and the town of Big Stone Gap. At the open mouth of the V, another
mountain pushes west of East Stone Gap, this is called Wallens
Powell Avenue was named for Ambrose Powell. He was
a member of Dr. Thomas Walker's party that explored the area
in 1749. These men were the first to explore this area. They
came "westward in order to discover a proper place for a
settlement." While exploring the area, Ambrose carved his
name on a beech tree. Today many things bare Ambrose Powell's
name such as, Powell River, Powell Valley, Powell Valley High
School, and even a bank.
Wood Avenue was named for the
Wood Brothers. The two brothers were N.B. and Henry Clinton Wood.
They were from Gate City, Virginia. Henry served as a Major in
the Civil War, was at the Battle of Gettysburg and wounded at
Chancellorsville. Little is known about N.B. Wood, but later
the brothers bought the Gilley Farm.
Shawnee Avenue was named for the Shawnee Indian Tribe.
Shawnee comes from the Algonquin word "shawun," meaning
"southerner." They usually call themselves the Shawano
or Shawanoe or Shawanese. The Shawnee Indians were believed to
have originally located in Southern Ohio, West Virginia, and
Pennsylvania areas. Today, there are more than 14,000 Shawnee
Indians located on four reservations. The groups consist of Absentee
Shawnee, Eastern Shawnee, Cherokee Shawnee, and the Loyal Shawnee.
The largest of these groups is the Loyal Shawnee. They received
the name "Loyal" for serving the union during the Civil
Preston Street was named for
Robert Preston. He owned about 1400 acres of land in the vicinity
of Big Stone Gap. There is also a street in East Stone Gap named
for Preston. Preston hired J.P. Wolfe, a well known surveyor,
to survey the lands of Wise County.
Albermarle (Albemarle) Street
is named for Albemarle County, Virginia, the home of Dr. Thomas
Walker. He was born on January 25, 1715. Dr. Walker was a distinguished
physician and explorer and was sent with a party of men from Albermarle County by the Royal Land Company in the spring of
1749. On his trip, he explored what is now Wise County. He was
the first to record existence of the Gap. Throughout his life,
Walker acted as a surveyor and land agent. Dr. Walker died in
his home on November 9, 1794.
Gilley Avenue was named for
Gordon Gilley. The Gilley's were one of the first families to
settle in the area. They were also one of the first to build
a grist mill on Powell River. The Gilley's farm was in the center
of what is now known as Big Stone Gap. Gordon, a descendent of
the Gilley family, was one of the first town council members,
and also the first postmaster. He served on the police guard
The Marker Reads:
BIG STONE GAP
Big Stone Gap, originally
known as Three Forks, received its charter, February 23, 1888.
A post office was established April 12, 1856. In the early nineties
it became the center of iron and coal development. It was the
home and workshop of John Fox, Jr., novelist, and author of "Trail
of the Lonesome Pine."
The town of Big Stone Gap was
originally called Three Forks, because three forks of the Powell
River came together here. Later it was called Mineral City, because
of the rich mineral deposits. In 1888, the town officially became
known as Big Stone Gap. In the early 1890's the area was the
center of iron and coal development.
Clinton Avenue is named for Henry
Clinton Wood. He was born in Pleasant Hill, Scott County on February 15, 1836
and died December 8, 1909. During the Civil War, H. C. Wood organized a company
which became a part of the 37th Virginia Infantry Regiment. He was the Senator
for Wise, Lee and Buchanan Counties from 1880-1882. In 1885, he was the
Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, but was defeated.
Clinton was the first President of the South Atlantic Railroad.
Taggart Avenue was named for John K.
Taggart, an engineer,
was instrumental in the coke and coal industry of Southwest Virginia. He came to
the Virginia Coal and Iron Company from Pennsylvania in 1890, to produce coal
commercially and to manufacture coke. Taggart planned the entire operation and
taught the civil engineers how to survey for the coal and coke plants. Taggart
believed this region's coke was the best he had ever seen. In 1896, he was
killed in an explosion at a stone quarry.
Jerome Street was named for Jerome Hill
Duff. He was a Lee County native and lived in the house which is now known as
the June Tolliver House. He was the owner and manager of the Central Hotel which
was originally located across the street from his home. Later the hotel caught
fire and burned. Mr. Duff passed away in October 1890. Mrs. Duff then opened her
home to boarders in order to make a living. In the winter of 1893, Elizabeth
Morris, the little girl most people think of as the model for June Tolliver in
The Trail of the Lonesome Pine lived there.
Fox Street was named for John Fox,
Jr. He was born on December 16, 1862 at Stony Point, Kentucky. He moved to Big
Stone Gap in 1890. Upon moving to Big Stone Gap, he began to publish fiction
stories about the people of the Appalachian mountains. In the novel, The
Trail of the Lonesome Pine, John tells of an adventure of a young coal engineer meeting a young
mountain girl. Fox wrote several novels and numerous short stories, based on
living in Southwest Virginia.
Holton Avenue was named for Governor Linwood Holton. He was born on
September 21, 1923 in Big Stone Gap. He attended public school and graduated
from Washington and Lee University in 1944. After serving in World War II,
Holton attended Harvard Law School and earned a degree in 1949. He then began
his law practice in Roanoke. He was deeply involved in politics and in 1969,
Holton was elected Governor of Virginia, serving from 1970-1974. He was the
first Republican Governor of this century.
Morris Circle was named for Anna Barron Morris. She was an active civic
leader in the town of Big Stone Gap, and was an active member of the Lonesome
Pine Hospital Board of Directors and the Women's Auxiliary. She served two terms
on the town council and a total of forty years on the Big Stone Gap Planning
Commission. Thirty of these years were as chairman. Mrs. Morris was voted "Woman
of the Year" by the Wise County Democratic Women's Club in 1985.