By Pat M. Burris © 1983
Issue: September, 1983
The story of Independence as we know it began on February 26, 1849, when the General Assembly in Richmond, Virginia, appointed commissioners to select a location for the county seat of Grayson County. These three commissioners, one each from Smyth, Wythe and Washington Counties met at the home of Colonial James Dickey in Grayson County to decide at what place the courthouse should be built (this decision was subject to the vote of the Assembly). At this time, a considerable controversy arose between the people of the Elk Creek area and the people of Old Town (formerly known as Grayson Courthouse), regarding the location. The final decision was to deny each of these groups the location and grant the site to the group of independents. As the result, the new site was named ‘Independence’ and, thus, became the county seat of Grayson County.
Certain requirements were set forth by the Assembly for the location of the proposed courthouse, the foremost being that it be near wood and water. The Independence location provided both - the site selected was surrounded by a large grove of oak trees and there were five springs nearby: the Dickey Spring, the Bedwell Spring, the Emanuel Spring, the John Vaughn Spring and the Mac James Spring. The local women of the town would do their laundry at the springs and visit with their friends and neighbors on warm summer days.
When the people learned that this was to be their county seat, they wanted roads, as did the commissioners. Topography maps were made and the east-west, north-south routes were established crossing the center of town. The courthouse was built in one “corner” of this crossroads, the town inn in another and Shelton and Poindexter built a general store in still another.
The first courthouse was built about 1850 of bricks made in the west end of Independence (the bricks for the college were thought to have been made at the same location). This courthouse was torn down about 1900 to make way for the current structure.
According to several citizens of the area, paper money was printed in the county (probably Independence) during the Civil War and furnished to several different companies of soldiers (along with meat and other supplies) of the Confederate Army.
In the 1930’s, Garnett Davis generated the first electricity for the town at the location of Joshua Cox’s gristmill at the falls of Peach Bottom Creek. It was at this same location that pioneers William Bourne, Jr. and Matthew Dickey opened the Old Point Hope Furnace.