It shouldn’t be a surprise that Front Royal has a rich local history. The natural attractions of this location, from the Shenandoah River to the surrounding mountain beauty have brought a steady stream of settlers and visitors to the town throughout its varied history. Read on for nine fun facts about Front Royal’s local history, starting with the Native Americans and ending with Bing Crosby!
1. The Iroquois Once Hunted in Front Royal
The entire Shenandoah Valley, including the land that would become Front Royal, was rich in natural resources for Native Americans, and saw many tribes both pass through and build settlements. The Iroquois were the last Native American group really to take possession of the valley. Unlike some other tribes, their culture was based primarily on hunting, and they did not attempt to develop farms, but used the valley as hunting grounds. The Iroquois Confederation sold the land that included the future Front Royal to Colony of Virginia in 1744.
2. Front Royal was the Home of the Shenandoah Valley’s First Ferry
Front Royal sits at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah River. It was here that the Shenandoah Valley’s first ferry was established in the 1730s. The ferry helped the Valley’s many travelers cross the Shenandoah River.
3. Front Royal’s Original Name was LeHewtown
The town that would become Front Royal first came into existence as LeHewtown in 1754. The name came from Peter LeHew, an early settler who bought a tract of property in what would become the center of the town.
4. Front Royal was a Popular Stop for Travelers
Front Royal (or LeHewtown) saw many travelers coming through. The Shenandoah River, brought many boatmen into town. The Shenandoah Valley was also a natural route for livestock drivers. At the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, and the tip of Massanutten Mountain range, Front Royal was a natural meeting point for travelers. Due to the large numbers of taverns that popped up to serve the passers-through, Front Royal also gained the nickname “Helltown.”
5. We’re not sure where Front Royal Got its Name
In 1788, Front Royal officially received the name it has today. No one is exactly sure where this name came from, but there are several interesting theories. Our favorite dates back to the days of the Revolutionary war. A camp of British soldiers was located near Front Royal. Comers to the camp must respond with the password “Royal” to the sentry’s challenge of “Front.” Thus the name “Front Royal” came into common usage.
6. Front Royal was the Home of Virginia’s Second Subscription Library
Front Royal was on the forefront of literacy in Virginia. In 1799, Front Royal became the home of the second subscription library in the State. This library has grown and changed location several times over its more than two hundred years. Now it exists as Front Royal’s Samuels Public Library.
7. Over 200 Confederate Soldiers are Buried in Front Royal
Front Royal has a rich Civil War history, and was the location of the Battle of Front Royal during Stonewall Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley campaign. After the war, the remains of the Confederate soldiers who had died in Warren County were gathered and buried together at Soldier’s Circle in Front Royal’s Prospect Hill Cemetery.
8. Skyline Drive Put Front Royal Even More on the Map
The 1920s were a time of exciting developments for Front Royal, as the Blue Ridge Mountains were selected as the location of a National Park for the Eastern United States. This park came into existence as Shenandoah National Park, and its northern entrance station is located right in Front Royal. The National Park draws outdoors lovers to the Front Royal all year round, especially in the fall. They find a warm, small-town welcome, great facilities, and gourmet dining, in addition to the natural wonders of the park that have delighted generations of visitors.
9. Bing Crosby was a Fan of Front Royal
Singing and acting star Bing Crosby visited Front Royal several times. In 1949 and 1950, he helped raise funds for a baseball stadium by appearing at several fundraising events, and donating personally to the stadium. Today, Front Royal’s Bing Crosby Stadium is the setting of baseball fun all summer long.
From Iroquois Hunters to Civil War soldiers, and from Early Traders to Stars of the Screen, Front Royal has seen it all. Plan a visit to Front Royal to explore even more of our history and find out what our exciting small town has in store for you!
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