Things to Do - History

In Abingdon, history is not confined to select sites and preserved buildings.

Civil War re-enactmentIt’s all around. When you look at the mountains surrounding town, you think of Daniel Boone walking through the woods or early American pioneers traveling the Great Road across the Blue Ridge Mountains to settle the new frontier.

When you stroll down Main Street, you think about the Civil War soldiers involved in nearby battles who were treated by nurses on the grounds of what is now the elegant Martha Washington Hotel.

HistoryVisit the Abingdon Muster Grounds and you’ll be able to imagine citizen militia members gathering to go off to fight the British for American independence.

  • Abingdon Historic District

    p: (276) 676-2282

    Stroll the charming brick sidewalks of downtown Abingdon, named a Virginia Historic Landmark. Pick up a brochure at the Visitor's Center and take a self-guided walking tour.

    [+] Expand Details

    Early-Autumn-Morning-at-Barter-Theatre

    Abingdon is a Virginia Historic Landmark, and its tree-lined brick sidewalks make for a beautiful stroll. 

    The 20-square-block Historic District includes a mixture of private residences, churches, and buildings open to the public.  Be sure to visit Fields-Penn 1860 House Museum, which shows how a typical family lived in the pre-Civil War period; The Arts Depot, an 1870 restored railroad station featuring artists at work in their studios; William King Museum of Art; Barter Theatre, the State Theatre of Virginia; The Martha Washington Inn & Spa, a Four-Star, Historic Hotel of America which was built in 1832; and The Tavern Restaurant, originally built in 1799.

    Pick up a brochure at the Abingdon Visitor's Center at 335 Cummings Street, and take a self-guided tour of the downtown Abingdon historic district. Allow about one hour for the tour.

  • Abingdon Muster Grounds

    1780 Muster Place

    p: 276-525-1050
    Visit Website

    hours: Open Daily 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m

    The 9-acre Abingdon Muster Grounds is the premier center for Colonial Backcountry history from the American Revolutionary Period in Southwest Virginia

    [+] Expand Details

    Historic Sights and SoundsThe 9-acre Abingdon Muster Grounds is the premier center for Colonial Backcountry history from the American Revolutionary Period in Southwest Virginia.

    Visit the Keller Interpretive Center, walk a short section of the Overmountain Victory Trail, or enjoy a picnic on the grounds. Throughout the year the Muster Grounds are home to historical reenactments; visit the website for more information.

    The Muster Grounds are the northern trailhead for the Overmountain Victory Trail, a 330-mile National Historic Trail. The trail traces the route used by patriot militia during the pivotal Kings Mountain campaign of 1780, which helped decide the outcome of the Revolutionary War.

    The Keller Interpretive Center helps visitors discover what life was like for the Overmountain Men, backcountry Women, African-Americans and Native Americans, as well as British Loyalists, and a history of Washington County — the Overmountain region of Southwest Virginia. Artifacts used at the Battle of Kings Mountain and others from the late 18th-century Overmountain region are on display.

    The Eastern National sales area provides something special and unique – for all ages – to take home to remember their experience at the Muster Grounds.

  • Abingdon Spirit Tours

    p: 276-706-6093

    hours: Call for info

    Haint Mistress Donnamarie Emmert tells you where the skeletons are buried....literally!

    [+] Expand Details
    Now in its 19th year, Abingdon Spirit Tours are led by the one and only Haint Mistress, Donnamarie Emmert. This popular tour, especially in the month of October, can be reserved throughout the year, weather permitting. It is a two hour walking tour of downtown Abingdon, where visitors are entertained with bits of Abingdon history as well as local ghost lore. Named a Passionate Virginian in 2009 by Virginia Tourism, Donnamarie Emmert packs a whole lot of storytelling and animation into her renowned Abingdon Spirit Tours.
    During October, Emmert offers regular tours with no reservations needed. Her October 2015 schedule offers a tour every night the 16th-18th and the the 21st through 30th. Time is 7:30, and meeting place is at the gazebo at the  Martha Washington Hotel. Price is $15 per person, and reservations are not needed.
  • Historical Society of Washington County, VA

    306 Depot Square

    p: 276-623-8337

    hours: Tues-Sat 10am-4pm, Mid Jan- Mid Dec

    "Come discover our history and your history with us"

    [+] Expand Details

    Located in historic downtown Abingdon, in beautiful Southwestern Virginia, the Historical Society of Washington County is headquartered in the Old Abingdon Train Station. The Society is a leading center in the region for genealogical and historical research, including local and regional history, published genealogies and family histories.

  • Old Mollie Steam Engine - Norfolk & Western Steam Engine 433

    Virginia Creeper Trailhead on Green Springs Road

    Located at the Virginia Creeper Trailhead on Green Springs Road, Abingdon's Old Mollie Steam Engine is the same type of engine that pulled the Virginia Creeper Railroad for many years.

    [+] Expand Details

    Mollie came about in January 1907 when the American Locomotive Company of Richmond, Virginia completed its construction for the Norfolk and Western Railway, assigning it the number 433.

    Mollie is a Class M locomotive, hence the favored nickname.

