Southwest Virginia

Southwest Virginia

Southwest Virginia, often abbreviated as SWVA, is a mountainous region of Virginia in the westernmost part of the commonwealth. Southwest Virginia has been defined alternatively as all Virginia counties on the Appalachian Plateau, all Virginia counties west of the Eastern Continental Divide, or at its greatest expanse, as far east as Blacksburg and Roanoke. Another geographic categorization of the region places it as those counties within the Tennessee River watershed. Regardless of how borders are drawn, southwest Virginia differs from the rest of the commonwealth in that its culture is more closely associated to Appalachia than to the other regions of Virginia. Historically, the region has been and remains rural, but in the 20th Century, coal mining became an important part of its economy up until the second half of the century.

Counties that have been included in the definition of southwest Virginia include: Alleghany County, Bedford County, Bland County, Botetourt County, Buchanan County, Carroll County, Craig County, Dickenson County, Floyd County, Franklin County, Giles County, Grayson County, Henry County, Lee County, Montgomery County, Patrick County, Pulaski County, Roanoke County, Rockbridge County, Russell County, Scott County, Smyth County, Tazewell County, Washington County, Wise County, and Wythe County. It is often humorously noted by some residents of southwest Virginia that they live closer to eight other state capitals than to their own.


The southwestern region of Virginia was among the last parts of the state to be settled by Europeans, in a flow of mirgrations that consisted mainly of the English, Germans, and the Scots-Irish. A major route of migration to the region was the Great Wagon Road through the Great Appalachian Valley. At present-day Roanoke there was an important fork in the wagon road, with one branch passing through the Blue Ridge and into the Piedmont region, the other branch, called the Wilderness Road continuing southwest to Tennessee and Kentucky. Much of the area was formally protected by a series of forts constructed around the time of Lord Dunmore's War, some of which later became the seats of future counties. Many of the present day counties were formed from larger counties which were broken up as the populations in the region continued to grow. Southwestern Virginia is also the result of parts of Virginia which broke off or revolted, such as Kentucky and West Virginia. During the American Revolution, residents from southwest Virginia were among those who participated in the Battle of King's Mountain. In the Civil War, southwest Virginia was deeply divided between sentiment for the Union and the Confederacy and was subject to guerilla warfare. The only major battle to occur in the area was the Battle of Saltville, while many skirmishes occurred through much of the region. In 1864, Union General George Stoneman, led a devastating raid into southwest Virginia, destroying the saltworks in Saltville and burning all that he thought useful to the Confederates.


The Appalachian Mountains have the most direct impact upon the geography of southwest Virginia and are often credited for isolating its residents from the rest of the commonwealth. Southwest Virginia falls into the ridge and valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains portions of the Appalachian mountains. Within the mountains, coal fields have been one of the sources of the significant economic booms in the region. The major river of the region is the New River, credited at "the" oldest river in North America. Flooding has been epidemic to the more mountainous areas with major floods occurring usually once every other decade with great loss of life and property. Such disasters have encouraged local precautions to prevent future problems, such as the Grundy Flood Control and Redevelopment Project, in Grundy, Virginia, a multi-million dollar effort to protect the city from future flooding. [ [ Article on Representative Rich Boucher's website on Grundy flood control] ]


* Bedford
* Bristol
* Covington
* Galax
* Martinsville
* Norton
* Radford
* Roanoke (largest city)
* Salem

Political representation

Like the rest of the commonwealth, southwest Virginia is represented by the Senators John Warner and Jim Webb in the United States Senate. In the House of Representatives, by the narrowest and almost to the largest definition of southwest Virginia, representation falls largely under Representative Rick Boucher of the 9th Congressional District. Boucher has been a long term representative of the region in Congress, spending more than twenty-four years in office as a Democrat. His predecessor was William C. Wampler, a Republican, who had served a nearly equally long term of over eighteen years prior to his political defeat by Boucher. However, two other congressional representatives reside in southwest Virginia. Republican Robert Goodlatte of Roanoke represents the 6th Congressional District which also covers Lynchburg and much of the Shenandoah Valley, and Republican Virgil Goode of Franklin County represents the 5th Congressional District which covers the western part of Southside Virginia but also stretches north to Charlottesville. Since most of southwest Virginia has experienced little to no population growth in recent decades, the 9th district has begun to encroach into areas previously in the 5th and 6th districts. Given the relatively rapid growth in the northern parts of the 5th and 6th districts, significant redrawing of the districts is likely if Goode or Goodlatte leave Congress or Democrats gain control of redistricting.


Southwest Virginia is home to several institutions of higher education, the largest of which is at Blacksburg. The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, better known as Virginia Tech, is the largest research university in the state as well as the largest employer in Montgomery County.

List of Colleges and Universities

* Appalachian School of Law
* Bluefield College
* Emory and Henry College
* Ferrum College
* Roanoke College
* Hollins University
* New River Community College
* Jefferson College of Health Sciences
* Radford University
* Mountain Empire Community College
* Southwest Virginia Community College
* University of Appalachia College of Pharmacy
* University of Virginia's College at Wise
* Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine
* Virginia Intermont College
* Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
* Wytheville Community College
* Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine
* Virginia Highlands Community College

ee also

* Appalachia
* Southern West Virginia
* Tennessee Valley


External links

* [ Southwest Virginia Heritage site]
* [ Geography of Southwest Virginia]

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