“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Mount Jackson in Shenandoah County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Mount Jackson

Mount Jackson Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, October 6, 2017
1. Mount Jackson Marker
This area was a Native American hunting territory before settlers of European descent arrived early in the 18th century. Fertile land and powerful streams supported an agricultural and milling economy. In 1826 the Virginia General Assembly established the town of Mount Jackson here in a community formerly known as Mount Pleasant. Named for Andrew Jackson, later U.S. president, the town became a regional transportation hub because of the Valley Turnpike, built in the 1830s to improve previous roads, and the Manassas Gap Railroad, extended here in 1859. Union and Confederate troops passed through frequently during the Civil War, and several Confederate hospitals were established here.
Erected 2017 by Department of Historic Resources. (Marker Number A-86.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Political Subdivisions. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #07 Andrew Jackson, and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources series lists. A significant historical year for this entry is 1826.
Location. 38° 44.891′ 
Mount Jackson Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones, October 17, 2020
2. Mount Jackson Marker
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N, 78° 38.496′ W. Marker is in Mount Jackson, Virginia, in Shenandoah County. Marker is at the intersection of Main Street / Old Valley Pike (U.S. 11) and Depot Street, on the left when traveling north on Main Street / Old Valley Pike. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Mount Jackson VA 22842, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Mayor Joseph A. "Joe" Williams (here, next to this marker); 5855 Gospel Street (within shouting distance of this marker); St. Andrews Episcopal Church (within shouting distance of this marker); Veterans Memorial Flagpoles (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); 5907 Gospel Street (about 300 feet away); 5923 Gospel Street (about 400 feet away); 5928 Main Street (about 400 feet away); Mt. Jackson Fire Company (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Mount Jackson.
Also see . . .
1. Mount Jackson, Virginia. Town website homepage:
“A major thoroughfare for commerce and transportation arrived in Mount Jackson in 1830. The Valley Turnpike, also known as Route 11, formed the historic base for today’s Interstate 81.” (Submitted on October 8, 2017.) 

2. Mount Jackson Historic District. Virginia Department of Historic Resources website entry:
Statement of Significance. Mount Jackson Historic District includes most of the historic dwellings, commercial buildings, churches, schools, and industrial buildings that help define the small town of
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Mount Jackson. Located near the confluence of Mill Creek and the North Fork of the Shenandoah River in southern Shenandoah County, the village began as an eighteenth-century milling center known as Mount Pleasant. In 1826, by act of the Virginia General Assembly, the name of the town was changed to Mount Jackson in honor of General Andrew Jackson. The town soon prospered as a commercial, milling, and transportation center primarily due to the passage of the Valley Turnpike through town in the 1830s and the arrival of the Manassas Gap Railroad in 1859. Serving as the southern terminus of the railroad until 1868, Mount Jackson was also an important Confederate hospital center during the valley campaigns of the Civil War. A significant rail shipping point for such products as grain, apples, and livestock, Mount Jackson continued to prosper as a transportation center during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The small railroad town also contains a cohesive and architecturally significant collection of buildings that represents various styles from the early nineteenth through the twentieth centuries.

Historical Background. During the second quarter of the eighteenth century, land grants from Thomas Lord Fairfax brought the first permanent settlers to the area along the North Fork of the Shenandoah River in what was later to become
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southern Shenandoah County. Attracted by the area's rich lands and abundant water supply, Benjamin Allen in 1739 purchased a 400-acre tract at the confluence of Mill Creek and the North Fork of the Shenandoah River and established a gristmill on Mill Creek prior to 1746. By the late eighteenth century other small industries had followed including a hemp mill, a carding mill, a sawmill, and a cabinet shop. The resulting village was originally called Mount Pleasant; however, on 27 January 1826, an act of the Virginia General Assembly changed the name to Mount Jackson in honor of General Andrew Jackson who was soon to become the nation's seventh president.

One of the earliest surviving structures is Union Church, situated in the center of town. Reuben Moore, an early settler, in 1822 bequeathed to the town a small lot on which was to be built a nondenominational church for the use of any Christian congregation. A frame church was originally erected on the site, but was replaced by the present brick structure around 1825.

By the second quarter of the nineteenth century at least three late Federal-style brick or frame residences had been constructed along Main Street; Shenstone Mansion, the Pennybacker House, and the Tisinger House. In 1835 Joseph Martin's Gazetteer of Virginia reported that Mount Jackson contained "eight dwelling houses, a Presbyterian church house, a school, a mercantile store, a tavern, a tanyard, a smith shop, and a boot factory." By 1848 a woolen factory, the Mt. Jackson Manufacturing Company, had been established in town under the ownership of prominent town residents Joseph S. Pennybacker and William Sigler.

