History of Pulaski County
& Early Years:
The County of Pulaski was created from
portions of Montgomery and Wythe Counties on March 30, 1839 when Pulaski County became the 87th
county of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The County was named in honor of Count
Casimir Pulaski, an exiled Polish nobleman who came to America and joined George
Washington’s army in 1777. After
becoming a brigadier-general and chief of cavalry in the Continental Army,
Count Pulaski gave his life in the cause of American Freedom when he was mortally
wounded at Savannah in October
On May 9, 1839 sixteen (16) gentlemen justices, newly
commissioned by the Governor of Virginia, met at James Tiffany’s Tavern in
Newbern to hold court and set up the new county government. One of the first actions taken by these
gentlemen was the appointment of Benjamin R. Floyd, son of past Virginia
Governor, as the county’s first commonwealth attorney. Shortly thereafter, the court divided the
county into four districts, Northeastern, Northwestern, Southeastern and
In the year 1840
the sixth census of the United States was taken. According to this census, the total
population of Pulaski County was 3,739,
consisting of 2,768 free whites, 971 blacks, with only 17 of this number being free
blacks. Therefore, slightly over a
fourth of the population of Pulaski County at this time was
slaves. These slaves were owned by 109
families with most of these families owning less than 10 slaves.
In 1840 the county
was largely agricultural with 1,525 people employed in this profession. There were 142 employed in manufacturing and
various trades with only six (6) professional men.
years later in 1861 the Pulaski Guards (soldiers) boarded a train at Dublin headed to Richmond. Organized in 1859, the Pulaski Guards were
the first to leave Pulaski County for active
duty. They later became a part of the famous
Stonewall Brigade. The Civil War called
upon the county men to make a great sacrifice over the four bloody years of the
war. Well over twice as many Pulaski County men died in the
Civil War than would in global World War II (at which time the county’s
population had more than quadrupled).
Confederate troops fought the Northern army at the Battle of Cloyd’s Farm in Pulaski County. Although none of the four companies
organized in Pulaski County at the beginning
of the Civil War took part in the Battle of Cloyd’s Farm, members of home guard
companies from both Pulaski and Montgomery Counties took part in the
battle. Also, there were some civilians
who seized their rifles and hurried to the Cloyd’s farm to join the Confederate
troops. Two future United States Presidents fought
at the Battle of Cloyd’s Farm including Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes of the
twenty-third Ohio Regiment and Lieutenant William McKinley of the same
following the Civil War brought a period of great unrest to Pulaski County. There was much poverty and hunger resulting
in an alarming crime rate. However, by
the end of 1869 the crime rate fell sharply and continued to decline.
In 1870 the old
English system of county government by a court composed of gentlemen justices
or magistrates came to an end. A county
board of supervisors elected by the people took over at this time and performed
the executive powers previously performed by the gentlemen justices. The county treasurer was also established in
1870. Formerly, the sheriff of the
county had served also as the treasurer.
A decade following
the reconstruction period found Pulaski County’s economy
experiencing a boom. There were two
incorporated towns in the county – Newbern and Dublin, some sixty-five
(65) merchants and tradesmen in business, nine (9) hotels, twenty (20) flour
and grist mills, and seventeen (17) saw mills scattered about the county. The 1880’s brought several heavy industries
to Pulaski County including the
Bertha Zinc Works, the charcoal fire Boom Furnace near Allisonia, and Pulaski
Iron Company. Also, by the end of the
1880’s Dora Furnace was under construction in Pulaski. The rapid expansion of industry inspired the
Norfolk & Western to build two branch lines running out of Pulaski County. While trade and manufacturing were going
strong in Pulaski County, they accounted
for only a minor part of the economy.
The county’s biggest industry remained farming and stock raising. In addition, during this decade a number of new
schools and churches were built throughout Pulaski County.
In 1886 the Town
of Pulaski was incorporated
under the name of “Pulaski City”. The future county seat rapidly developed into
a manufacturing center and railroad town.
The Norfolk & Western Railroad made a valuable contribution to the
new town in its early days by building the Maple Shade Inn.
The county seat remained at Newbern until the courthouse
was completely destroyed by fire on November
27, 1893. A big controversy
subsequently developed between Newbern, Pulaski and Dublin as to where the county
seat should be located after the burning of the Courthouse. Elections were held twice to determine the
final location of the county seat. The
second election finally wound up in the State Court of Appeals. In March 1895, the court ruled in favor of
the Town of Pulaski as the new county
The land for the
new courthouse and jail was donated by the Pulaski Land and Improvement
Company. The new courthouse
construction was completed in 1896. The
total cost of the building was approximately $25,000, including architect’s fees.
