Two Tosh Brothers Among Early Men To Like Territory Around Salt Lick-Grew Slowly At First
From the 1938 centennial edition of The Times-Register
All the records seem to point to the fact that Mark Evans was the pioneer who led the way for the Big Lick and Glade Creek settlements in the early days. The great road from north to south passed close to Glade Creek and for that reason the lands about the place were choice tracts for early settlers. Mark and Stephen Evans are listed as being members of the militia in 1742 but nothing is heard further concerning Stephen Evans. In 1746 Erwin Patterson was appointed constable for the territory near Great Lick and he must have lived some place in the vicinity.
About the place where Mark Evans settled were a number of springs and the salty waters being held back and overflowing flat land gave the place the name of Big Lick or Great Lick as it was sometimes called.
The two Tosh brothers were among the earliest settlers in that Big Lick vicinity. Records indicate that Thomas Tosh first secured lands in South Salem but no record that he ever lived there is to be had. Tasker Tosh settled at the place where “Lone Oak”, one of the modern show places of Roanoke is now located. Johnathan Tosh, son of Thomas Tosh became one of the most wealthy residents of the community. Neighbors of the Toshes were the Alexanders and the first one of that family to settle in the vicinity of Big Lick was William Alexander who died in 1750.
Early Big Lick Settlers
In the community the Neelys were large property and landowners in the early days. William McClenachan who came up from North Carolina finally settled there. By marrying Sarah Neely in 1769 he acquired quite a large amount of land. McClenachan became sheriff of Botetourt County in 1782 and experienced much trouble in collecting taxes. He had the same experience as many of the other sheriffs had in those trying days when the young government was trying to establish itself.
Information concerning Belmont which was not far from the Big Lick is rather definite. This place was first owned by John Robinson, millwright, who sold the place which included 530 acres on both sides of Buffalo Creek to Israel Christian sometime before 1767. These lands Christian deeded to his daughter, Ann, who married Col. William Fleming. Col. Fleming added greatly to the plantation and made it one of the finest estates in Botetourt County. This estate was divided between the heirs in 1807 and it eventually became the property of Charles Johnston.
Big Lick Incorporated
It was not until February 28, 1874 that the town of Big Lick was incorporated and at that time the name that the Indians had given it was still used. While the name is not very appropriate for a city Big Lick has associated with it many memories of the past for it was at this place that the Buffalo came to lick the saline waters of which they were so fond. It is said that hundreds of Buffalo were slain in the vicinity in the years previous to 1740.
When Big Lick was incorporated in 1874 the first mayor was John Trout and the councilmen were: William Raines, Ferdinand Rorer, Isham M. Ferguson, Peyton L. Terry, James M. Gambil and Dr. Jams McG. Kent.
From 1874 to 1881 the town had a normal growth so that by 1881 about six or seven hundred people were numbered among the inhabitants of Big Lick. By 1884 the town had grown to include a population of 5,276 the increase being rapid after the Shenandoah Valley railroad was extended to Big Lick. That was in 1881 and in this year the name of the town was changed from Big Lick to Roanoke. In 1884 a charter was obtained making Roanoke a city. Lucian H. Cocke was the first mayor of Roanoke after it became a city.
The Boom Periods
Three boom periods marked the development of Roanoke during the years from 1882 and another one in 1885 but it was not until 1888 and 1889 that the real boom struck the city. In the three years following 1888 there was feverish excitement in all lines of activity with real estate values soaring in a manner that resembled the Florida boom of 1926, Industrially the town also made strides during this period, many manufacturing concerns locating in Roanoke but the boom had burst by the end of 1891. Most disastrous to investors was the collapse of values and the panic which came on soon after that brought industry about to a standstill.
On September 24, 1896 the Norfolk & Western railroad was organized under that name and the city of Roanoke and the railroad have both had substantial and rapid growth since that time. The place where buffalo came to lick the salty waters has become a metropolis and the trading center for Southwest Virginia.
-Prepared by Lisa King