In Randolph's time Roanoke was his tobacco plantation on the Roanoke River in rural Charlotte County, Virginia. The word Roanoke is Algonquin for money.The city of Roanoke in the Blue Ridge Mountains (about 100 miles WNW as the crow flies of Randolph's plantation, but located on the same river) wasn't chartered till 1884, although the town of Big Lick had been well established at that location since 1852.Big Lick's name came from a large outcropping of salt along the river which attracted abundant wildlife. The town's location on the main wagon route down the Shenandoah Valley between Harper's Ferry and the Cumberland Gap made it a transportation hub for the flood of new immigrants moving from coastal Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania to Kentucky, Tennessee, and the western Carolinas.Big Lick's central position as a transportation hub was confirmed in the 1850s when the Virginia and Tennessee Rail Road (V&T) linked Lynchburg with Bristol on the Tennessee border.After the WBTS, the hero of the Battle of the Crater, William Mahone, linked 3 local rail lines to form the Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio RR (AM&O). Then EW Clark from Philadelphia combined the Shenandoah Valley RR with the AM&O to create the Norfolk and Western.Big Lick was renamed Roanoke when it became the main north/south and east/west junction for the new N&W. The town grew so fast it was nicknamed The Magic City.The N&W's Roanoke Shops designed and manufactured steam locomotives till 1953, long after diesel-electric had replaced steam for most of the nation's RRs.The N&W was the last major RR in the US to convert from steam to diesel electric power in 1960.
Thanks for the history/geography lesson rope - very interesting! I've really become interested in this biography. Johnson is a great writer and when you match a great writer with an fascinating subject, you get a wonderful read.
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