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Migration Out of Grayson County, Virginia

The First Great Out-Migration 1810-20
Even though the population density of the Upper New River Valley was less than 5 persons per square mile in 1810 and slightly over 5 in 1820, many early denizens of the New River Valley felt crowded and an earnest out-migration began by 1810. The primary destination for these early restless men and women was Kentucky and Tennessee. Oral tradition many times indicates that these people "went west", which was no doubt often true, but west may have been less than 200 miles away in eastern Kentucky, east Tennessee, or other southwest Virginia counties.

The Second Great Out Migration 1835-50
By 1840 the density of settlement in the Upper New River Valley reached 8.3 per square mile. The lure of newly opened lands appealed to many of the New River Settlers who packed up their worldly goods and migrated to Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. The usual route was through Southwest Virginia to Pound Gap in what was then Russell County. The folks crossed the gap and booked passage on flat boats which floated down the Big Sandy River to the Ohio and then down the Ohio to their destination.

After the Mexican-American War, tales of the richness of Texas and the Southwest filtered back to the Upper New River Valley and beginning in about mid-century Texas became a prime migratory destination.

The Third Great Out-Migration
After the great conflagration of the South from 1861 - 1865, many residents of the Upper New River Valley decided it would be more profitable to be somewhere else. Shortly after the War ended several families moved into Southern West Virginia, particularly into Wyoming or Raleigh County. Some of those who migrated there were some of the Sizemore, Halsey, Wyatt and Hash families. It is unclear why these families migrated into this barren country, certainly farm land in the Upper New River Valley was more productive than on the Guyandotte, but go they did. This was in the time before coal mining was widely practiced in that region. The Halseys, led by Drury Halsey, were more prosperous than the others. Drury Halsey, a Primitive Baptist Minister and former Confederate Army Chaplain, was chosen to pastor several churches in the area, and eventually became Moderator of the Elkhorn Primitive Baptist Association. Members of the Upper New River Families who migrated into this region tended to be more successful than their neighbors. Perhaps the motivation to improve themselves was stronger than those who had become sedate in the life they had carved for themselves in the uninviting hills of Southern West Virginia.

The Fourth Great Out-Migration
In the early 20th century, people from the New River Valley rediscovered Baltimore, Cecil, and Harford counties in Maryland and Chester and Lancaster counties in Pennsylvania. Large numbers of families from Grayson County continued to move to these areas into the 1950s.

(Source: Migration Out of Grayson County)


This page was last updated January 14, 2004.