149 Maple Avenue - P.O. Box 384 Covington, Virginia 24426 - (540) 965-0149 - alleghanyhis@ntelos.net
149 Maple Avenue - P.O. Box 384 Covington, Virginia 24426
(540) 965-0149 - alleghanyhis@ntelos.net
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Our History

Many changes over the years have made major impacts on the Alleghany Highlands. The history of the Highlands is the backbone of our area not only as far as industry and business are concerned, but our ancestral heritage as well. The following is a summary of some of the area’s early history.Alleghany County is located in the mountains of the western portion of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The word “Allegheny” is an old Indian word meaning “endless”, and it is used to describe the mountain ranges of the Appalachians. The Alleghany Highlands was first settled around 1746. On January 5, 1822, Alleghany County was formed from parts of Bath, Botetourt, and Monroe Counties by an act of the Virginia Legislature. The Town of Clifton Forge, the Town of Iron Gate, and the City of Covington lie within the County’s boundary. The County, City, and Towns are generally known collectively as the Alleghany Highlands.

Up to the mid-eighteenth Century, the area was mostly undeveloped with a few staggered homes. Most families were self-sufficient and required little trading with outside communities. A few Indian villages existed on the outskirts of the County. Many boundary adjustments over the years have changed the shape and area of the County. The population of the County in 1830 was 2,816 compared to the year 2000, when the population was 12,926. Early family names included Carpenter, McAllister, Wright, Merry, Persinger, Humphries, Jordan, Smith, and Pitzer, to name a few. Many descendants of these families still live in Alleghany County.

By 1760, roads and turnpikes were being constructed to connect the area to Warm Springs, Sweet Springs, Lexington, Fincastle, and Lewisburg. The James River and Kanawha Canal that was to connect Covington with Richmond by way of the James River, was formed in 1824. Freight and passengers would be boated up the James River to Iron Gate and then up the Jackson River to Covington where they would be hauled overland to the Greenbrier River. The Canal was only constructed as far as Eagle Rock and it never reached Covington. The railroad development caused the canal project to be abandoned.

Forts were built in the area to protect settlers from Indian raids. One of the first forts built in the area was Fort Young. By order of George Washington, Fort Young was built in 1756 in Covington. Some of the other known forts were Fort Mann in Falling Springs and Fort Carpenter near Covington.

In the first year of the Civil War, there were more soldiers enlisted from Alleghany County than there were voters. Some residents in the southern portion of the County were against the Confederate cause. In general, the soldiers from Alleghany County served in the famous Stonewall Brigade. The most noted of the local commands was Carpenter’s Battery that fought at the battles of Manassas, 2nd Manassas, Winchester, Gettysburg, and Bloody Angle. Most were killed in battle and the few surviving soldiers surrendered with Robert E. Lee at the Appomattox Courthouse.

The Alleghany Highlands has always had a strong agricultural history. The backbone of the area is farming. Some of the chief agricultural products in the past have been cattle, corn, oats, wheat, orchards, garden products, and dairy. Water Cress was a primary agriculture product around 1907. The Virginia Cress Company had eight acres of cress located in the Falling Springs Valley. Cattle were a major industry for early residents due to the number of tanneries in the area. There were also many dairy farms in the area that bottled milk or produced milk in bulk, such as Evergreen Dairy, Rich Patch Dairy, Fork Farm Dairy, White Oak Dairy and Peerless Dairy and Creamery. Today, many residents raise cattle on a smaller scale and there is still one dairy producer in the area, Watahala Dairy of Rich Patch.

Covington was designated as a town in 1818 and in 1833 the Commonwealth incorporated it as a city. Prior to that, the area was known as “Mouth of Dunlap” or “Merry’s Store.” For many years it was disputed as to whom the City of Covington was named for, either Peter Covington, who may have been a citizen of the area, or General Covington of the War of 1812. In 1986, Covington officially documented and adopted that General Leonard Covington was the individual that Covington was named for. In 1870, the railroad arrived in Covington and the first sidewalks and sewerage system were installed in 1892. As a result of the industrial boom, the population of Covington grew from 704 in 1890 to 5,632 in 1920. Clifton Forge, originally known as Williamson, became a voting place in 1839. In 1837, the railroad came, making Clifton Forge the major division point on the railroad. Clifton Forge, named after one of the iron furnaces, became an incorporated City in 1884. Cutbacks and the closing of the C&O railroad shops in the late 1980's caused a drop in population for Clifton Forge. In July 2001, Clifton Forge reverted from a city to a town due to financial hardship.

