Early History of Monroe County
Monroe County was created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly on January 14, 1799 from parts of Greenbrier County. According to the national census of 1800, Monroe County had a population of 4,188, the 9th largest population of the 13 counties then in existence in the present state of West Virginia. Berkeley County had the largest population at that time (22,006) and Wood County had the smallest (1,217).
The county was named in honor of James Monroe (1758-1831), who was serving as the Governor of Virginia when the new county was formed. He was born on April 29, 1758 in Westmoreland County, Virginia, served in the Continental Army, and then as a member of the Virginia General Assembly in 1782. He then represented Virginia in the Continental Congress (1783-1786) and in the U.S. Senate (1790-1794). In 1794, he was named Minister to France by President George Washington. He then served as the Governor of Virginia (1799-1802, 1811), Special Ambassador to France to negotiate the purchase of Louisiana (in 1804), U.S. Secretary of State (1811-1817), and 5th President of the United States (1817-1825). His administration was dubbed the "Era of Good Feelings" because the politics of the era had relatively few factional battles and his Monroe Doctrine set the tone for American foreign policy for generations. He died on July 1, 1834.
Thomas Batt, Robert Fullam and Thomas Wood were the first Englishmen to set foot in present day Monroe County. They explored the area in 1671. John Moss was the first permanent English settler in the county. He built a cabin near Sweet Springs in 1760. Christian Peters moved into the county in 1770, near the present site of Peterstown. That same year, a group of settlers (Adam and Jacob Mann, Valentine Cook, John and George Miller, and Isaac Estill) moved into the county and built Mann's Fort. A survey completed in 1774 indicated that there were 54 families living in the county. The county's first school opened in 1795, with Samuel Harper serving as the schoolmaster.
Union, the county seat, was settled in 1774 by James Alexander.
The town was chartered by the Virginia General Assembly in 1799 and laid out on James Alexander's land. In 1800,
he donated land for a courthouse. The town was named Union because it was a rendezvous site where the troops would
gather (forming a union) during the French and Indian Wars (1754-1763). Richard Shanklin was the first merchant
in the town, opening his doors for business in 1800. James A. Shanklin became the town's postmaster that same year.
In 1802, Charles Friend opened the town's first hotel. The town was incorporated in 1868.