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Rocktown reflects the beginning.
Before Harrisonburg and Rockingham were named,

there was the Valley where a community informally known as Rocktown grew.

Our new name, Rocktown History, honors that history.

Inspired by Rocktown

Francis Asbury came to America in 1771 to spread the gospel through Methodism. As he criss-crossed the countryside, he made many trips through the Shenandoah Valley and to Harrisonburg-Rockingham. In his journal, he occasionally referred to Harrisonburg as Rocktown.

Saturday, June 1 [1793]. We came to Staunton, a very unpleasant place to me. There are an Episcopal church, a courthouse, good taverns, and stores here. We went to Mr. —–‘s, expecting to find a friend; after making the trial, we thought it best to return and take lodging in a tavern. Thence we proceeded on to Rocktown, a beautiful place; here I felt myself stiff, and weary, and troubled with rheumatic pains: sweet sleep was quite welcome.

In 1853, the Richmond Enquirer reprinted an article from the Rockingham Register which had been written by General Samuel H. Lewis. Lewis had been in conversation about the naming of Rockingham County and felt it was time to set the record straight. He wrote that he had “been surprized to hear the idea expressed that the name of the county was suggested by the character of the soil, or rather from the limestone visible upon its surface. This notion was probably derived from the fact that in by gone days the town of Harrisonburg was frequently called by the country people, “Rocktown.”

In 1857, Joseph Funk & Sons printed “Crippled Fayette,” of Rockingham: Detailing his Times, and Giving his Rhymes, a book of poetry and personal history written by Thomas Fayette Jeffries. Jeffries was a  native of the Cub Run area of  Rockingham County who spent ten years of his life in bed suffering from the pains of rheumatism. The remainder of his years were spent in a wheelchair. The subject of Jeffries’ first visit to town as a young teen is recounted in this excerpt of his book:

“. . . For the present I must tell you how I managed to gratify my dersire [sic] of seeing a city! Let me tell it quickly! I went to Harrisonburg! Oh Moses! What a sight it was to me! Now the way I got to see the old Burgh was a little soft o’ funny – so my friends often tell me: – I slipped off as the phrase goes, and away I hurried up the dusty road, inquiring of every body I met, whether I was in the right road to Harrisonburg? Each one told me I was, yet I was so fearful I might not be, that I made it a point to ask at every house along the road-side, that I might be sure I was right – “then go ahead!”
“On I went, with my curiosity at a fever heat until I stood upon the top of the “Red hill,” when lo ! just below me burst upon my bewildered vision the ancient and honorable Town of Harrisonburg, or Rocktown, as some of the old settlers used to call it. Now I hurried on, almost dazzled by the reflected rays from the cupola of the Court-house ! and seriously wondering what could ever induce the people to put up a great gold fish on the top of a long stick ! that ran high above the big tin pan or kettle which stood there up side down !

Third Courthouse with “goldfish,” 1834-1874

Thomas Fayette Jefferies 1829-1904


On January 14, 1898, the Rockingham Register newspaper reported on a movement to change the city’s name to simply “Harrison” and described the earlier name of Rocktown as dating “back to the Revolutionary period.”

Excerpts from the page 1 article:

The physical inspiration for Rocktown History appears in land the width and breadth of Rockingham County. The significance of the area’s geology on our human history cannot be understated. Rich limestone and associated flood plain soils supported the agricultural abundance that made Rockingham famous and continues today. Those soils also created the flat valley floor that allowed homes, farms, roads, and businesses to develop easily.

Surveyor Wilson Miles Cary Fairfax (1798-1860) took note of the “Limestone Land” in his small notebook as he recorded significant buildings and geographical features of the area in 1828.

Courtesy, Library of Virginia.

History of the Organization

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