Iron Gate was predicted to be one of the biggest cities in the Commonwealth. This did not happen, but today it is still an independent town. Iron Gate grew from the development of the iron industry, and in the late 1880's, a tannery was opened. The tannery operated until 1951. Pryor & Clark Company, formerly known as H. O. Canfield (1954) and Acadia, operates today at the location of the tannery.

After the Civil War, Alleghany County began to grow. The earlier iron industry that was established prior to the war began to flourish. The earliest iron mines and furnaces were the ones owned and operated by John Jordan in the Longdale area of the County. These mines and furnaces were in operation as early as 1827. They were the Lucy Selina Furnace in Longdale (1827), Globe Forge, and the Clifton Furnace. Jordan also ran the Rumsey furnace and mines, Dolly Ann Furnace and mines, and the Mary-Martha Furnace. William Firmstone purchased the Longdale operations in 1869. By the early 1900s, the Longdale operations were shut down due to competition.

The Low Moor Iron Company was established around 1874 and was a major competitor for the Longdale Iron Company. The Low Moor Iron Company owned iron ore mines in Alleghany County and Craig County, and also owned the Kay Moor Coal Company in West Virginia. The site of the Low Moor Iron Company is now home to Alleghany Regional Hospital. The communities surrounding the furnaces thrived and iron industry was the main source of economic support for Alleghany County until the end of the iron era. The iron ore industry began its demise when richer deposits of ore were found near the Great Lakes region of the United States where iron ore could be mined cheaper than in Alleghany County.

Iron ore was not the only mining in the area. Limestone, cement rock, marl, kaolin, slate, clay and marble were all mined products. Boxley Quary Company continues to mine limestone and rock in the Rich Patch area of the county.

The West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company, now Mead-Westvaco, first operated in Covington in 1900 and is now one of the major employers of Alleghany County. There were a total of 300 employees in 1899 when the plant opened, and today there are over 1,400 people employed at the Covington Mill. By 1923, the plant covered over 30 acres. The Company began to focus on the production of bleached folding carton paperboard in the 1950's. There were nine machines operating at the Covington mill by 1960. These machines produced folding cartons, food packaging, and corrugated envelopes. From the end of World War II to 1960, the company invested more than $70 million in the Covington Mill. During the 1980s, an extruder plant, which converts the paper produced at the Covington Mill, was built in Low Moor and the No. 1 Paper Machine at the Covington Mill site was constructed. The Mill was purchased by the Mead Paper Company in the late 1990’s and is now Mead-Westvaco. Over the years, many expansions and additions to the mill have allowed Mead-Westvaco to continue to thrive in Alleghany County.

C&O Railroad was and is a key element of growth for the Alleghany Highlands, especially for Clifton Forge. After the War Between the States, the expansion of the railroad systems toward the west resumed. In 1867, the Covington and Ohio Railroad and the Virginia Central Railroad were consolidated and the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Railroad was formed. The first train departed from Covington on July 4, 1869.

By 1878, Williamson (now Clifton Forge) had become the dividing point for the Eastern and Western Divisions of the railroad system. Around 1889, the rail yard in Clifton Forge was updated and designated as the major shop for C&O. C&O purchased land in Clifton Forge and sold it in individual lots. It also built a hotel, the Gladys Inn, which later became the location of the C&O Hospital. The Clifton Forge Division of the C&O was developed in 1901. By 1925, the rail yard had been expanded and a new bridge was built over the Jackson River. This would become the widest railroad bridge in the world. By the 1950s, diesel replaced steam and the shops were converted to accommodate diesel locomotives. Many years of adjustments and changes affected the City of Clifton Forge. In the 1980's, the closing of the C&O shops had a major negative impact on the area. The old canopy at the depot was demolished in the 1990's. A diesel fueling station was constructed in the 1990s at the rail yard with the hopes of bringing “life” back to the old railroad yard.

