In the 1700s European settlers made their way down the Shenandoah Valley and into western Virginia from Pennsylvania. In the northern part of Rockingham County was one of the first areas to be settled was around Timberville.
Western Virginia was the frontier of the British colonial empire and the European inhabitants came into conflict with the Native Americans who made the Valley their home. By the mid-18th century two forts had been built near the present site of Timberville along the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. The community that began to grow beside the river was first known as “Fort Run.” The Rader Lutheran Church, one of the oldest churches in the county, was built nearby in 1762.
Eventually a bridge was built across the river. Busy traffic on the river that picked up cargo at the town earned the community the name “Williamsport”. Later names reflected the predominate business in the village, including “Thompsons Store” and “Riddles Tavern.” In 1884 the community’s first post office adopted the name “Timberville,” which was chosen for the stands of trees near town that fed the lumber industry and the town was incorporated that same year.
By the early 20th century Timberville was a busy industrial town, with mills and factories along the river, a rail road depot, banks, hotels and a movie theater. Local orchards, and the canneries that processed their fruit, became an important part of the local economy and were important sources of food for America’s armies during both world wars.
As it grew on both sides of the North Fork bridges remained important in the development of Timberville. Five structures have bridged the river between the northern and southern halves of the town. Timberville’s famous covered bridge was replaced by the current structure in 1938.
Timberville has stayed a small community with a present population of 2,600 governed by a seven member elected council, headed by a mayor that works in cooperation with a town manager. It is a small town with modern conveniences. 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 public schools within five miles, including a county public elementary school within the town limits. The city of Harrisonburg, the county seat of Rockingham with a population of 40,000, is about 15 miles away with retail, medical and educational services. Industry in the town is mainly from businesses that support agriculture. The hills near Timberville are still holds the orchards for which the town has become known.
Timberville, the small frontier town in a growing Shenandoah Valley has remained a quiet community tucked into an agrarian landscape. The place that was once home to some of the area’s first pioneers is now home to many of their descendants and continues to draw people who are looking for a place where history and modern convenience are both right around the corner.
- Date established: First settled in the mid-1700s. Town incorporated in 1884.
- Current population: 2,600
- Physical size: 0.88 square miles
- Police force: four officers
- Largest local employer: Pilgrims Pride
- Claim to fame: Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, landed in a nearby field while on a visit to then state governor Harry Byrd in 1927.