Editor’s note: The first installment appeared in Wednesday’s issue.
Part 1 of this column told that under a land grant signed by Governor Patrick Henry in 1786, Henry Banks was granted a plat of land named Lovely Mount in present-day Radford.
The accompanying sketch shows Banks’s plat as survey lines drawn over a modified Geographic Information System (GIS) map of Radford captured from the city’s website. Radford City is bounded on its west side and most of its north side by the New River, and elsewhere by Montgomery County. Radford’s area is 6520-acres and the plat area stated in the grant is 797-acres, or about 12 percent of the city’s present size.
From a published guide to the microfilms of the Henry Banks collection at the Virginia Historical Society, edited by Charles Dew, we learn that Banks’s Radford survey was likely made by James Hines acting as a deputy surveyor to John Preston, the son of William Preston of Smithfield.
The grant states that the land survey was made on May 13, 1784. The description of the first survey line (at the bottom right of the sketch) reads: “Beginning at a Large white oak by Said Branch and running thence North Six Degrees west one Hundred and ten poles to a white oak.” The said branch is the previously mentioned Connolly Branch.
During the early Commonwealth period, surveyors used a compass to measure direction and a chain to measure distance. A 66-foot-long chain (equal to four poles) was manipulated by chain carriers under the guidance of the surveyor. The first leg of the survey in the sketch went slightly west of due north for 110 poles or 1815 feet.
Today, we cannot identify the location of the large white oak on Connolly Branch where the survey began. The oak is long gone, and at the beginning point of the survey Connolly Branch runs several hundred yards east and west along the former Wilderness Road. The sketch suggests the survey began near the present-day Lovely Mount tavern marker on Rock Road — which is probably a fair guess but needs refining.
The description of the sixth and final leg of the survey (at the bottom left of the sketch) reads: “South fifty four Degrees east three hundred and ninety poles to the Beginning.” As can be seen, the final leg does not close the survey polygon. Failure to close was common in surveys of this period simply because the chain and compass survey method was not very accurate. In contrast, modern satellite based GIS surveys can be accurate to inches.
This columnist has not found any map that actually labels a peak as Lovely Mount. The long ridge that reaches 2311 feet and parallels Interstate-81at the south end of Radford is labeled Ingles Mountain. Lovely Mountain Drive climbs over this ridge on its way from Rock Road to near Interstate-81. Charmont Drive, which becomes Wild Partridge Lane, follows the ridge line of Ingles Mountain.
Lovely Mount itself might be the unnamed 2323-foot peak at the end of the dirt road named Mary Alice Lane about half a mile north of Ingles Mountain. It might also be the unnamed 2088-foot peak south of Rock Road near the tavern marker.
The area of the 1786 grant is said to be 797-acres in the margin of the grant document. A modern calculation, assuming a line that completes the polygon in the sketch, measures only 472-acres. An explanation is needed.
If this columnist can find the right coauthor and the right publication venue, his informal two-part discussion of the first ever land grant in Radford should be worth writing up as the beginning of Radford history in a formal academic article with appropriate citations.
Jim Glanville is a retired chemist living in Blacksburg. He has been publishing and lecturing for more than a decade about the history of Southwest Virginia.