Lynchburg’s History

Lynchburg was named for its founder, John Lynch, who at the age of 17 started a ferry service across the James River in 1757. In 1786, the Virginia General Assembly granted Lynch a charter for a town, which took in the 45 acres of land that Lynch owned. Lynchburg was incorporated as a town in 1805, and as a city in 1852.

The Society of Friends, or Quakers, were the first religious group to settle in Lynchburg. The city’s first house of worship was the South River Meeting House of the Society of Friends, located on Fort Avenue. The Meeting House was restored and is now part of Quaker Memorial Presbyterian Church. Lynchburg is often called the “City of Churches” for the large number and variety of religious buildings found in the city today.

Tobacco and iron were the chief products of early Lynchburg. The extensive use of Lynch’s ferry system on the James River resulted in Lynchburg becoming one of the largest tobacco markets in the U. S. The James Calloway Furnace, which operated around 1770 until 1779, and the Davie Ross Furnace, which was in business from 1781 until 1837, supplied the Continental Army with pig iron and cannon balls during the American Revolution.

Lynchburg served as a major storage depot during the Civil War, as well as a burial place for many of those killed during the war. Confederate Generals are buried here, including General Jubal Early, who commanded the Confederate forces during the brief Battle of Lynchburg. The breastworks for the defense of the city can still be seen at Fort Early. Lynchburg is also known for its proximity to Appomattox where the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865.

Lynchburg is often called the City of Seven Hills. Each of the hills has an interesting history behind its name. White Rock Hill was named for the beautiful white rocks one could see on the drive up to the hill. Franklin Hill was possibly named for Benjamin Franklin, a frequent visitor to the area. Diamond Hill was perhaps named for the lots on the turnpike that were triangular shaped. Federal Hill could have been named for the Federalist party that was very influential in the early years of Lynchburg’s development. College Hill was named for the military college sponsored by the Methodist Protestants from 1858 until the time of the Civil War. Garland Hill was named for the Garland family that lived there for more than 100 years. Daniel’s Hill was named for Judge William Daniel who owned and subsequently sold most of the land on the hill.

The Seven Hills of Lynchburg are where much of Lynchburg’s history and the projects of the Lynchburg Historical Foundation have taken place. We invite you to read a summary of our mission, programs, coalitions and plans for the future. Please consider helping Lynchburg preserve its past and its future by joining our organization today.