It is the believed the area what is now Harrisonburg was first explored by the English in 1716. The town was originally called Rocktown until it was renamed for Thomas Harrison who in 1779 deeded two and a half acres for the construction of a courthouse. In 1780, a deeded an additional 50 acres which makes up the Historic Downtown District of Harrisonburg today. This historic downtown is in the process of revitalization (not unlike that of Neosho, Carthage, and Joplin). Harrisonburg was incorporated as an independent city in 1916. During the American Civil War, there were battles fought near Harrisonburg in 1862 and 1864. When the slaves were freed after the Civil War, many banded together to form a city near Harrisonburg called Newtown. This area was annexed by Harrisonburg in 1892 and was the primary residence for the city’s African American population during segregation.
Harrisonburg is the county seat for Rockingham County. The population of Harrisonburg in 2000 was 40,000 and it is believed to be 45,000 now. Harrisonburg is home to three higher education institutions. JMU (of course), Eastern Mennonite University (a private institution) and Blue Ridge Community College (a branch campus). In addition, Harrisonburg’s public school district serves approximately 4,400 students.
As my friends in Missouri know, Newton and Jasper counties are a center of Methamphetamine. Well, Harrsionburg is considered by many to be the Meth capitol of the East Coast. Therefore, I will not be surprised when I hear about Meth labs on the evening news!
Despite the drugs, Harrisonburg is a clean town and has a wide variety of stores. This is due to the high concentration of students. I look forward to exploring the history of Harrisonburg, the Shenandoah Valley and the surrounding area. Montpelier (James Madison’s home) and Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s Home) are about an hour from Harrisonburg and I plan to make a trip to each very soon!
I will update my blog next weekend! This week I have a busy schedule. Monday I have Graduate School Orientation as well as Orientation for TAs. (Monday is also the day I get my iPhone 4!!!) Tuesday, I will meet again with Dr. Chris Davis (the professor for whom I am TA) and discuss the course and I should get a copy of the syllabus. Finally, on Friday I have Orientation for the Department of History. It is going to be a busy week!