The area, now called Tazewell County, was first occupied by an indigenous people known as Woodland Indians. Little is known of these early inhabitants, but from the artifacts found in cornfields, caves, and burial grounds that are scattered across the county, it is clear that they were an organized society of people and groups. One unique artifact in the county is the pictograph display at Paint Lick Mountain. The meaning of these paintings is not empirically known, but historic researchers to the site believe they are representative of many tribes and relate to the rituals around the summer solstice. The Woodland Indians were gone long before pioneers and European settlers arrived. The Cherokee and Shawnee Indians were using the lands as hunting grounds at that time, but had no permanent settlements in the area.
The first permanent European setter was probably Thomas Witten who built a cabin on the Big Crab Orchard Tract in 1770. This tract’s previous owners include Patrick Henry. Other settlers soon arrived by way of the Wilderness Trail, most of these early pioneers being of Scotch-Irish descent.
Tazewell County was formed in 1799 and was named for Senator Henry Tazewell of Norfolk County. Senator Tazewell opposed the formation of the county and only consented to support this westward expansion of Virginia when told the county would bear his name. The original boundaries of the county extended from east of present day Giles County to the Kentucky border. The current land area of the Tazewell County is 510 square miles with dramatically changing elevations from 1900 to 4700 feet above sea level. Tazewell County is split along the eastern continental divide and is thus home to many headwaters and streams. To the east, the streams flow into the New River; to the north into the Big Sandy; to the west into the Clinch River; and to the south into the Holston River.
This area of Virginia is also home to growing technologies and the challenges of competing development. As with many rural communities across the country, Tazewell County is feeling the development pressures driven by suburban housing sprawl and the infrastructure and services expected and desired by the populations living there. Agricultural uses, as well as commercial, and industrial developments via for the same areas of arable land found in the valleys and small acreages of low-slope sections of the county. Tazewell County is changing and developing, just as it did throughout the history that has made it such a rich and diverse community. From past to present, Tazewell County has much to admire as well as a responsibility to protect valuable natural and cultural resources and promote growth and development in areas most desired by its residents.