March 29, 2013 |

Illustration by Aaron Williams.

“A magnificent vista of wooded mountaintops, green cultivated valleys and distant blue ranges.” – 1941, the West Virginia Writers’ Project guide.

Hillsboro is the home of these popular historic destinations:
-Pearl S. Buck Birthplace and Museum (in Hillsboro) http://www.pearlsbuckbirthplace.com/

-Pretty Penny Café (in Hillsboro, located in an old general store)

-5.2 m. Watoga State Park (CCC cabins available for rent) http://www.watoga.com/

Hillsboro History:

Hillsboro Historical Marker

The town of Hillsboro sits at the foot of Droop Mountain, in a small valley known as the Little Levels (as opposed to the Big Levels in Greenbrier County).

Hillsboro was originally settled in the 1760s, when John McNeel of Frederick County, Virginia arrived in the area. It is said that John fled his home after fearing he’d killed his opponent in an amateur boxing match. He was soon followed by Kennison Brothers, who came with the good news that Pioneer John had, indeed, not killed his opponent after all. The Kennison Brothers decided to settle the Little Levels area along with Pioneer John McNeel. Kennison Mountain is named after these original settlers.

Pocahontas County was, for the most part, sympathetic with the Southern cause at the outbreak of the Civil War, and most young men from the county who went to fight did so for the Confederate side. In November of 1863—in the midst of the war—Union General William W. Averell led a brigade of 5,000 soldiers from Beverly, West Virginia, to conduct raids against the confederate railroad in southwestern Virginia.

Union general William W. Averell

General Averell’s force met Confederate resistance at Mill Point, two miles north of Hillsboro on what is now US 219. The Confederates were driven back, and were reinforced by Confederate General John Echols’ troops, who had made an all night march from Lewisburg to make a stand on Droop Mountain. In pursuit, Averell and his men camped by the town of Hillsboro, the night before the battle began on Droop Mountain. The next day, November 6, Averell attacked Confederate positions on the mountain in what would be the largest and most significant battle in West Virginia during the war. The larger Union forces eventually overwhelmed and broke the Confederate lines in the course of the battle. Echols and his men retreated back into southern Virginia, ending any organized Confederate resistance in the new state of West Virginia and allowing Averell and his men to continue with further raids towards the railroad in Salem and the Roanoke area later that year in December.

Winter Scene in Hillsboro, date unknown. From the Pocahontas Co. Historical Society.

Pearl Buck, 1972.

Hillsboro’s most famous native daughter is undoubtedly author Pearl S. Buck. Pearl was born in 1892 in Hillsboro. Her parents were Presbyterian missionaries in China and soon returned there to continue their work with her after her birth. With the exception of her college years at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Pearl spent most of her time with her parents in China until Pearl S. Buck, 1972.1934, when she returned to the United States. Her most celebrated novel, The Good Earth, was published while living in China in 1931, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and was a best-selling book in the US. In 1938 Pearl was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, for her trilogy of novels that included The Good Earth and revolves around a Chinese family over multiple generations. Pearl Buck died in Vermont in 1973.

Hillsboro takes its name from Richard Hill, an early pioneer from North Carolina, who built his home in the area. The name of the town was changed to Academy in the mid-19th century after the charter and construction of a new school, the Academy, in the 1840s. The community, then known as Academy, became a center of education with the opening of the Academy. The school was a preparatory school for the University of Virginia, drawing students from numerous counties. The name Academy persisted into the twentieth century, although the Academy closed during the Civil War, and was later reopened as a public school. In 1911, the Hillsboro High School became the first High School in Pocahontas County. The school was torn down in 1970, the same year the Pocahontas County High School opened further north in the county.

Academy High School, from the Pocahontas County Historical Society.

For more historical photos, visit our Hillsboro historical photograph slideshow, with photos from the Pocahontas Historical Society: Digging up History.


Hillsboro, courtesy of the Pocahontas County Historical Society.

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Category: Marlinton to Lewisburg

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