Driving south through Augusta County on U.S. Route 340 you pass through Stuarts Draft. While a first glance may reveal a small, rural community, what is hidden is a giant in the local economy. Stuarts Draft is a community that has found the balance between hosting a thriving industry and preserving the character of a rural community.
One of the earliest community’s in Augusta County, the name Stuarts Draft came from the Stuart family, some of the first settlers in the area. The Stuarts purchased land in the 1730s from William Beverley, a Virginia planter who was given a 120,000 acre grant in what is now Augusta County. The origins of the “Draft” part of the name are uncertain, though it may refer to the local branch of the South River near the town.
In 1749 Thomas Stuart, the son of one of the original settlers purchased the land that is now the town of Stuarts Draft. While the name was in common usage for nearly 100 years it wasn’t until 1837 when a post office was established in the town that the name “Stuarts Draft” became official.
In the 1850s the Howardsville Turnpike, a toll road that crossed the Valley came through Stuarts Draft. Later in 1882 the railroad came to Stuarts Draft and industry began to flourish in the area. Many businesses catered to the local farming community, including mills, canneries and hatcheries. This growth has continued in the 20th century and the area around Stuarts Draft has become home to some of the top corporations in the country, including Hershey Chocolate, McKee Foods (manufacturer of Little Debbie), NIBCO, Hollister, Ply Gem, and Target, some of the top employers in the county.
While industry flourished the Stuarts Draft area has experienced a revival of community over the past decade. Old buildings have been repurposed, like the Old School House Restaurant established in a former school that was originally built in 1927. Stuarts Draft has three parks and a county league baseball team. Community activities include the award winning annual Sweet Dreams Festival, the Fireman’s Parade and Lawn Party and Christmas Parade.
A famous attraction in the Stuarts Draft area is Shenandoah Acres. The resort began serving the area in the 1930s and featured a spring-fed lake. The area evolved into a campground and water park and was once billed as America’s “finest inland beach.” Over the decades Shenandoah Acres was a summer destination for generations of families and civic groups throughout the region until it closed in 2002. It was re-opened in 2014. There are plenty of recreational opportunities around Stuarts Draft as well. To the east lies the Shenandoah National Park, Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Stuarts Draft is home to four schools in the Augusta County Public School system – Stuarts Draft Elementary School, Guy K. Stump Elementary School, Stuarts Draft Middle School, and Stuarts Draft High School. The private Ridgeview Christian School serves 150 students grades K-12.
Stuarts Draft is about five miles south of the incorporated city of Waynesboro. The surrounding Augusta County is home to two colleges, a regional health center, two interstate systems and a regional airport. There are 9,300 people in a 20 square mile area around Stuarts Draft designated by the U.S. Census. With business, educational and recreational opportunities nearby Stuarts Draft is a dynamic area where work and play are close at hand.
Stuarts Draft, Virginia
- Date established: first settled – 1730, first post office and official name – 1837
- Current population: 9,300
- Physical size: 20 square miles
- Police force: Augusta County Sheriff’s Office – with 72 sworn officers
- Largest local employer: McKee Foods
- Claim to fame: Shenandoah Acres, a historic lake and resort