About Franklin County
Situated along the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounded by two picturesque waterways, Franklin County is a scenic “land between the lakes” overflowing in natural beauty, outdoor adventure and storied agricultural heritage.
Franklin County lies in the western piedmont of Virginia and boasts a diverse terrain ranging from flatlands on the east to rugged peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the west. The area was home to Native Americans as early as 10,000 B.C. An eastern Siouan tribe inhabited the region in the 1600s.
In the 1740s, settlers traveled by river and road, including the Carolina Road, to settle in what would become Franklin County – then the western-most county in Virginia. Franklin County officially formed in 1786 from parts of Bedford and Henry Counties by an act of the General Assembly. The county was named for Benjamin Franklin, the governor of Pennsylvania, where many settlers originated.
From the beginning, agriculture has been a prominent element of Franklin County’s history. Tobacco was a leading crop and the county was a leading dairy producer for the state. Locally mined iron and copper were transported over the Carolina Road as far south as Georgia, and the furnace of the Washington Ironworks, the county’s oldest landmark, stands as a monument where munitions for the Revolutionary Army were manufactured.
The entry of the Norfolk & Western railroad in 1892 signaled the dawn of a more industrialized era, and the railroad’s “Punkin Vine” route helped tobacco factories, diversified wood and textile-based industries become significant components of the Franklin County economy. The development of Philpott Lake in 1953 and Smith Mountain Lake in 1966 led to continued growth.
Franklin County is home to Booker T. Washington, America’s most prominent African American educator and orator, and his birthplace is a national monument. Notable Confederate General Jubal A. Early also was born in the County, and his home place serves as a popular attraction in the Red Valley community.
Today, outdoor fun, home grown music and artisan treasures are just a sampling of what Franklin County Virginia is all about. Regionally, Franklin County is the Eastern Gateway to The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail and home of the White Lightning Artisan Trail. Experience local jam sessions, discover the arts as you stroll along the streets of Historic Rocky Mount or visit the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum at Ferrum College, where you will learn about life and culture in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Our annual, family-friendly events include Southwest Virginia Antique Farm Days, Pigg River Ramble Weekend, the Franklin County Fair, the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, Come Home to a Franklin County Christmas and more.