Grayson History – Grayson County was formed in 1793, from part of Wythe County. It was named for William Grayson, one of Virginia’s first two senators. William and Rosamond Bourne came to the Knob Fork area on the New River in 1765. They found eight other families already living here. William Bourne was elected as first Clerk of the County, at the first court session that was held in a log barn located on the Bourne farm, near the present town of Fries.
The first courthouse was built in Greensville, later called Oldtown, constructed in 1794 and rebuilt beginning in 1832. In 1842, the Virginia General Assembly authorized the division of Grayson County, the northeastern portion becoming Carroll County.
In 1850, the county seat was moved from Old Town in the eastern part of the county to Independence, a more centrally located site. The first courthouse was built in Independence and served until 1904, when it was condemned. A new courthouse was completed by builder E.L.Robbins in 1908. Today, the Historic 1908 Courthouse functions as the art and cultural center of Grayson County.
During the American Civil War, little fighting occurred within Grayson County. However, as Grayson History says, the “Grayson Dare Devils” (Company F, 4th Regiment of the Stonewall Brigade) were recruited from the Elk Creek Valley of Grayson County shortly after Virginia seceded, and sustained significant losses as the First Battle of Manassas. So many men volunteered that a shooting match was devised to once again sift the men; it was sort of an early version of Special Forces. The men were required to shoot at a target 100 yards away while at a dead run, the best one hundred shots were selected to be members of the “Grayson Dare Devils”. The Grayson Cavalry was Company C of the 8th Virginia Cavalry, which served until the war’s end.
The county seat since shortly before the American Civil War has been Independence, Virginia, since the former county seat had been centrally located until Carroll County split off (and Oldtown now is a district within Grayson county).The Old Grayson County Courthouse and Clerk’s Office renovated circa 1834 still exists, but is now located near what since 1953 is the independent city of Galax, Virginia. Even by 1890 the nearest railroad to Grayson county was nine miles from the county line, a Norfolk and Western Railway stop called “Rural Retreat.” Textile and then furniture factories arrived in Galax (which was planned as a town near the old village of Blair on a plateau beginning in 1903, and renamed after a plant harvested from the surrounding mountains). Also the New River was dammed at Fries to power a cotton mill, which also led to more direct service by the Norfolk and Western to Troutdale (which later faltered). Whitetop City and Fairwood also virtually disappeared during the Great Depression.