In 1898 one of Pulaski County’s citizens, Mr.
J. Hoge Tyler, was elected as the Governor of the Commonwealth. During his administration a new state
constitution was written. Governor
Tyler’s old home, Belle-Hampton, still stands today in the Back Creek area of
the Pulaski County.
Shortly after the
turn of the century a group of progressive Pulaski County citizens
organized the “Pulaski Board of Trade”.
This Board was created to seek diversified industries for Pulaski,
including woodworking plants, furniture factories, overall and pants factories,
cotton and woolen mills, and an ice plant.
The “Board of Trade” became the Chamber of Commerce in 1952.
In 1905 the
Pulaski Mining Company’s plant was completed on a site lying between the Pulaski
Iron and Dora Furnace. This was
Pulaski’s fourth heavy industry. This
industry, known locally as the “Acid Plant”, was contemporary with the Bertha
Zinc Company, Pulaski Iron Company, and Dora Furnace. However, the Acid Plant outlived them all by
many years. The Acid Plant was one of
Pulaski’s larger industries employing an average of over 250 men. During World Wars I and II the plant’s
production reached its peaks.
Farming in the
early 1900’s continued to be the basic industry of Pulaski County and had been
developed to a high degree by generations of industrious and progressive farm
families. Truck crops, wheat, corn, oats
and other small grain were grown in Pulaski County, however, the
larger landowners concentrated on livestock.
By the turn of the century the county’s first herd of purebred
Aberdeen-Angus had been established on a farm owned by J. R. K. Bell. At about the same time period herds of
purebred Herefords were grazing on the pastureland of Haven Howe’s New River farm. Pulaski County gained a
reputation for producing some of the finest cattle, horses, and sheep in America.
hard working spirit of county citizens, a massive stone triple archway was
built of Peak Creek stone in 1907 and shipped to Norfolk to form an
impressive gateway to the Pulaski County Exhibits at the Jamestown Exposition
in Norfolk. At the close of the exposition, the archway
was taken down, brought back to Pulaski and, shortly thereafter, erected in
front of the courthouse square as its new entranceway. A number of exhibits from Pulaski County were displayed at
the exposition at the 1907 Jamestown Exposition, including minerals, metals,
and other products from Pulaski County farms and
manufacturing facilities. In addition,
two statutes from the Bertha Zinc Works exhibited at the Exposition are
presently on display at the Old Courthouse, First Floor.
During World War I
several Pulaski County men received
World War I citations from both the American and French governments. Among these were Dr. William P. Gilmer of
Draper’s Valley and Roy Hall of Pulaski.
Dr. Gilmer, a young navy medical officer was sent to France where he served
in field hospitals. Roy Hall served in Pulaski County’s Company L and
fought the Germans at the Argonne Forest. He was awarded the American Silver Star and
the French Croix de Guerre for his bravery and heroism.
& WORLD WAR II ERA:
Like the rest of America, the 1920’s
brought prosperity to Pulaski County. Factories were operating, unemployment was
low and farm prices were good. However,
with the crash of the stock market in October 1929, this lifestyle
changed. It was estimated that during
the depth of the depression some 8,000 Pulaski County citizens were
facing stark hunger. Many others were
near the limit of self-support. Pulaski
Iron Company went out of business just at the beginning of the depression and
many ironworkers became unemployed. While
hosiery mills were maintaining operations and employed several hundred people,
mostly women, the woodworking industries that employed men were hurting. Unemployment increased and wages dropped to
10 cents per hour.
In 1934 at long last the great
depression was loosening its grip on the county. Preliminary work had begun in preparation for
the construction of Appalachian Electric Power Company’s $11,000,000 hydro-electric
dam on New River and construction of the Lowman’s Ferry Bridge had been approved
by the State Highway Commission. In
addition, many young Pulaski County men were employed
through federal programs such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Through the WPA, a number of relief works
projects were completed, including highway and bridge building projects,
landscaping, sanitation projects, distribution of surplus commodities, camps
for the underprivileged children, and many other activities. It was under the WPA program that Calfee
Athletic Stadium in the Town of Pulaski and the park on
top of Draper’s Mountain Overlook were completed.
In 1939 the county celebrated its 100th
anniversary. Many activities took place
in August of 1939 to mark this anniversary including a day of worship with
centennial services being conducted in county churches, parades, band music,
the crowning of a county queen and princesses, coronation ball, horse show,
fireworks and two presentations of the pageant “100 Years of Progress”.
