Wise County History

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A Brief History of Wise, Virginia

by Edward L. "Buck" Henson

"... When a new county was established in Southwest Virginia in 1856, it was named for Henry A. Wise, who had just become Governor of Virginia.  The name of the county seat would evolve from Big Glades to Gladesville to Gladeville, when it was officially incorporated in 1874.  Lying on the main road from the Union state of Kentucky to the vital railroad through Abingdon, it was the site of constant conflict during the Civil War."  

"With the influx of the coal industry into Wise County after 1880, the county seat became a busy place as thousands of acres of land changed hands each month.  It was also the place where justice was dispensed as many were jailed and three men were hanged in the 1890's."  

"Beaty's store, founded in 1870, was to make Gladeville a commercial center as mining operations grew just northwest of town.  The establishment of Gladeville College would give the town an important role in education.  In 1924, the name of the town was changed to Wise.  It continued as a commercial and legal center, reaching its peak in the coal boom of the 1970's.  In the early 1950's, it became the site of the first of the modern hospitals in the area.  The resulting prosperity made possible the building of many fine houses in the Town of Wise."  

"In 1954, Clinch Valley College of the University of Virginia was founded to meet growing educational needs.  In 1966, it became the only state-supported four-year college west of Radford, adding enormously to the cultural and educational life of Wise.  In 1999, the college was renamed The University of Virginia's College at Wise.

"With responsive government, beautiful scenery, good hunting and fishing, many cultural and athletic activities, low crime-rate , and a mountain people's respect for the elderly, Wise is a great place for retirement."

E.L. "Buck" Henson

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