The community of Keezletown sits unassumingly at the base of the Massanutten Mountains. It’s a place so quiet and rural that it’s hard to imagine Keezletown was once in competition to be Rockingham County’s premier city.
In the late 18th century Keezletown and Harrisonburg were vying to be the counties top town. Unlike its rival Keezletown was a planned community. In the 18th century the road that passed through the town heading north and south along the base of the Massanutten Mountain, known as the “Old Indian Trail,” was as important as the famous Wagon Road further west.
George Keisell saw the potential in the location and began planning a community and selling lots. The town became known as “Keisell’s Town,” a name that was later changed to “Keezletown.” The town was established in 1791.
According to local legend both towns sent a representative to the then state capital in Williamsburg to have their locale made county seat. The representative from Keezletown’s horse went lame along the way, letting the Harrisonburg representative arrive first and gaining the title for his town.
After Harrisonburg won the race to become the county seat development slowed in Keezletown. Instead of growing into an urban center Keezletown became a rural community with the Massanutten Mountains as a background. The town did find a niche as a place of education. The Keezletown Academy was an early school in Rockingham County and the public school that took the Academy’s place was one of the first in the county. As public schools grew larger and consolidated the brick school in Keezletown went out of use. It is now home to Redeemer Classical School, a private K-8 school.
Today the industry around Keezletown is largely agriculture based and features some of the most innovative ag businesses in the county. One farm, Radical Roots, has a sustainable growing program and markets its produce locally through a community supported agriculture (CSA) system.
While Keezletown has stayed a small community Harrisonburg has grown to a town of 40,000. Its growth has taken its boundaries to within two miles of its former rival. That puts Keezletown residents near the retail, medical and educational services of the city, yet is still situated in its rural agrarian landscape with the Massanutten Mountain as its backdrop.
- Date established: First settled in the late 1700s. Town incorporated in 1791. Currently unincorporated.
- Largest local employer: Shenandoah Growers
- Claim to fame: The nearby Massanutten Caverns was once opened to the public.