In Covington, the Industrial Rayon Plant was another key industry for the Alleghany Highlands. The plant operated from 1928 to 1960 when Hercules purchased the facility. A fire at the Hercules plant in 1980 caused layoffs within the plant. Hercules later sold their company to Applied Extrusion Technologies (AET). Today, AET continues to be a major employer of the area.

Over the years there have been many other industries that have thrived in Alleghany County. There was a Silk Mill (1921-1929), which later became Burlington and Klopman. The mill closed in 1955. The Dedford Tannery operated in Covington from 1892 to 1937. The Covington Machine Company, formed in 1892, was machine shop and foundry. The Covington Roller Mill owned by McAllister & Bell was established in 1797 and continued to operate for over 150 years.

The Alleghany Milling Company ground flour and grain in Covington with the most modern machines at the time. EM Nettleton & Company Planning Mill was the prime provider of the finest grades of lumber in the area.

The Alleghany Pin and Bracket Company operated in Covington around 1900 where they mass-produced locust pins used in the installation of electric lighting, telephone and telegraph systems. There were two brick manufacturers in the area, the Covington Brick Company (1890) and the Alleghany Brick Company (1906). The Coke Cola Bottling Company had facilities in both Covington and Clifton Forge for many years where they bottled and distributed their products. J. B. Salterini operated from 1958 to 1971. H. O. Canfield (1954) in the Town of Iron Gate has changed ownership and names many times over the years, but continues to operate today as Pryor & Clark Company. There was a stave mill located in the Cliftondale Park area around 1907.

The Mizzy Plant in Cliftondale Park operated from 1953 to the 1980's. J&D Pallets now occupies the building. Jane Colby and Apparel operated for many years in the Highlands with operations in Clifton Forge and Covington. Now Sonoco Products occupies the building in Clifton Forge. More recent industrial developments such as the Alleghany Regional Commerce Center in Low Moor have brought industries to the area such as BACOVA Guild, Jenfab Inc, and Alleghany Asphalt.

In August of 1897, the Clifton Forge Mutual Telephone Company was organized by Newman Watts. It served Clifton Forge and Covington. In 1929, the Clifton Forge Mutual and the Waynesboro Mutual Telephone companies merged to form the Clifton Forge-Waynesboro Telephone (CFW) Company. In the late 1990's the company became part of nTelos. This company has grown from providing basic telephone services to providing Internet, cell phone, and paging services. Cable TV, which was once provided by CFW, is now Rapid Cable.

Many of the locally owned “Mom and Pop” shops were around for many years, and some continue to operate today. These business are the backbone to the economic stability of the area. These types of businesses are numerous and only a handful is listed below. Downer’s Hardware (1953 to 2004), Arritt’s Funeral Home (1952 to present), Fridley’s Pharmacy (1950's to 1990's), Snead Buick (1923 to 1990's), Dyke’s Funeral Home (1945 to 1990's), R. M. Loving Funeral Home (1913 to present), Nicely’s Funeral Home (1940’s to present), Rooklin’s Department Store (1915 to present), Covington National Bank (1891 to 1982), Farrar’s Drug Store (1884 to late 1990’s), Woody’s Auto Parts (1945 to 2004), Nicely’s Exxon (1955 to 2006), E A Snead Furniture (1907 to 1987), and Averill’s Store (1942 to present).

Several newspapers have served the area over the years. The Alleghany Centennial was among the early papers. In 1914, Colonel Beirne established the Covington Virginian. The Daily Review serviced the Clifton Forge area of the County until 1988. In 1988, the Covington Virginian and the Daily Review were merged to form the Virginian Review. Today, the Virginian Review is the local paper serving the Alleghany Highlands with a circulation of more than 9,000 readers.