    In its heyday, 433 was one of more than 100 Class M engines owned and operated by Norfolk and Western during a 50-year period.

    Today, Abingdon's Mollie is only one of two still in existence. The other, Number 475, is located in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. Previously, Mollie was assigned duty as a main line freight engine, but toted human cargo as a passenger train as well. However, by the 1920s Class M engines were being quickly replaced by heavier, faster locomotives and the Mollie was left for smaller workloads on branch rail lines like the "Virginia Creeper" or Abingdon Branch where mountainous terrain played havoc on newer engines with their steep grades, sharp curves and wooden trestles that couldn't support the engine's weight. By 1957 all the Mollies that had been put on "Creeper duty" in and around Abingdon were cut up for scrap materials when all steam locomotive operations were put out of commission.

    Although Mollie is the same type engine that chugged along the old Virginia rail lines, it came from Bristol in 1953 where it performed yard work and served as a backup engine for the Abingdon Branch, after having been assigned to duty in Roanoke, Salem and Radford, Virginia. It also survived a wreck in 1951. Number 433 was finally retired in 1958 and the railroad donated Mollie to the Town of Abingdon where it was moved from Radford.

    It wasn't until 2002 that volunteers from the Virginia Creeper Trail Club and the Washington County, Virginia Preservation Foundation started a project that would eventually restore the beauty of 433 as it would have looked 50 years ago.

  • Sinking Spring Cemetery

    From the intersection of Cummings Street and Main Street, proceed west on Main Street about 3/10 of a mile. Turn righ ton to Russell Road. Turn left in to the cemetary entrance and park near the Cummings cabin.

    hours: Daylight hours, year-round.

    This cemetery has tombstones dated back as far as 1776. Historic Cummings Cabin is located within the Cemetery. Pick up a brochure at the Visitor's Center for a self-guided walking tour.

    [+] Expand Details

    Sinking Spring Cemetery was established as the burial ground for members of the Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church, which was organized in 1773. The members of the congregation, led by Rev. Charles Cummings, built their log church house and laid out the cemetery on 11 acres.  Burials over the past 200 years reflect the long history of Washington County.

    On the same parcel of land, but separated by Russell Road, is the burial place of the slaves owned by these early Presbyterians, and also free people of color.

    Both cemeteries are now owned by the Town of Abingdon, which welcomes visitors to the grounds during daylight hours. 

    Pick up a brochure at the Visitors Center, 335 Cummings Street, and take a self-guided walking tour of the cemetery.

  • Veterans Memorial Park

    Billy Webb Drive

    Abingdon's way to pay Tribute to our Veterans...We Salute You!

    [+] Expand Details

    Playground EquipmentSwings, Slide, See Saw, Geo Domes, Multi Unit Play StructurePicnic FacilitiesThe Park has 4 picnic tables under a shelter with a concrete pad.Other AmenitiesNice grassy park to walk through to enjoy the tribute of flags representing the branches of military service, the World War II Monument, the Korean War Monument, the Vietnam War Monument, the Lt. Billy Webb Memorial Tribute and the Bronze Ribbon Memorial.No bathrooms facilities in this Park.

  • Walnut Grove- Yeary Cabin

    Cabin is located between Valley Street and Plumb Alley and adjoins Brewers Alley

    p: 1-800-435-3440, 276-676-2282

    A recreation of an early Appalachian homestead, is an authentic representation of what was common to pioneer life in this region from the late 1700’s until the early 1900’s

    [+] Expand Details

    This “Village Homestead” (known as the Yeary Cabin) located in a grove of Black Walnut trees includes two log cabin dwellings connected by an enclosed “dogtrot”, outdoor bread oven, century old bee gums, Blacksmith Shop, “outhouse”, portable grist mill, horse drawn farm equipment, and other supporting additions .

  • Washington County Courthouse

    189 East Main Street

    Come visit the Tiffany stain glass window in the center of Town

    [+] Expand Details

    The original courthouse was burned during the Civil War. The current building was erected on the original site and houses the Circuit Court, the Juvenile Court and the General District Court of Washington County. Of special note is the Tiffany stained glass window above the courthouse entrance. It was dedicated on July 4, 1919, to honor those who served in World War I.

  • White's Mill

    12291 Whites Mill Road

    p: 276-628-2960
    Email Us
    Visit Website

    hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Closed January and February.

    White's Mill is a 150-year-old flour and grist mill located 3.5 miles from Abingdon. One of the only water-powered mills in existence in Southwest Virginia. The mill is a Virginia Historic Landmark.

    [+] Expand Details

    Visit this working water-powered mill for a glimpse of the past, then drop by the Mercantile to pick up a bag of stone-ground cornmeal or grits, as well as crafts from local artisans, and essential southern treats like a cold root beer and a Moonpie.

    The Virginia and National Registries of Historic Places listed White’s Mill in 1974, recognizing the importance of its structure and heritage.

    White's Mill has long served the neighboring community. Since the late 18th century, the mill provided meal and flour for the farm and kitchen, as well as a gathering place for sharing news and views. The Mercantile, formerly the Cumbow Store, provided those store-bought essentials and extras that any home needs.