The 1940’s brought World War II to our
nation and Pulaski County. Again, Pulaski County citizens were
called upon to defend our nation and ninety-four (94) citizens of Pulaski County gave their lives
in this War.
The 1950’s brought prosperity to the
county. The Pulaski County Livestock
Market in Dublin had grown into
one of Virginia’s largest
livestock markets. Most of the
manufacturing plants of the 1930’s continued to operate with expanding
production at this time. In addition,
Radford Army Ammunition Plant, located in nearby Montgomery County, provided many
jobs for Pulaski County citizens. The New River Valley Airport and Piedmont
Aviation provided daily passenger service utilizing the new airport. The Airport became the first of several
regional initiatives to locate in Pulaski County and remains as a
long standing example of regional local government cooperation.
In 1958 the new Courthouse was built
behind the Old Courthouse facing Third Street in the Town of Pulaski. In addition, a new Library was constructed
and opened on Third Street in the Town of Pulaski in the late
In 1965 Interstate
Highway System 81 was completed through Pulaski County. Also
during this same year, the Ruritan National headquarters were moved from Wakefield, Virginia to Newbern.
As with previous
wars, the Vietnam War impacted Pulaski County citizens as many young
Pulaski County men and women were
called upon to serve. Despite the
controversy which followed this war, Pulaski County citizens served with
dignity and honor. A Pulaski County native and
citizen, Julius Long, was imprisoned for fifty-eight (58) months in a Vietnam prisoner of war
camp. Mr. Long presently resides in Pulaski County.
In the fall of
1970 New River Community
This two-year state supported school is located just north of Dublin and serves
students from the surrounding counties and the City of Radford. Enrollment for the 1970-71 school session
totaled 637 students. Today enrollment
has grown to over 4,000 students.
The Board of
Supervisors in 1971 appointed its first County Administrator. Previously, the Clerk of the Court also served
as clerk to the Board of Supervisors and the chief administrative officer for
the community. This appointment was made
as the result of an ever increasing work load upon the court staff. In the 1970’s the county continued to grow
and public water lines were constructed in many areas of the county.
Merging of high
schools in Dublin and Pulaski into
a county-wide high school was a big issue in the early 1970’s. A referendum was held on this issue and the consolidated
county high school was approved by the voters as was the debt necessary to
finance its construction. In 1974, the Dublin and Pulaski High Schools merged to become Pulaski County High School located at the
center of the county near Dublin. A new elementary school, Critzer Elementary,
was also built and occupied in the 1970’s.
A county building
inspection department was also created in mid 1973. Previously, the building inspections within
the county had been done by the Commissioner of the Revenue’s Office or the
Town of Pulaski’s inspection staff.
During 1974-75 the
Board of Supervisors converted the “Old Central School Building” into the County Administration Building housing county
offices and several state offices. The County Administration Building has since been
renovated again and still serves as the local governing body’s office building.
In 1974 White
Motors built a new truck building facility at Dublin near the county
high school. This heavy duty truck
manufacturing facility became one of the largest employers in Pulaski County. Through various mergers and other means, this
facility is known as the New River Valley Truck Assembly Plant in which both
Volvo and Mack trucks are built. The
assembly plant currently employs approximately 1,700 individuals.
On April 19, 1974 the Pulaski County Public Service
Authority supplied water service to it first customer in Pulaski County. A new water treatment plant facility was
built in Draper in 1978 to supply the county’s water needs. This facility pumps water from Claytor Lake and supplies
water to PSA customers, as well as to the Town of Dublin.
The 1970’s brought
a number of changes to the county’s economy.
Construction activity grew as formerly agricultural land was developed
into industrial parks, housing developments and highways. Despite a decrease in total acreage, the
agricultural economy also grew and beef production reached an all-time high in
the early 1980’s. Also, a number of
small shopping facilities sprung up with large chain stores experiencing the
bulk of the merchandising business during this time period.
In the 1970’s
local governments addressed national environmental problems by building on the
regional model started with the construction of the New River Valley Airport. Faced with new federal standards for clean
water, the Town of Pulaski, the Town of Dublin, Pulaski County, the City of Radford and Montgomery County jointly merged
existing sewer treatment plants into the Peppers Ferry Regional Wastewater
was followed in the 1980’s with the joint utilization and development of
landfills between the Town of Dublin, the Town of Pulaski, Pulaski County, and the City of Radford, as various
landfills ran out of space and the problems of locating and citing new facilities
faced the various governing bodies. The
New River Resource Authority was formed and subsequently expanded to include Giles County, Montgomery County and other towns
in the joint operation of the current landfill presently located on Cloyd’s
governments operating within Pulaski County, the issue of
consolidation was looked at in the early 1980’s. A consolidation advisory committee was
appointed with members serving from all three governments to review the issue
and determine advantages, disadvantages, and any cost savings. A referendum on this issue was defeated by
the voters of Pulaski County. This issue divided many Pulaski County citizens in
considering the impact of loosing the identity of the two towns becoming shires
within Pulaski County.