One of the greatest attractions and a source of pride to the residents of the Highlands is the natural beauty of the area. Once defined as “perfect sublimity”, the county is comprised of almost 50% National and State Forest lands. The U.S. Forest Service has a long history within the Highlands. During the 1930's and 1940's, when the large iron companies had gone out of business, the U. S. Forest Service began purchasing land in Alleghany County to become National Forest Land. In 1936, the Jefferson National Forest and the George Washington National Forest were created. Today, the National Forest lands of the County fall within the James River District of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

One of the greatest undiscovered resources in the area is the water supply. Two major water sources, the Jackson River and the Cowpasture River, meander through the County. Other major water sources include Potts Creek, Dunlaps Creek, Smith Creek and Wilson Creek. Many large capacity wells and natural springs also dot the Alleghany Highlands.

Like other areas of the Country, the Depression was hard felt in the Alleghany Highlands. The two iron companies had closed, which were among the major employers of the area. President Roosevelt established a program called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). These camps lasted from 1933 to 1942. The enrollees fought fires, built roads, planted trees, placed telephone lines, and built lookout towers. The Dolly Ann CCC camp was located in the Covington area at Fore Mountain. They were responsible for constructing roads on Horse Mountain and Peters Mountain and converting the old railroad grade at Dolly Ann for passenger vehicles. They also constructed fire trails and lookout towers, and planted trees. The Dolly Ann Camp closed in the 1940's. Other CCC Camps in the area are responsible for the construction of Douthat State Park and the Longdale Recreation area (formerly known as Green Pastures).

Humpback Bridge was built in 1857. The bridge was constructed in conjunction with Midland Trail Road to cross Dunlap Creek. For many years the bridge stood abandoned until a local women’s club began a campaign to restore the bridge. The Humpback Bridge area is now a wayside park and is maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Although you cannot cross the bridge with vehicles, it is open year round for site seers. There are picnic facilities on both sides of the bridge. Humpback Bridge is one of a few known humped-back bridges in the world. It has been an attraction for many photographers over the years and has appeared in many magazines.

Medical services in the area have played an important role in the overall development and stability of the area especially in the early years with the iron industry and railroad. There were many “country doctors” in the area that had small offices or made house calls. The Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Hospital was established in Clifton Forge in 1897 in the old “Gladys Inn”. It was a 50-bed facility with one surgeon, an intern and five nurses. Covington soon grew to where the need for a hospital was considered necessary. In 1931, a 12-bed facility was opened in Covington and was later named Alleghany Memorial Hospital. Changing needs for medical care in the Alleghany Highlands led to the expansion of both hospitals over the years. In 1976, the two hospitals were merged to one facility, Alleghany Regional Hospital Corporation. This merger also resulted in the establishment of the non-profit organization, The Alleghany Foundation. In 1977 ground was broke for the new hospital in Low Moor and it opened in 1979. This facility too has grown and experienced many changes over the years due to the growing needs of the community. The old C & O Hospital is now the Scott Hill Retirement Complex and the old Alleghany Memorial Hospital houses the Alleghany-Covington Social Services offices.

Cultural activities and civic organizations are an essential part of the Alleghany Highlands. The Alleghany Highlands Arts Council was formed over 50 years ago and provides an environment that nurtures and supports the arts. The Alleghany Highlands Arts and Craft Center is located in Clifton Forge and provides a center for exhibits, crafters shop, and educational opportunities. The Alleghany Highlands Center for the Performing Arts is located in the historic Masonic Theater in Clifton Forge. The Center offers programs ranging from plays to musical concerts.

Many civic organizations have been a part of the Alleghany Highlands for many years.

Some of these clubs and organizations include Ruritan Clubs, Lions Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, 4-H, Boys and Girl Scouts, American Legion, American Red Cross, Garden Clubs, Women’s Clubs, Masonic organizations, and IOOF.

The educational system in the Highlands has grown from several one-room schoolhouses and multi school systems to a more efficiently operated school system. In 1983, the City of Clifton Forge and the Alleghany County School systems were merged into one system. In 2001 the school system became a consolidated school system when Clifton Forge reverted to Town status. There are five elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school that serves Alleghany County, the Town of Clifton Forge and the Town of Iron Gate. Covington continues to operate its own school system.

The Alleghany Highlands continues to recognize and pursue recognition of its historic significance and resources. Over the past several years, many homes in the area have been placed on the Virginia and Federal Historic Registers, and there are now several recognized historic districts in the area.

