Today, when you’re in Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County, you can enjoy a mix of local history and innovation in food and culture. The City of Staunton and the County of Augusta offer a slower, more connected way of life than large cities, without sacrificing unique and engaging experiences in the arts, shopping, food and family fun.
A LITTLE HISTORY
Augusta County is located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, between the Blue Ridge Mountains on the east and the Allegheny Mountains on the west. It is the second largest county in Virginia, and has within its borders two independent cities, Staunton (the county seat) with a population around 25,000 and Waynesboro with a population around 18,000.
Augusta county includes sites dating back thousands of years associated with early indigenous Native American groups, but these have not been largely studied. The Shenandoah Valley was populated by different tribes, whose names were not well-recorded by European American history. These tribes were largely wiped out in the late 1600's by the Native slave trade perpetrated by the Rickohocken raiders, who either killed or sold most of the inhabitants of the valley to European settlements farther towards the east coast. For more detail, see accessgeneology.com
European settlers began arriving in the 1720s from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and from eastern Virginia. Some were German-born or the Pennsylvania-born children of German-speaking Protestant immigrants from the Palatinate and other areas bordering the Rhine River. The greatest numbers of early Augusta settlers were from the province of Ulster in the north of Ireland, or were the Pennsylvania and Maryland-born children of these Ulster Scots or Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. English were also among the early settlers in the area, as well as African-Americans, most of whom were enslaved people, although some free-born. Although initially small in number, by the Civil War African-Americans represented 20% of the county’s population. There were also many settlers of English descent who often immigrated into the county from eastern Virginia. You can see this settler heritage for yourself at the immersive Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia, a “living history museum” located just a few miles down the road from our office.
By the early 19th century, the county became an important producer of wheat, making milling and distilling significant aspects of the local economy. In fact, Cyrus McCormick invented the reaper, which revolutionized agriculture around the world, at his family’s farm, “Walnut Grove” at Steele’s Tavern in southern Augusta County on the Rockbridge line. You can visit the farm yourself and see the evolution of the reaper’s design. Plus the beautiful natural setting makes it great for a family picnic.
Augusta County has long been a center of education. Among schools that have flourished here for more than a century have been the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, Augusta Female Seminary (now Mary Baldwin College), Virginia Female Institute (now Stuart Hall School) in Staunton and Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro.
Staunton, (pronounced STAN-ton), began as Mill Place but was changed in 1746 in honor of then Governor Gooch's wife, Lady Staunton. Waynesboro was named in 1794 after General Mad Anthony Wayne.
Today, Staunton, VA has become the small town with a big appetite for the arts, sustainable agriculture, and lots of history. And that includes Augusta County and Waynesboro as well.
LOCAL FOOD AND CREATIVE CHEFS
On the farm front, we’re so appreciative of the fact that Augusta County is home to Joel Salatin and Polyface Farms, author of the book, "This Ain't Natural Folks!" Staunton gained prominence on the national front for ethical and sustainable farming practices because of Joel's book.
Locally, farmers had already heeded that call with a very popular farmer's market. With many local dairy, meat, and cheese farmers, as well as beekeepers, vegetable, fruit and flower growers, Saturday mornings are a happy convergence of shoppers and local music from March-November in Downtown Staunton.
Restaurants have also embraced the sustainable movement by serving more and more locally sourced ingredients and foods. From our beloved Split Banana , home of the best gelato in the world, to favorite, acclaimed restaurants like The Shack , Zynodoa , Laughing Bird Pho and Mill Street Grill, to up and coming dining fare like Firkin Pie Company and Gloria's Pupuseria , there are no shortages of good places to eat.
Staunton and Waynesboro also have award-winning Virginia breweries and vineyards. Augusta County boasts national parks, lakes, and scenery that delight every time you step outdoors!
STAUNTON, VA AND THE ARTS
Staunton has always been a big fan of the arts. With a diverse love of all things music and theater, the community has always supported the arts.
Summers, you'll find a gathering of theater lovers under the trees at the Oak Grove Theater. The talent and ambiance of this community theater provide under-the-stars performances that have kept audiences coming back for well over 30 years.
It's no wonder then that the American Shakespeare Center eventually found its way to Staunton. Internationally recognized, the Blackfriar Theater is both a marvel and a gift to our small community. (Board member Dame Judi Dench accepted an award on behalf of her late husband, Michael Williams, in 2004.) A sparse setting that takes on a life of its own when actors take the stage, you don't want to miss these performances.
Musically, Staunton is blessed to have the Heifetz Institute, home to some of the most talented young musicians in the world. Each summer, gifted classical musicians visit Staunton and continue their tutelage under some of the industry's best musicians. Performances also occur throughout the year by faculty. There's also the Staunton Music Festival as well as the Fortune Williams Music Festival that occur each year.
There are so many reasons to fall in love with the Shenandoah Valley. From friendly people to diverse interests that bring people together, here at Femme Care we hope you make Staunton your home!
Copyright 2018. Femme Care - Lisa J. Roberts, CNM. All rights reserved.