Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia
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THE KINGSPORT TIMES, KINGSPORT. TENNESSEE,
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 1929
GATE CITY, VA., RICH IN HISTORICAL TRADITION
WAS CALLED GATEWAY TO
Progress in Its Grim Race Cannot Erase the Pages of Romantic History Written in Old Township-Gate City has Been County Seat of Scott For 113 Years-Name ChangedGate City, Virginia, a little town located near the border, is rich in historical tradition and at one time was known as the gateway to this section of the country, a fact that but few of this modern age know. Today Gate City seems like an ancient hamlet slumbering in the mountains, forgotten entirely as progress makes itís strides through these historic hills, but progress in itís grim race cannot erase the pages of history that have been written by the county seat of Scott County, Virginia. These pages of history will ever be eminent as the generations pass, and Gate City will be known as the mother of progress in this immediate section.
Scott County was chartered in 1812 and since that time it has grown by leaps and bounds and is today known as one of the richest counties in Southwest Virginia. With the chartering of Scott County, the people were forced to select a county seat from which the law and government of the county could be directed. At first, Moccasin Gap, a few miles south of Gate City, was selected and the first court was conducted in a private home at the Gap. But this court marked the end of Moccasin Gap as the county seat, and Gate City took over the reigns which it has since held. This little town has been the county seat of Scott County for 113 years. An old log building served as headquarters for the county for several years, but this old log building was replaced by a brick structure, modern and up to-date for the time.
The Scott County section was known to be very patriotic and for this reason the county was named Scott in honor of Winifred Scott, American general in the Mexican war. The county seat, now known as Gate City, was named Winifred bearing the first name of General Scott. The main street of the city was named Jackson Street in honor of Andrew Jackson, noted Tennessean known as "Old Hickory". This county was extremely patriotic in time of war and sent many of its sons to the Mexican war. In fact, according to records, Scott County has never shirked during time of strife, itís sons were among the first to volunteer their services. The county seat of Scott bore the name of Winifred until 1815 when it was changed to Estelville in honor of Judge Benjamin Estell, the first judge ever conduct a court in Scott
County. It kept the name of Estelville until 1887 when it was changed to Gate City. This change was made because it was known as he gateway of the section.
The county seat of Scott County was known as the key to business in the county. It was the headquarters of the old wagon trains that used to run to Lynchburg, Baltimore, Saltville and other cities. These old wagon trains were the sole means of transportation of freight in the old days. All of these routes ran directly through Gate City. The people of the county always made up a wagon train to go toSaltville, Va. to bring back salt for the year. It was a community affair and the burden was transferred each year, different families making the trip. The train always made the trip early in the fall in order to make sure of returning in time for hog killing, the majority of the salt being used to preserve the meat
A wagon train also made trips to Abingdon in the fall to carry the tobacco crop. Abingdon was the biggest tobacco market in this section at that time.
The wagons that were loaded with tobacco came back from Abingdon loaded with goods, as the selling then was on the barter basis, that is getting goods in exchange. The people all wore homespun clothes and all made their clothes. An old Scott County home was completely equipped with articles necessary for manufacturing clothes.
Land commissioners and revenue books back as far as 1840, were found in the court house. These books showed that the value of property was very low, the majority of land selling for about $2.00 per acre. The majority of
land transferred was traded for horses, kettles or some other commodity, but little money being in circulation in those days.
The big brass kettles, used for evaporating sugar, were the most highly valued articles. Scott County at that time was one of the foremost producers of maple sugar and the kettles were used to evaporate the sap down to sugar. All the farmers that were well fixed had these large kettles. These kettles were imported from Lynchburg and the heavy haul bill caused them to be valued very highly.
The furniture, like the clothing, was made by the families. Several good cabinet makers were present in the county. Numerous pieces of furniture that were made during that time have been found, and all were well made. Some of the Scott County Courthouse equipment were made by hand and this equipment has stood for over 100 years. The work was not of the rough type but very smooth and appeared as if it had been made by machine.
According to one of the old residents of Gate City, his grandfather sold a five mile square of land at Nickelsville for a horse and rifle in 1812. The horse and rifle were valued at $50.00. The Grandfather stated that he did not
want the land because of the heavy rate of taxes. This same trace of land is worth many thousand dollars at the present.
Scott County's seat moved along in this fashion until 1887 when the Southern Railroad came through the county. The steaming engines was the first to break the silence of 60 years. This marked the end of the isolated life with its wagon Trains and opened the future for Gate City and this section.
The railroad cut through the hills that had been undisturbed for centuries and the giant locomotives of the Southern Railway gave this section its first real
transportation. The coming of the railroad was the first toll of the death knoll for horses. With the coming of the Southern Railroad, Estelville was changed to Gate City, or the gateway of this section. Year in and year out this little hamlet prospered. It's county became richer, it's inhabitants more civilized until today it ranks as one of the richest counties in Southwest Virginia.
Gate City has not grown much in the last few years, but it is the central merchandising field of Scott County. Its inhabitants are prosperous despite the lack of growth. Gate City may today be truly termed as the gateway of Scott County. It furnishes the inhabitants with merchandise and other equipment.
With industrial progress sweeping this section, Gate City has been forgotten, but it will be many years before this little town's contribution to this section
will be erased from the pages of history.