The residents of the Alleghany Highlands are proud of their history and are optimistic about the future in that the area will continue to grow and change to become an even better place to live, work and play.

Many changes over the years have made major impacts on the Alleghany Highlands. The history of the Highlands is the backbone of our area not only as far as industry and business are concerned, but our ancestral heritage as well. The following is a summary of some of the area’s early history.Alleghany County is located in the mountains of the western portion of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The word “Allegheny” is an old Indian word meaning “endless”, and it is used to describe the mountain ranges of the Appalachians. The Alleghany Highlands was first settled around 1746. On January 5, 1822, Alleghany County was formed from parts of Bath, Botetourt, and Monroe Counties by an act of the Virginia Legislature. The Town of Clifton Forge, the Town of Iron Gate, and the City of Covington lie within the County’s boundary. The County, City, and Towns are generally known collectively as the Alleghany Highlands.

Up to the mid-eighteenth Century, the area was mostly undeveloped with a few staggered homes. Most families were self-sufficient and required little trading with outside communities. A few Indian villages existed on the outskirts of the County. Many boundary adjustments over the years have changed the shape and area of the County. The population of the County in 1830 was 2,816 compared to the year 2000, when the population was 12,926. Early family names included Carpenter, McAllister, Wright, Merry, Persinger, Humphries, Jordan, Smith, and Pitzer, to name a few. Many descendants of these families still live in Alleghany County.

By 1760, roads and turnpikes were being constructed to connect the area to Warm Springs, Sweet Springs, Lexington, Fincastle, and Lewisburg. The James River and Kanawha Canal that was to connect Covington with Richmond by way of the James River, was formed in 1824. Freight and passengers would be boated up the James River to Iron Gate and then up the Jackson River to Covington where they would be hauled overland to the Greenbrier River. The Canal was only constructed as far as Eagle Rock and it never reached Covington. The railroad development caused the canal project to be abandoned.


Forts were built in the area to protect settlers from Indian raids. One of the first forts built in the area was Fort Young. By order of George Washington, Fort Young was built in 1756 in Covington. Some of the other known forts were Fort Mann in Falling Springs and Fort Carpenter near Covington.

In the first year of the Civil War, there were more soldiers enlisted from Alleghany County than there were voters. Some residents in the southern portion of the County were against the Confederate cause. In general, the soldiers from Alleghany County served in the famous Stonewall Brigade. The most noted of the local commands was Carpenter’s Battery that fought at the battles of Manassas, 2nd Manassas, Winchester, Gettysburg, and Bloody Angle. Most were killed in battle and the few surviving soldiers surrendered with Robert E. Lee at the Appomattox Courthouse.

The Alleghany Highlands has always had a strong agricultural history. The backbone of the area is farming. Some of the chief agricultural products in the past have been cattle, corn, oats, wheat, orchards, garden products, and dairy. Water Cress was a primary agriculture product around 1907. The Virginia Cress Company had eight acres of cress located in the Falling Springs Valley. Cattle were a major industry for early residents due to the number of tanneries in the area. There were also many dairy farms in the area that bottled milk or produced milk in bulk, such as Evergreen Dairy, Rich Patch Dairy, Fork Farm Dairy, White Oak Dairy and Peerless Dairy and Creamery. Today, many residents raise cattle on a smaller scale and there is still one dairy producer in the area, Watahala Dairy of Rich Patch.

Covington was designated as a town in 1818 and in 1833 the Commonwealth incorporated it as a city. Prior to that, the area was known as “Mouth of Dunlap” or “Merry’s Store.” For many years it was disputed as to whom the City of Covington was named for, either Peter Covington, who may have been a citizen of the area, or General Covington of the War of 1812. In 1986, Covington officially documented and adopted that General Leonard Covington was the individual that Covington was named for. In 1870, the railroad arrived in Covington and the first sidewalks and sewerage system were installed in 1892. As a result of the industrial boom, the population of Covington grew from 704 in 1890 to 5,632 in 1920. Clifton Forge, originally known as Williamson, became a voting place in 1839. In 1837, the railroad came, making Clifton Forge the major division point on the railroad. Clifton Forge, named after one of the iron furnaces, became an incorporated City in 1884. Cutbacks and the closing of the C&O railroad shops in the late 1980's caused a drop in population for Clifton Forge. In July 2001, Clifton Forge reverted from a city to a town due to financial hardship.


