As you drive east and west on U.S. 33 if you’re not paying attention you might miss it. As you pass the Massanutten Peak on the north side of the road if you look south you will see McGaheysville, a community that has grown where the Massanutten Mountain ended.
As early as 1769 a church was built in the area that became known as the “Peaked Mountain Church.” The community that formed nearby was first called “Ursulaburg” after the wife of the minister at the church.
In 1801 Scotts-Irish immigrant Tobias McGahey established a post office in the small community that sat on the Rockingham Turnpike, a road that connected western Virginia to the state capital in Richmond. McGahey went to build a mill and a brewery. The community would later take his name and was incorporated in 1804.
By the time the Civil War came to the Valley McGaheysville was a community with a population of over 300, complete with shops, stores and industry. The war raged around the small town, which was spared much of the destruction, although several battles of the Valley Campaign were fought within a few miles of the town.
As the Valley recovered from the damage wrought by the war it looked to tourism to help rebuild its economy. A mineral springs, known as “Rockingham Springs” was located nearby at the base of Massanutten Mountain. A hotel was later built near the springs to handle the visitors to the area. Descendants of the original owners of the spring would later develop the area even further into what is now known as Massanutten Resort.
The Rockingham Turnpike became U.S. 33. When the road was improved and widened in the 1960s it was moved from the center of town to the countryside slightly north. McGaheysville continued to grow as a small rural community just off the beaten path. The community today is centered around its local schools. McGaheysville Elementary school is in the middle of the town on the site of the old high school. Down the road is the Montevideo Middle School and Cub Run Elemntary School.
Today McGaheysville is a small, unincorporated community that is within 10 miles of Harrisonburg, the county seat of Rockingham County. The town has both volunteer fire and rescue squads and is serviced by reliable cable television, high-speed internet and cell phone providers. There are both public and private school options within five miles, including the public elementary school within the town limits. Although it is close to the convenience of Harrisonburg’s retail, medical and educational services McGaheysville maintains its quiet and quaint character as one of the Valley’s original communities whose character harkens back to simpler days.
- Date established: First settled in the mid-1700s. Town incorporated in 1804. Town currently unincorporated.
- Largest local employer: Massanutten Resort