Historical Background Of The Community
(Information from Stuarts Draft Baptist Church 75th Anniversary publication)
Stuarts Draft had its beginning around the year 1736. On Sept. 6th of that year William Gooch, Commander in Chief of the Colony and Dominion of Virginia granted to William Beverley, Richard Randolph, and John Robinson 118,491 acres “Beyond the Great Mountains of the River of Sherando” called the Manor of Beverley, upon order of the council dated August 12, 1736 and in the name of George II, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King Defender of the Faith.
Archibald Stuart was a Presbyterian immigrant to Augusta County in 1738. He was from a Scotch family of Londonderry background. The best information available indicates he was engaged in an insurrection in defense of his religious rights and was forced to flee to America in 1725. having left his family behind and after living quietly for seven years in Pennsylvania, he was released from danger of arrest by a general amnesty in 1732, and he sent fohis family, consisting of his wife Janet, his son Thomas, and daughter Eleanor and his wife's small brother. The family moved to Augusta County in 1738 and settled three miles east of Tinkling Spring on a farm known as the Pratt farm on U.S. Highway 340. They were destined to play a large part in both state and church affairs and to see the establishment of Tinkling Spring, the oldest Presbyterian Church in the Valley. It was Archibald,s son Thomas Stuart who later became the founder of Stuarts Draft. The owners of the land grants released their land to William Beverley, who in turn sold it to the settlers. Thomas Stuart acquired 353 acres, and the deed for this tract was recorded at the Augusta County Court House in Staunton in 1749. This land was probably bought from Sir William Beverley between 1738 and the time of the recording of the deeds. It was bound on the east by James Patton, on the west by John Black on the north by Robert Stuart and on the south by Samuel Davidson. The word Draft has never been clearly understood. It may have referred to a tract of land or a current of air blowing over a low place such as a stream. Historians surmise that it was a strange wind blowing over the Stuart land that gave it the name Stuarts Draft. The village had its beginning along the Howardsville Turnpike, which was a trail through the wilderness, on what is now Highway 340 about one eighth of a mile from the intersection of 340 and 608. Here a combination tavern and store was built. The settlers depended on travelers to carry mail to the settlement until almost the time of the Revolutionary War. The first authentic list of land owners in present Augusta County area is found in the orange County records where William Beverley, Gentleman, deeded lands out of the Beverley Manor Patent to settlers prior to the establishment of the Augusta County Court in 1745. Some of the original land owners aside from the Stuartssssss were the Pattons, Blacks, Davidsons, Moffetts, Longs, Johnsons, McClures, Christians, Bells, Churchmans and the Alexanders. Many acquired additional acres as time went on. At first it was impossible to bring wagons through the small wilderness trails, therefore goods had to be transported by horseback. The goods included such items as clothing, guns, ammunition, bedding, a few cooking utensils, seed, corn, axes, saws, and Bibles. When the people reached the spot where they decided to settle they had to build houses and furniture. They cleared the land, planted corn and raised flax for clothing. The production of flax did not exceed the local demand as it all went into their “linsey-woolsey” clothing. Tobacco was tried and would not grow; even cotton was given a try. From the standpoint of a money crop hemp was the leading product. The British Navy was dependent upon hemp for rope and this was good hemp land. The next important crop in production was wheat. Horses were very valuable because they provided transportation and played an important role to the frontiersmen who wanted to move west. Labor of the early settlers was supplied the the father, relying largely on his wife and children for help. Later part of the labor force was provided by Negro slaves. As economic conditions improved there were “Sunday clothes; the deer skin and “linsey-woolseys” were replaced by serge, and silk at an early date. James Lrisler, a Staunton merchant recorded May 13, 1761 large stocks among which were broadcloth, scarlet serge, damask, gingham, printed cotton, black velvet, taffy, calico, cambrick, silk caps, bleu hair buttons, neck lace and rugs. The land owners were faced with many hard and trying times during the French and Indian, Revolutionary and Civil Wars. The countryside supplied troops and leaders in battle, also provided food services for a price. Thomas Benjamin Stuart provided bacon and the McClures linen. The country slowly recovered from the horrors and devastation of war, and the citizens went forward with their work. Prior to 1800 there were no wheeled vehicles and sleds were used on the rough trails. In 1818 when Rev. John Craig of Tinkling Spring died there were only two two-wheeled gigs in Augusta County one of which was used to carry his body. In the middle 1800's the land owners went twice a year by horse drawn wagons over the Howardsville Turnpike to Scottsville. This was a trading post to which they took wheat to exchange for flour, sugar, and other staples. The trip required about a week. There are also records of shooting matches, and corn huskings in which both men and women participated and where the bottle was said to have been passed freely. There were quiltings, fox hunts, and coon hunting. The first school was a one room building at Barterbrook, located four miles from the present building at Stuarts Draft. The exact date of its establishment is not known. But it was probably prior to the Civil War. This was later replaced by a one room school in the grove behind the present Finley Memorial Church. Four rooms were added to it later. The first physician was Dr. James M. Watson, an early graduate of the University Medical School at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He married Martha Catherine Alexander of Stuarts Draft. Their wedding took place at “Riverside” in 1856. Most of his practice was done on horseback and he carried his medical supplies in his saddle bags. His terrority was from below Waynesboro to Greenville, and from beyond fishersville to Sherando. In later years he traveled with a horse and buggy and his fee was $1.50 per visit. He delivered white children for $10.00 and his charge for a Negro baby was $5.00. During the Civil War the Stuarts Draft area supplied men and provisions to the Confederate Army. The sacrifices and hardships and the reconstruction period were beyond description. In 1882 the Norfolk and Western Railway was constructed, and a new village was built about a mile south. The J.B. McChesney store was built along the railroad track about 1886. There followed the building of Stuarts Draft Mill, blacksmith shops, hardware store, Dodge Inn, depot and a post office; so the town began to grow. No longer was it necessary to make the long week's journey over the Howardsville Turnpike to Scottsville there to meet the boats that would take their products to Richmond. In 1907 the People's Bank was established and Mr. S.H. Moore was cashier. It was the coming of the railroad and the building of the Stuarts Draft Mill that prompted the beginning of the Baptist Church in the village. Mr. Charles H. Cohron, a staunch Baptist from Mississippi built the mill. For all available sources Mr. Cohron seems to have been keenly interested in the Baptist demonination having a witness in the village. It was through his efforts and support that the Baptists were able to establish a work here. Brother Cohron came to Stuarts Draft as a traveling salesman selling feed, seed and fruit trees. He first built a General Store. Later he built a warehouse (building beside railroad on 608) from which he bought and shipped hay. The warehouse burned several times. Brother Cohron the built the Stuarts Draft Mill. The mill also burned later on but was rebuilt. In his sales travels Mr. Cohron visited a farmer, Webster Weller, in the Laurel Hill section of the county. Here he met Cordehlia Webster, the farmer's daughter and a member of Laurel Hill Baptist Church. She later became his wife. As Stuarts Draft continued to grow the need for fire protection was necessary. Early records show "Mr James Bolick made the first piece of fire apparatus for the small community in 1900". (See Stuarts Draft Vol. Fire Co. Web site for that history).
Stuarts Draft, Virginia
The "HUB" of Augusta County
Located in the Beautiful
Shenandoah Valley of Virginia
This page was last updated: April 7, 2023