A Brief History of Roanoke County
Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge, the Roanoke County of today is the product of a long and varied history. The land itself was carved out of an ancient mountain range which left a great basin of fertile ground at the foot of Appalachia. In time, the region attracted herds of game and with them, the valley’s first residents. The Native Americans who settled what was to become the Roanoke Valley created an agriculture-based society along a winding river. These early settlers created a currency, ‘rawrenoc’, smoothed shells from which the word Roanoke is likely derived.
The first European settlers ventured into the valley around 1740; they were primarily Scotch-Irish immigrants, a hearty lot who pushed the boundaries of the western frontier and often clashed with both the natives and the English settlers who claimed the land as their own.
The population of Western Virginia, especially Botetourt County, continued to grow in the years following the American Revolution, burgeoned by an influx of German immigrants who followed the Great Road west. In 1802, the Town of Salem was founded along this road. Sustained at first by westward travelers, the town was officially incorporated by the General Assembly in 1836. Two years later, in 1838, Roanoke County was carved out of portions of Botetourt and Montgomery Counties; Salem became the county seat.
The arrival of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad in 1852, the decision to locate Norfolk and Western Railroad headquarters in the valley, and the accompanying birth of Roanoke City and the Town of Vinton in 1884 gradually changed the character of Roanoke County from rural and agrarian to suburban, industrial, and commercial.
The latter half of the 20th century saw the effects of this transition - population growth, residential and corporate expansion, and with it, a demand for increased services which expanded the scope and mission of county government.
In order to meet the demands of a changing community, Roanoke County was chartered by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1986, effectively granting the county much of the legal flexibility generally afforded to city governments.
Today, Roanoke County remains dedicated to promoting a high quality of life and ample opportunity for over 90,000 residents. Maintaining excellent schools, ensuring effective public safety, and promoting competitive economic development remain top priorities for the county. Adaptive administration, regional cooperation, and public-private partnerships are leading the way. Together, we are working towards the promise of a bright tomorrow - a promise that begins with a strong foundation.