Franklin County is a vibrant community with a storied past. It was formed in 1785 from parts of Bedford and Henry Counties and named for legendary inventor and statesman, Benjamin Franklin. The County was home to civil rights pioneer Booker T. Washington, whose home has been transformed into a beautiful and educational national park. Franklin County was also home to Confederate General Jubal Early. The area once served as part of the route that took the first white settlers to the wildernesses of the west and south. West bound settlers traveled the Wilderness Road across the Roanoke and New River Valleys and through the Cumberland Gap to reach the western side of the Appalachian Mountains and the continuance of their journey to the unsettled areas of Kentucky, Ohio, and beyond. A spur of this famous route, known as the Carolina Road, guided pioneers and their families south from established Virginia to all parts south, including North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. One of the only known segments of the Carolina Road to exist today can be found within Waid Park in Franklin County.
The area’s arts and music scenes offer a window into its deep cultural roots.
These traditions are displayed through Franklin County’s inclusion in two regional arts organizations: The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail and ‘Round the Mountain. The Crooked Road, which celebrates the old-time and traditional music of Southwestern Virginia, begins its journey here with its Eastern Gateway in Rocky Mount. It is this old-time music that has been credited as the roots of country and bluegrass music as well as being a major influence on the evolution of music in general. Franklin County is home to one of the Crooked Road’s major venues, the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum at Ferrum College. The Institute is Virginia’s official repository of Blue Ridge folklore. The music of the Crooked Road is alive and well today as it is performed almost nightly by local musicians at locations throughout the County
What the Crooked Road does for music, ‘Round the Mountain does for the handmade arts of the region. From painting to pottery, from glassblowing to quilting, dozens of forms of traditional handmade arts and crafts have been practiced in Franklin County and around the region for generations. These arts still thrive today and are celebrated as part of the ‘Round the Mountain experience.
For the most comprehensive information on the history of Franklin County, visit the Franklin County Historical Society. Chartered in 1968, the mission of the organization is to collect and preserve the history of the community. The FCHS operates a history museum and research library in Rocky Mount to provide public access to their collected materials.