In 1989 a new
branch library was constructed and opened in the Town of Dublin. The library was named the Charles & Ona
B. Free Memorial Library.
At the end of the 1980’s on December 29, 1989 the Pulaski County Courthouse burned
again with only the stone walls left standing.
Many Pulaski County citizens were
devastated by this fire. As in 1883
with the Newbern Courthouse burning, the issue of moving the county seat was again
brought up. However, after much
discussion and debate, the citizens voted by referendum to finance rebuilding the
courthouse in the Town of Pulaski. Just
three years later on December 29, 1992, the newly constructed
courthouse was reopened to the public.
A portion of the courthouse building now features historical exhibits
and other artifacts of the county with courthouse tours given
periodically. Presently, the
Treasurer’s Office, Commissioner of the Revenue’s Office, the Registrar’s
Office and the Information Technology Department of the county are housed in
the Old Stone Courthouse.
The 1980’s also saw significant shifts
and a general diversification of the local economy as defense related
employment at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant declined and local industries
began being impacted by competition as products could be manufactured less
expensively in other countries. The
closing of AT&T, Burlington Industries, Flow Laboratories, and Lee Jeans
all took place in the late 1980’s.
Thankfully, the economic impact of these closings were buffered somewhat
by the location of Bond Cote, BBA Friction, Motion Control, Renfro, and Warner
Lambert. In addition, the expansion of
the NRV Truck Assembly Plant attracted a number of supplier industries and
other existing firms expanded.
In the 1990’s the county continued to
grow and develop. Again, the need to
regionalize facilities proved economically prudent for the taxpayer. A new regional jail facility was built in Dublin and opened in
April 1999. Improvements to Pulaski County High School, as well as renovations
to Snowville Elementary and Critzer Elementary
Schools, were major accomplishments in the mid 1990’s
for the county citizens and its school children.
In 1998, the county received a
donation of some 87 acres from a life long resident of the county, Evelyn
Alexander. Ms. Alexander requested the
land be used for a recreation park for the county citizens. She also requested the name “Randolph” be used in
naming the park once it had been built in honor of Ms. Alexander’s father, Randolph
Alexander. In 1999 ground was broken
for construction of this park and the park officially opened on June 30, 2001.
Today, Randolph Park is a major
attraction year round with children and individuals coming from as far as the Roanoke Valley to enjoy the
outdoor heated swimming pool/water park, walking trails, playgrounds, and ball fields.
According to the 2000 US census, the
county’s population was 35,127. There
are five (5) magisterial districts (Robinson, Massie, Cloyd, Draper, and
Ingles) within the county. Five (5)
members of the Board of Supervisors serve as the governing body, each
representing one of the above noted respective districts. The county public school system operates eight
(8) elementary schools, two (2) middle schools, one (1) high school, one (1)
alternative school, and one (1) governor’s school. The School Board members are elected by the
voters every four years. There are also
two public libraries within the county with one being located within the Town
of Pulaski and the branch
library located within the Town of Dublin. The county has one (1) medical hospital, Pulaski Community Hospital, four (4) nursing
homes, and one (1) mental health facility.
In October 2002 a newly constructed Pulaski County Visitors Center opened in Pulaski County. Located off Interstate 81, this facility was
built to promote tourism and showcase Pulaski County. The facility also houses the Pulaski County
Chamber of Commerce. The Visitor Center is open seven (7)
days per week and just recently celebrated it’s first full year of operation.
As Pulaski County enters into the
twenty-first century, many new problems and issues have arisen. New
challenges are faced in encouraging the growth of existing firms and recruiting
new industries and businesses to Pulaski County, as the national
economy moves toward imports under free trade legislation. Again, Pulaski County worked with her
sister counties in the formation of the New River Valley Economic Development
Alliance in 1987 to jointly market the New River Valley and Virginia’s First
Industrial Facilities Authority in 1998 to jointly build industrial parks and
share in the resulting tax revenues.
This legislation and its implementation was a first in the Commonwealth
and continues the tradition of Pulaski County citizens being hard working,
honest and willing to work with their neighbors.
the words VISION, PRIDE, AND EXCELLENCE form the core of the County seal. These words, penned over 10 years ago,
summarize the history of Pulaski County and exemplify the
spirit of its citizens as they work to create a strong community for future