Iron Gate was predicted to be one of the biggest cities in the Commonwealth. This did not happen, but today it is still an independent town. Iron Gate grew from the development of the iron industry, and in the late 1880's, a tannery was opened. The tannery operated until 1951. Pryor & Clark Company, formerly known as H. O. Canfield (1954) and Acadia, operates today at the location of the tannery.

After the Civil War, Alleghany County began to grow. The earlier iron industry that was established prior to the war began to flourish. The earliest iron mines and furnaces were the ones owned and operated by John Jordan in the Longdale area of the County. These mines and furnaces were in operation as early as 1827. They were the Lucy Selina Furnace in Longdale (1827), Globe Forge, and the Clifton Furnace. Jordan also ran the Rumsey furnace and mines, Dolly Ann Furnace and mines, and the Mary-Martha Furnace. William Firmstone purchased the Longdale operations in 1869. By the early 1900s, the Longdale operations were shut down due to competition.


The Low Moor Iron Company was established around 1874 and was a major competitor for the Longdale Iron Company. The Low Moor Iron Company owned iron ore mines in Alleghany County and Craig County, and also owned the Kay Moor Coal Company in West Virginia. The site of the Low Moor Iron Company is now home to Alleghany Regional Hospital. The communities surrounding the furnaces thrived and iron industry was the main source of economic support for Alleghany County until the end of the iron era. The iron ore industry began its demise when richer deposits of ore were found near the Great Lakes region of the United States where iron ore could be mined cheaper than in Alleghany County.

Iron ore was not the only mining in the area. Limestone, cement rock, marl, kaolin, slate, clay and marble were all mined products. Boxley Quary Company continues to mine limestone and rock in the Rich Patch area of the county.

The West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company, now Mead-Westvaco, first operated in Covington in 1900 and is now one of the major employers of Alleghany County. There were a total of 300 employees in 1899 when the plant opened, and today there are over 1,400 people employed at the Covington Mill. By 1923, the plant
covered over 30 acres. The Company began to focus on the production of bleached folding carton paperboard in the 1950's. There were nine machines operating at the Covington mill by 1960. These machines produced folding cartons, food packaging, and corrugated envelopes. From the end of World War II to 1960, the company invested more than $70 million in the Covington Mill. During the 1980s, an extruder plant, which converts the paper produced at the Covington Mill, was built in Low Moor and the No. 1 Paper Machine at the Covington Mill site was constructed. The Mill was purchased by the Mead Paper Company in the late 1990’s and is now Mead-Westvaco. Over the years, many expansions and additions to the mill have allowed Mead-Westvaco to continue to thrive in Alleghany County.


C&O Railroad was and is a key element of growth for the Alleghany Highlands, especially for Clifton Forge. After the War Between the States, the expansion of the railroad systems toward the west resumed. In 1867, the Covington and Ohio Railroad and the Virginia Central Railroad were consolidated and the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Railroad was formed. The first train departed from Covington on July 4, 1869.

By 1878, Williamson (now Clifton Forge) had become the dividing point for the Eastern and Western Divisions of the railroad system. Around 1889, the rail yard in Clifton Forge was updated and designated as the major shop for C&O. C&O purchased land in Clifton Forge and sold it in individual lots. It also built a hotel, the Gladys Inn, which later became the location of the C&O Hospital. The Clifton Forge Division of the C&O was developed in 1901. By 1925, the rail yard had been expanded and a new bridge was built over the Jackson River. This would become the widest railroad bridge in the world. By the 1950s, diesel replaced steam and the shops were converted to accommodate diesel locomotives. Many years of adjustments and changes affected the City of Clifton Forge. In the 1980's, the closing of the C&O shops had a major negative impact on the area. The old canopy at the depot was demolished in the 1990's. A diesel fueling station was constructed in the 1990s at the rail yard with the hopes of bringing “life” back to the old railroad yard.

