The Roanoker September/October 2017 - 18
STREETS OF ROANOKE
U.S. 221/Bent Mountain Road
A main artery of southwest Roanoke County began as an agricultural necessity.
BY NELSON HARRIS
Back Creek section of southwest Roanoke County
U.S. 221, portions of which are named Brambleton Avenue and Bent
Mountain Road, weaves through the populous Back Creek section of
southwestern Roanoke County following a course determined by the
state when the highway was constructed in 1932. From the intersection
at Va. 419 (Electric Road), it moves from a dense commercial center
south to the foot of Bent Mountain where pastoral views remain much
as they were a half century ago.
When Robert Poage settled along what was called the Traders' Path in
1747, he was on the Virginia frontier. The Back Creek area was still part
of Augusta County with the county seat at Staunton. The frontier was
opened for homesteading in 1730 by the Commonwealth's Colonial
governor. Poage was soon joined by other settlers and over time small
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villages developed-Cave Spring, Poages Mill, and Haran-clustered
with stores, churches, schools, post offices and tradesmen.
By the late 18th century, surveyors had converted the former Traders' Path into a central road that mostly followed the contours of Back
Creek. Road builders were required by Botetourt County (and then in
1838 by Roanoke County) to construct beds at least 15 feet wide with
any necessary bridges and allow for "summer roads" used by farmers to
access their fields and homes. Tithables, an early form of taxes, were collected from users to pay for the construction and maintenance. The first
documented road construction occurred in 1772 when Robert Poage,
Leonard Huff and James McKeachy were authorized to survey a road
"from Tosh's Ford to the top of Bent Mountain." According to Botetourt
County records, their road bed was completed in 1773. The road was resurveyed in 1783. Such activity suggests significant settlement and trade
were occurring in the region.
By 1832, the state authorized a charter for the Jacksonville and Bent
Mountain Turnpike Company. The company's purpose was to construct
a turnpike between Jacksonville (present-day Floyd) and Cave Spring.