Fort Valley Virginia
Fort Valley is a 23 mile long mountain valley located in Shenandoah County Virginia. Called by a “valley within a valley” and a “gem within a gem” the valley lies between the arms of the Massanutten Mountain Range. It is closed on the south end and is accessible in the north via a narrow gap created by Passage Creek.
Europeans first arrived in the Fort in the mid-18th century. Native Americans had used the land for hundreds of years as hunting grounds and farms. These arriving whites took possession of the land and began to clear forests to create their own farms and communities. Since the valley was isolated and everything had to be built by the individuals involved, life during this period would have been incredibly difficult. Despite this, several families remained in the area and are still present today.
The antebellum period saw the growth of the iron furnace industry in Fort Valley. Since the area contained several high quality iron deposits that were easily accessible, it became home to numerous operations that worked to provide Virginia and the nation’s growing demand for this metal. During the Civil War, these iron furnaces were a major supplier to the Confederacy’s Tredger Iron Works in Richmond which produced most of the South’s arms and ammunition.
After the war the iron furnaces continued to operate. In addition manganese mines, lumberyards, and bark tanning operations supplied locals with jobs. However, agriculture and the family farm continued to be the main means of support for Fort Valley residents into the later part of the 20th century.
During the Great Depression an economic shift began to occur. Government programs, both state and Federal, began to focus on developing the area’s woodlands and natural resources for tourism. This trend continues today and the majority of Fort Valley residents are in some way connected to the service economy that developed to assist travelers that come to one of the Fort’s numerous campgrounds, trails, or recreation centers.