In 1806, the Giles County was formed. The history of this area started much sooner, however. The New River littered with fertile hunting grounds attracted many Native Americans. Eventually, Scots-Irish immigrants then pushed the western frontier borders. They began to settle near the New River, also due to the hunting grounds it offered. There were many conflicts between the European settlers and the Native American settlers. Mary Porter and Mary Draper Ingles were both featured in stories told of this area and time in history. The towns then began to form early in the 19th century. Business centers were created to cater to the massive rural population.
Pearisburg and Newport were both on the way to West Virginia making them hot Civil War marching grounds for the Union forces. The Giles County Historical Society now what once was the Andrew Johnston property. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes used this building as Union headquarters back in 1862. Sgt. William McKinley was also part of the crowd in these meeting place. There are plenty more traces of evidence of this time period in history along the back roads of Giles County. Remnants of mills, iron furnaces, limestone quarries, ferry and bridge crossings, old farmsteads, small communities, and railroad tracks litter the area surrounding the New River.
The society itself is now greater than it has ever been. The Andrew Johnston family heirs listed the family home in a deed in 1987. The home was built in 1829. There was a small building in addition built in 1857 which served for two main purposes. The first being a doctor’s office and the second being a two-car garage to the Giles County Historical Society. The National Register of Historic Places lists the property along with an endowment fund which was established to restore as well as preserve the property as a museum. In October of 1997, the Historical Museum opened. Its sole purpose was to house the variety of artifacts of historical interest from present as well as former county residents. Many of the residents donated items to the museum. What was once a two car garage was quickly transformed into a Research Room with documents. These documents of were of interest to Giles County historians and genealogists. It is in the works for a barn to be built which will serve as a visitors’ center. The Giles Historical Society is fundraising for the construction of the barn as well as for the donations of items related to Giles County’s agricultural history.
The mission statement list of the society includes the following;
To provide the families which reside in the surrounding area with a repository for Giles County family histories including; documents and artifacts. Thus, creating and sustaining the interest in the history of Giles County. This will assist those interest in researching further into genealogical research.
The second statement involves the ability to assemble and provide local historical facts to the youth in the school systems in the area.
The third mission statement specifically indicated that the Giles County Historical Society wants to promote, provide, and maintain access by the public. They want to provide access to the Giles County Historical Society Complex.
The fourth and final mission statement concerns voicing issues and pursuing solutions to the preservation of the history, artifacts, sites, and records in which have all been classified as endangered. The Giles County Historical Society hopes to accumulate all of the artifacts and histories to preserve them in the best way possible so that it continue to serve as an educational outlet for the entire society.