Situated along the Great Wagon Road, later known as the Old Stage Road and now U.S. Route 11, the town was successful as a small regional milling and commercial center serving the needs of area residents and travelers. In the wave of internal improvement projects that captured the attention of many Virginians during the early to mid-nineteenth century, the Valley Turnpike Company was chartered on 3 March 1834. It was authorized to build a turnpike on the site of the existing stage road between Winchester and Harrisonburg, a distance of about seventy miles. At a meeting of the company stockholders in 1838, the road was still under construction, but by 1840 the project was probably completed, as the road was then macadamized and extended to Staunton. Mount Jackson, lying about midway between Winchester and Harrisonburg, prospered as a result of this improvement in the transportation of travelers, livestock, and bulk commodities through the Shenandoah Valley.

After 1856, another turnpike was begun to connect Mount Jackson with a popular pre-Civil War springs resort known as Lee's White Sulphur Spring at Howard's Lick (now in West Virginia). The turnpike never reached its intended goal due to the intervention of the Civil War. After the war, however, the completed section of the road was used to connect the Valley Turnpike at Mount Jackson to another popular resort—Orkney Springs—located about thirteen miles northwest of Mount Jackson.

The arrival of the railroad to the Valley in the 1850s represented a threat to the turnpike companies. By act of 21 January 1854 the trustees of the town of Woodstock subscribed $5,000 in stock to entice the Manassas Gap Railroad to pass through the town on its way to Harrisonburg. By 1856 the first trains in the Shenandoah Valley extended as far south as Woodstock and on 2 March 1859 the first passenger train pulled into Mount Jackson. Additional work to extend the railroad farther south was made; however, the Civil War halted any additional construction and Mount Jackson remained the real terminus of the railroad until 1868.

The railroad was used extensively during the Civil War to transport both Confederate and Union troops and supplies to and from the small town to various theaters of war. The town's location at the terminus of one of only two railroads to connect the Shenandoah Valley with the rest of the state made it an ideal place to establish hospitals. Thus, hundreds of wounded soldiers were brought to several hospitals that were established in available buildings around town during the war. The Union Church was one such hospital. In a recent restoration of the church interior several presumably convalescent soldiers' names and regiment names were uncovered on the walls of the church. Most of the 350 soldiers who died in the hospitals were buried in a cemetery north of town. A monument dedicated to their memory was unveiled at the cemetery in 1903.

The Valley Turnpike, the main transportation artery through the Valley, also brought Confederate and Union troops marching through town at various times during the Civil War. Troop movements were especially active before and after the Battle of New Market in May 1864. Union troops, retreating from the battle, burned the bridge spanning Mill Creek at the southern end of town and, in October 1864, destroyed the town's mill.

In 1868 the railroad was extended south to New Market and Harrisonburg, the bridge over Mill Creek was replaced after a devastating flood in 1870, and in 1872 a new mill was constructed on the site of the earlier one. In 1876 St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, a fine example of Victorian Gothic architecture, was dedicated. Despite these improvements, Mount Jackson continued to be a small railroad and milling town.

The 1886 Sanborn-Perris Map Company map of the town shows that the commercial center was beginning to shift farther north in the vicinity of the railroad depot. Near the depot was a bank, hotels, boarding houses, and commercial establishments. Across the railroad tracks to the west, a few frame dwellings had begun to locate on the hill overlooking the town. Gospel Street, originally called West Avenue, soon became the most desirable address in town and many successful merchants built their homes there and on Broad Street farther west. The 1886 map also indicates that the Mt. Jackson Methodist Episcopal Church South had been built on Orkney Drive and Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church was "being built" on Main Street. A complex of buildings, known as the Shenandoah Farmers Milling Company, was located on the north bank of Mill Creek. It included a flour mill, a corn and plaster mill, a pattern house, a machine shop, and a foundry.

Near the depot were three hotels—the Central Hotel (part of which still survives on Main Street), the St. Charles Hotel built in 1868-70 (later known as the Mt. Jackson Inn), and the Proctor House (later called the Willard House). These establishments offered food and lodging to traveling salesmen, called drummers, who came to town by train, hired a horse and buggy from the livery stable, traveled the countryside selling their wares, and returned to the hotels at night. The town's hotels also provided lodging for visitors to the nearby resort at Orkney Springs. The railroad brought them as far south as Mount Jackson where overnight stays were available before they ventured west to the springs resort—a thirteen-mile trip by wagon or coach over rough terrain.