In Covington, the Industrial Rayon Plant was another key industry for the Alleghany Highlands. The plant operated from 1928 to 1960 when Hercules purchased the facility. A fire at the Hercules plant in 1980 caused layoffs within the plant. Hercules later sold their company to Applied Extrusion Technologies (AET). Today, AET continues to be a major employer of the area.


Over the years there have been many other industries that have thrived in Alleghany County. There was a Silk Mill (1921-1929), which later became Burlington and Klopman. The mill closed in 1955. The Dedford Tannery operated in Covington from 1892 to 1937. The Covington Machine Company, formed in 1892, was machine shop and foundry. The Covington Roller Mill owned by McAllister & Bell was established in 1797 and continued to operate for over 150 years.

The Alleghany Milling Company ground flour and grain in Covington with the most modern machines at the time. EM Nettleton & Company Planning Mill was the prime provider of the finest grades of lumber in the area.

The Alleghany Pin and Bracket Company operated in Covington around 1900 where they mass-produced locust pins used in the installation of electric lighting, telephone and telegraph systems. There were two brick manufacturers in the area, the Covington Brick Company (1890) and the Alleghany Brick Company (1906). The Coke Cola Bottling Company had facilities in both Covington and Clifton Forge for many years where they bottled and distributed their products. J. B. Salterini operated from 1958 to 1971. H. O. Canfield (1954) in the Town of Iron Gate has changed ownership and names many times over the years, but continues to operate today as Pryor & Clark Company. There was a stave mill located in the Cliftondale Park area around 1907.

The Mizzy Plant in Cliftondale Park operated from 1953 to the 1980's. J&D Pallets now occupies the building. Jane Colby and Apparel operated for many years in the Highlands with operations in Clifton Forge and Covington. Now Sonoco Products occupies the building in Clifton Forge. More recent industrial developments such as the Alleghany Regional Commerce Center in Low Moor have brought industries to the area such as BACOVA Guild, Jenfab Inc, and Alleghany Asphalt.

In August of 1897, the Clifton Forge Mutual Telephone Company was organized by Newman Watts. It served Clifton Forge and Covington. In 1929, the Clifton Forge Mutual and the Waynesboro Mutual Telephone companies merged to form the Clifton Forge-Waynesboro Telephone (CFW) Company. In the late 1990's the company became part of nTelos. This company has grown from providing basic telephone services to providing Internet, cell phone, and paging services. Cable TV, which was once provided by CFW, is now Rapid Cable.


Many of the locally owned “Mom and Pop” shops were around for many years, and some continue to operate today. These business are the backbone to the economic stability of the area. These types of businesses are numerous and only a handful is listed below. Downer’s Hardware (1953 to 2004), Arritt’s Funeral Home (1952 to present), Fridley’s Pharmacy (1950's to 1990's), Snead Buick (1923 to 1990's), Dyke’s Funeral Home (1945 to 1990's), R. M. Loving Funeral Home (1913 to present), Nicely’s Funeral Home (1940’s to present), Rooklin’s Department Store (1915 to present), Covington National Bank (1891 to 1982), Farrar’s Drug Store (1884 to late 1990’s), Woody’s Auto Parts (1945 to 2004), Nicely’s Exxon (1955 to 2006), E A Snead Furniture (1907 to 1987), and Averill’s Store (1942 to present).

Several newspapers have served the area over the years. The Alleghany Centennial was among the early papers. In 1914, Colonel Beirne established the Covington Virginian. The Daily Review serviced the Clifton Forge area of the County until 1988. In 1988, the Covington Virginian and the Daily Review were merged to form the Virginian Review. Today, the Virginian Review is the local paper serving the Alleghany Highlands with a circulation of more than 9,000 readers.


One of the greatest attractions and a source of pride to the residents of the Highlands is the natural beauty of the area. Once defined as “perfect sublimity”, the county is comprised of almost 50% National and State Forest lands. The U.S. Forest Service has a long history within the Highlands. During the 1930's and 1940's, when the large iron companies had gone out of business, the U. S. Forest Service began purchasing land in Alleghany County to become National Forest Land. In 1936, the Jefferson National Forest and the George Washington National Forest were created. Today, the National Forest lands of the County fall within the James River District of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

One of the greatest undiscovered resources in the area is the water supply. Two major water sources, the Jackson River and the Cowpasture River, meander through the County. Other major water sources include Potts Creek, Dunlaps Creek, Smith Creek and Wilson Creek. Many large capacity wells and natural springs also dot the Alleghany Highlands.

