Towns in Rockingham County
Keezletown, or as it was first written, Keisells-Town, was laid off on 100 acres of land belonging to George Keisell, and established by law under an Act of Assembly passed December 7, 1791. Seven gentlemen, George Houston, George Carpinter, Martin Earhart, Peter Nicholass, John Snapp, John Swisher, and John Pierce, were made trustees (Footnote: Henings Statutes, Vol. 13, page 297). It is said that a good deal of rivalry had developed between Thomas Harrison and Mr. Keisell in the effort to locate permanently the county-seat, the former championing Harrisonburg, the latter Keisells-Town. In fact, a rather entertaining story is told of how, on one occasion, the two gentlemen ran (more exactly, rode) a race to Richmond in the interests of their respective enterprises, in which, by the merest chance, Mr. Keisell was outdistanced by his rival.
In 1844 Houck, Hosler & Co. were advertising the opening of a general store at "Huffmans Tavern establishment in Keezletown." Shepps spring, near the village, is said to supply fine mineral water. The people of the community are intelligent and enterprising, and give good support to their schools and churches. The population of Keezletown is about 225.
|The following interesting account of McGaheysville and the man for whom it was named has been supplied, upon special request, by Mr. Richard Mauzy.|
It is said that McGaheysville was first called "Ursulasburg," in honor of a Mrs. Long, a native of Switzerland, who lived near. (Footnote: See Rockingham Register, May 13, 1898) The present population of the village is about 350. It has one of the best schools in the county.Port Republic
Port Republic is one of the oldest towns in Rockingham, and in the 20s and 30s, after the South Shenandoah had been made navigable for floatboats, was, in the happy phrase of Mr. Richard Mauzy, a place of great expectations. The following paragraph, from an Act of Assembly passed January 14, 1802, gets us back to formal beginnings:
Be it enacted by the general assembly, That twenty-three acres of land, the property of John McCarthrey, junior, lying between the north and south branches of the south fork of Shenandoah river in the county of Rockingham, shall be, and they are hereby vested in George Gilmer, Benjamin Lewis, Matthias Aman, John Givens, and Henry Perkey, gentlemen trustees, to be by them, or a majority of them, laid off into lots of half an acre each, with convenient streets, and established a town by the name of Port Republic.
Lots were to be sold at auction, the purchaser in each case being required, upon forfeit, to erect "a dwelling house sixteen feet square at least, with a brick or stone chimney to be finished fit for habitation within ten years from the day of sale."
January 26, 1866, an Act was passed incorporating Port Republic, and on March 31, following, the first election under the new charter was held. John Harper was chosen mayor, and Tobias M. Grove sergeant.
In olden days "Port" was noted for its fights - personal encounters - but in latter times it is as peaceable and law-abiding as other places.
The bridges at Port Republic, specially those across the North River, have had an interesting history. The first one, or one of the first, was burned in June, 1862, by Stonewall Jackson, to prevent Fremont from following him across the river. The next one was built in 1866, by citizens of the community, at a cost of about $3000. This washed away in the great flood of 1870. In January, 1874, the county court appropriated $600 to aid in rebuilding this bridge. The next bridge was washed away in 1877, and was not rebuilt for two or three years. The present bridge is a single-track iron structure.
Mr. Richard Mauzy says that Holbrook, a citizen of Port, is entitled to the credit of making the original McCormick reaper a success, by devising the sickle as it has since been generally adopted on all reapers.
The population of Port Republic is about 200.
In January, 1804, an Act of Assembly was passed establishing the town of Newhaven on the land of Gideon Morgan and William Lewis, and appointing Edwin Nicholas, Asher Waterman, George Huston, George Gilmore, Mathias Amon, Benj. Lewis, Henry Perkey, and Henry J. Gambill as trustees. The site of New Haven is on the north side of the rivers, opposite or a little below Port Republic. It will be observed that the two places had several trustees in common, and their names indicate the importance that was attached to their location upon navigable water. We can readily imagine them upon a "boom" in 1804, and thereabouts, but New Haven seems never to have reached the actual proportions of a town. The name is by this time remembered by only a few persons.
One of the most progressive towns of East Rockingham is Elkton, known until 1881 as Conrads Store. Near the town stood until recently Elk Run Church, one of the oldest churches in the county; and the town is built where Elk Run flows into the Shenandoah River. The origin of the name Elkton, therefore, is obvious. Conrads old store building still remains as one of the landmarks. Another place of historic interest is the old Kite homestead, where Stonewall Jackson had his headquarters in 1862.
In 1867 the postoffice at Conrads Store was moved out a mile or two to Geo. W. Sanfords shoemaker shop, and named Roadside. In 1881 Elkton postoffice was established, with Jas. H. Shipp as postmaster. One of the promoters of Elkton in "boom" times (1889-90) was Dr. S.P.H. Miller (1835-1895). In March, 1908, the town was incorporated, and J.A.S. Kyger was chosen mayor. The councilmen were J.R. Cover, J.T. Heard, J.E. Leebrick, V.C. Miller, W.A. Gordon, and I.L. Flory. Since 1881, when the Norfolk & Western Railway was opened, and especially since 1896, when the Chesapeake-Western was completed to Bridgewater, Elkton has been a railroad center of growing importance.
The river bridges at Conrads Store and Elkton, like those at Port, have had an interesting, though expensive, history. On June 3, 1862, the Conrads Store bridge was burned by Co. D, 7th Va. Cavalry, S.B. Coyner, captain, to keep the Federal general Shields from coming across to join Fremont against Jackson. In June, 1868, proposals were solicited by J.H. Kite, president of board, for building the island bridges across the Shenandoah, near Conrads Store. The bridges were carried away by the flood of 1870. In 1872 a bridge 200 feet long, across the river, and one 100 feet long, across the race, were built by John W. Woods. These probably corresponded to the "island bridges" of 1868. The Conrads Store bridge fell again in the flood of 1877; was rebuilt in 1878-9 (by John Woods) and again washed away in September, 1896. In May, 1897, part of the new iron bridge that was being erected was washed down.
The population of Elkton at present (1912) is about 1000, and the
town officers are the following:
Mayor - J.A.S. Kyger.
Treasurer - W.H. McVeigh.
Sergeant - W.E. Lucas.
Councilmen - R.B. Wilson, J.F. Taylor, J.R. Cover, J.T. Heard, L.F. Yeager, W.E. Deal.
Text from "A History of Rockingham County Virginia" by John W. Wayland, Ph.D.
- Published 1912
Photos from old postcards