New book highlights overlooked history in New River Valley
A new book about the history of Montgomery County before the Civil War shows what life was like in Blacksburg, long before Virginia Tech was built, when small farms dotted the landscape, and railroads brought travelers to nearby resorts.
In the New River Valley, and in much of Appalachia, slavery was quite common, but textbooks have often told a different story. “Many of the people who are living today, I mean adults, came up with the kinds of textbooks that were written in the 60s, 70s, and even into the 80s,” said Charles Good, a retired geography professor from Virginia Tech who recently published a book of photographs and narrative called “Colonial & Antebellum Virginia: Images of Montgomery County's Historical and Cultural Landscape.”
The book shows the often overlooked, and hidden, history of the New River Valley before the Civil War, including how common slavery was here. “For example, more than one in five people in Montgomery County were enslaved by 1860,” Good said. He noted that while there has been progress in recent years to uncover the full picture of slavery, others have tried to stop it from being taught in public schools.
The material landscape has also changed over the years, erasing the visible reminders of this history. Most of the buildings where enslaved people once lived and worked have been replaced by roads, housing developments and strip malls.
Good’s book also shows the places where tourists from all over the country once visited the New River Valley to bathe at three springs resorts. Only one, Yellow Sulphur Springs, is still standing today.