Shenandoah Valley History

Shenandoah Valley Virginia

Rental cabins in Virginia

Weekend Oasis Vacation Rentals is pleased to offer rental cabins, condos, cottages, and houses in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Our rental cabins are located near all the attractions of the Shenandoah valley including historic sites, civil war battlegrounds, and Shenandoah National Park.  

The Shenandoah Valley is both a geographic valley and cultural region of western Virginia and West Virginia in the United States. The valley is bounded to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians (excluding Massanutten Mountain), to the north by the Potomac River and to the south by the James River. The cultural region covers a larger area that includes all of the valley plus the Virginia highlands to the west, and the Roanoke Valley to the south. It is physiographically located within the Ridge and Valley province and is a portion of the Great Appalachian Valley.

The word Shenandoah is of unknown Native American origin. It has been described as being derived from the Anglicization of Native American terms, resulting in words such as: Gerando, Gerundo, Genantua, Shendo and Sherando. The meaning of these words is of some question. Schin-han-dowi, the "River Through the Spruces"; On-an-da-goa, the "River of High Mountains" or "Silver-Water"; and an Iroquois word for "Big Meadow", have all been proposed by Native American etymologists. The most popular, romanticized belief is that the name comes from a Native American expression for "Beautiful Daughter of the Stars."

Another legend relates that the name is derived from the name of the Iroquoian Chief Sherando (Sherando was also the name of his people), who fought with Algonquian Chief Opechancanough, ruler of the Powhatan Confederacy (1618-1644). Opechancanough liked the interior country so much that he sent his son Sheewa-a-nee from the Tidewater with a large party to colonize the valley. Sheewa-a-nee drove Sherando back to his former territory near the Great Lakes. According to this account, descendants of Sheewanee's party became the Shawnee. According to tradition, another branch of Iroquoians, the Senedo, lived in present-day Shenandoah County. They were exterminated by "Southern Indians" (Cherokees) some few years before the arrival of white settlers.

Another possibility on the origin of the name of the river and the valley dates to the Revolutionary War. Throughout the war, Chief Shenandoah (whose name means "deer") of the Oneida was pivotal as he persuaded the Oneidas to side with the American rebels. Shenandoah was also the signer of the oldest treaty signed by the new government of the United States in 1794. According to Oneida oral traditions, during the harsh winter at Valley Forge, Chief Shenandoah provided aid. They sent bushels of dry corn to the troops to help them survive due to their lack of food. Along with the corn, an Oneida woman named Polly Cooper stayed with the troops, and she taught them to cook the corn properly. Polly was given a shawl by Martha Washington as a show of thanks. It is believed by many that the Shenandoah River, and subsequently, the Valley, were named for Chief Shenandoah by George Washington. 

The Shenandoah Valley was apparently explored by the French before 1632, as it appeared on Samuel Champlain's map published in that year.
Despite the Valley's potential for productive farmland, colonial settlement from the east was long delayed by the barrier of the Blue Ridge Mountains. These were crossed by explorers John Lederer at Manassas Gap in 1671, Batts and Fallam the same year, and Cadwallader Jones in 1682. The Swiss Franz Ludwig Michel and Christoph von Graffenried also explored and mapped the Valley in 1706 and 1712, respectively. Von Graffenried reported that the Indians of Senantona (Shenandoah) had been alarmed by news of the recent Tuscarora War in North Carolina.
Governor Alexander Spotswood's legendary Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition of 1716 crossed the Blue Ridge at Swift Run Gap and reached the river at Elkton, VA. Settlers did not immediately follow, but someone who heard the reports and later became the first permanent settler in the Valley was Adam Miller (Mueller), who in 1727 staked out claims on the south fork of the Shenandoah River, near the line that now divides Rockingham County from Page County.
The Great Wagon Road (later called the Valley Pike (or Valley Turnpike) began as the Great Warriors Trail or Indian Road, a Native road through common hunting grounds shared by several tribes settled around the periphery, which included Iroquoian, Siouan and Algonquian-language family tribes. Known native settlements within the Valley were few, but included the Shawnee occupying the region around Winchester, and Tuscarora around what is now Martinsburg, West Virginia. In the late 1720s and 1730s, Quakers and Mennonites began to move in from Pennsylvania. They were tolerated by the natives, while "Long Knives" (English settlers from coastal Virginia colony) were less welcomed. During these same decades, the valley route continued to be used by war parties of Seneca (Iroquois) and Lenape en route from New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey to attack the distant Catawba in the Carolinas, with whom they were at war. The Catawba in turn pursued the war parties northward, often overtaking them by the time they reached the Potomac. Several fierce battles were fought among the warring nations in the Valley region, as attested by the earliest European-American settlers.