Mount Jackson's most prominent citizen of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was Dr. Joseph I. Triplett (1845-1930). A native of Mount Jackson, he practiced medicine until 1881 when he began to devote most of his time to various business ventures. He established the Shenandoah Farmers Milling Company in 1872, converted the old gristmill to a roller mill in 1888, and remodeled it again in 1919. In 1893 he built the first hydroelectric power plant in the Shenandoah Valley and provided electricity to the town of Woodstock. Later he built another power plant near Mount Jackson, which became the source of the first electrical power to the town.

In 1884 Triplett founded the Mt. Jackson National Bank and built a three-story brick commercial building (demolished) near the depot in 1906. Later he established a wholesale tobacco business in Woodstock, became a succcssful orchardist, served as mayor of the town, and financed and directed a general farmer's supply and hardware business on Main Street (later known as Triplett and Vehrencamp--demolished). When the citizens of Mount Jackson sought a suitable location for a new high and grade school, Dr. Triplett donated the land and cash to build Triplett High and Vocational School in the early 1920s.

By 1904, according to the Sanborn-Ferris map of the town, only the flour mill remained of the Shenandoah Farmers Milling Company complex at the south end of town. The map also indicates that Bridge Street had been laid out and three houses had been built facing it. By 1904 the S. P. Lonas House had been built in the center of town. The dwelling was Mount Jackson's most flamboyant example of the Queen Anne style. S. P. Lonas was a wealthy milling company owner who spared no expense in constructing his fashionable house. The Lonas Building, noted on the map as a "General Merchandise1' store, was situated at the corner of Main Street and Orkney Drive. It remains one of the town's most prominent brick commercial buildings. By 1904 Mount Jackson's second bank, Peoples Bank, had also been constructed on Main Street near the depot. The bank was housed in a fine example of the Colonial Revival style.

In 1892 Franklin Wissler planted the first commercial apple orchard in the region at Strathmore, a farm south of Mount Jackson. Successful as an orchardist, Wissler planted other extensive orchards southwest of town and shipped apples by railroad to markets all over the state. By the early twentieth century, the apple growing and processing business had become a booming industry in the lower Shenandoah Valley and Mount Jackson became a railroad shipping point for much of the apple crop harvested in the surrounding countryside. In fact a record 1,025 train carloads Of apples were shipped from Mount Jackson for the year 1926 alone.

According to the Sanborn-Perris map of the town in 1930, two new businesses had been established in the town by that date. One was a large feed and grain warehouse and elevator, currently known as Farmers Supply, located on King Street. The other was a Small brick factory on Orkney Drive indicated as "The Maryland Co. Makers of Overalls and Shirts". In 1944 the factory was acquired by Blue Bell, Inc. and since 1979 has served as a community center.

The Southern Railway continued to be an important means of transportation and communication in Mount Jackson throughout much of the twentieth century. Not only did local businesses and farmers depend upon the railroad to ship such products as grain, apples, and livestock to distant markets, but until the late 1940S, local residents also relied upon the railroad to provide inexpensive transportation up and down the Valley.

Today the shipment of feed to area poultry farms represents the largest portion of local railroad freight. The Valley Queen is the affectionate name given the Norfolk Southern Railraod which continues to serve the Shenandoah Valley. Although the depot and several associated warehouses have been destroyed in the center of town, the passing of the train through town a few times a day is a tangible reminder of the railroad's former importance to the town.

With the construction of an unusual Moderne style-inspired town fire station in 1936 and a fine Art Deco-style theater on Main Street in 1938, the town had assumed much of its present appearance by 1940. Since then, a few modern commercial buildings on Main Street have replaced earlier examples and a few modern residences have filled in lots in the residential areas, but the town of Mount Jackson still retains the flavor of a small railroad town. (Submitted on October 8, 2017.) 
Additional commentary.
1. Railroad Passenger Service in Mount Jackson
The December 1925 Southern Railway timetable No. 13 shows three passenger trains in each direction stopping at Mount Jackson. Service was Washington DC to Harrisonburg. Trains to Washington stopped at Mount Jackson at 6:22 AM, and at 3:56 and 5:24 PM. The 120 mile trip took five hours. To Harrisonburg trains stopped at 8:45 AM, and at 2:28 AND 8:56 PM. The 21½ mile trip to Harrisonburg took 59 minutes. Pullman buffet-parlor cars on four of the six trains served hot meals and drinks to all passengers for a fee and provided the first-class seating.

The trains traveled north from Harrisonburg, stopping at 19 towns in the Shenandoah Valley, including Mount Jackson, to Front Royal, where they continued east through Manassas and on to Washington. At Manassas connections could be made for trains to inland points in the South, while at Washington, trains were available to the coastal south and to the rest of the country.
    — Submitted October 8, 2017, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 27, 2022. It was originally submitted on October 8, 2017, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 511 times since then and 103 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on October 8, 2017, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.   2. submitted on October 19, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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Jul. 1, 2022