Like other areas of the Country, the Depression was hard felt in the Alleghany Highlands. The two iron companies had closed, which were among the major employers of the area. President Roosevelt established a program called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). These camps lasted from 1933 to 1942. The enrollees fought fires, built roads, planted trees, placed telephone lines, and built lookout towers. The Dolly Ann CCC camp was located in the Covington area at Fore Mountain. They were responsible for constructing roads on Horse Mountain and Peters Mountain and converting the old railroad grade at Dolly Ann for passenger vehicles. They also constructed fire trails and lookout towers, and planted trees. The Dolly Ann Camp closed in the 1940's. Other CCC Camps in the area are responsible for the construction of Douthat State Park and the Longdale Recreation area (formerly known as Green Pastures).


Humpback Bridge was built in 1857. The bridge was constructed in conjunction with Midland Trail Road to cross Dunlap Creek. For many years the bridge stood abandoned until a local women’s club began a campaign to restore the bridge. The Humpback Bridge area is now a wayside park and is maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Although you cannot cross the bridge with vehicles, it is open year round for site seers. There are picnic facilities on both sides of the bridge. Humpback Bridge is one of a few known humped-back bridges in the world. It has been an attraction for many photographers over the years and has appeared in many magazines.


Medical services in the area have played an important role in the overall development and stability of the area especially in the early years with the iron industry and railroad. There were many “country doctors” in the area that had small offices or made house calls. The Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Hospital was established in Clifton Forge in 1897 in the old “Gladys Inn”. It was a 50-bed facility with one surgeon, an intern and five nurses. Covington soon grew to where the need for a hospital was considered necessary. In 1931, a 12-bed facility was opened in Covington and was later named Alleghany Memorial Hospital. Changing needs for medical care in the Alleghany Highlands led to the expansion of both hospitals over the years. In 1976, the two hospitals were merged to one facility, Alleghany Regional Hospital Corporation. This merger also resulted in the establishment of the non-profit organization, The Alleghany Foundation. In 1977 ground was broke for the new hospital in Low Moor and it opened in 1979. This facility too has grown and experienced many changes over the years due to the growing needs of the community. The old C & O Hospital is now the Scott Hill Retirement Complex and the old Alleghany Memorial Hospital houses the Alleghany-Covington Social Services offices.

Cultural activities and civic organizations are an essential part of the Alleghany Highlands. The Alleghany Highlands Arts Council was formed over 50 years ago and provides an environment that nurtures and supports the arts. The Alleghany Highlands Arts and Craft Center is located in Clifton Forge and provides a center for exhibits, crafters shop, and educational opportunities. The Alleghany Highlands Center for the Performing Arts is located in the historic Masonic Theater in Clifton Forge. The Center offers programs ranging from plays to musical concerts.

Many civic organizations have been a part of the Alleghany Highlands for many years.

Some of these clubs and organizations include Ruritan Clubs, Lions Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, 4-H, Boys and Girl Scouts, American Legion, American Red Cross, Garden Clubs, Women’s Clubs, Masonic organizations, and IOOF.

The educational system in the Highlands has grown from several one-room schoolhouses and multi school systems to a more efficiently operated school system. In 1983, the City of Clifton Forge and the Alleghany County School systems were merged into one system. In 2001 the school system became a consolidated school system when Clifton Forge reverted to Town status. There are five elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school that serves Alleghany County, the Town of Clifton Forge and the Town of Iron Gate. Covington continues to operate its own school system.

The Alleghany Highlands continues to recognize and pursue recognition of its historic significance and resources. Over the past several years, many homes in the area have been placed on the Virginia and Federal Historic Registers, and there are now several recognized historic districts in the area.

The residents of the Alleghany Highlands are proud of their history and are optimistic about the future in that the area will continue to grow and change to become an even better place to live, work and play.