The county of Mercer was formed by an act of the General Assembly of Virginia, passed the 17th day of March, 1837. The bill was introduced into the Virginia Assembly by Daniel Hale, representative from Giles County. The bill was supported by a petition presented by a number of people whose family names are familiar throughout this section; vis: Captain William Smith, William H. French, Joseph Davidson, Elijah Bailey, Isaac Gore, Cornelius White, William White, Col. Daniel H. Pearis, Captain Geo. W. Pearis, James Calfee, and a number of others.
The territory forming Mercer county, was taken partly from the county of Giles and partly from the county of Tazewell. The bill which was passed by the Virginia Assembly creating Mercer county reads as follows: "Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that all that part of the counties boundary lines, towit: Beginning at the mouth of New River, in Giles County, and following the meanders thereof up to Toney's Mill dam; thence along the top of said mountain, East River Mountain, (the line from Toney's Mill dam to the top of the mountain was evidently omitted in the act); to a point opposite the upper end of the old plantation of James Belcher, deceased, thence a straight light to Peery's mill dam near the mouth of Alp's (Abb's) Valley, thence to a point well known by the name of the peeled (Pealed) Chestnuts, thence to the top of Flat Top Mountain, thence along said mountain to New River, thence up and along said mountain to New River, thence up and along the various meanderings of the same to the beginning, and shall form one distinct and new County, and be called and known by the name of Mercer County, in the memory of General Hugh Mercer, who fell at Princeton."
In pursuance with the provisions of the act; Thomas Kirk, of Giles county, Joseph Stratton, of Logan county, James Harvey, of Tazewell county, and Henry B. Hunter, of Greenbrier county, were appointed to a commission to locate the site for the new county's Court House. A meeting of the commissioners was held at Gladeville (which settlement was located about one mile west of the present court house on the New Hope road) and decided to name the county seat Princeton, on account of the county having been named for General Mercer who fell mortally wounded at Princeton, N. J.
Three changes have been made in the original boundary lines of Mercer county since its creation, when the lines of Mercer and Tazewell from the top of East River mountain to Peery's mill dam was surveyed a small strip of Tazewell territory was thrown into Mercer; The line along New River was changed to run straight from Toney's mill dam to Wiley's Falls' taking a small strip from Mercer county and adding to Giles, in 1841; when the county of Summers was created, in 1871, all of the territory lying east and northeast of a line drawn from Round Bottom on New River to Brammer's Gate on Flat Top, in Mercer county with an area of 420 square miles [was lost].
The population of the territory embraced by Mercer county, in 1837, was less than two thousand. The settlement which had sprung up along New River from what is now Glen Lyn and extending the west side of the river for almost two miles was not included in Mercer county because the citizens of that section objected to being cut off from Giles county and included in what they called the wilderness county (Mercer).
At this time there was a settlement at Crump's Bottom on New River; a settlement at Clover Bottom (now Lake Shawnee) on Bluestone; settlements along Flat Top mountain; a settlement at Beaver Pond Springs (now Bluefield); a settlement at Concord Church (now Athens); a small settlement along East River which was subsequently called Frenchville (now Oakvale); a small settlement at Pipestem; and a settlement at Gladeville a short distance west of Princeton, now commonly referred to as Johnston Town.
Only two voting precincts were provided in the county, one at Princeton and one at Pipestem. At this time those permitted to vote formed a very small percentage of Mercer county's population, as only freeholders who had been assessed with taxes and had paid same were permitted to exercise the right of suffrage. These restrictions, however, were eliminated by the constitutional convention held in Richmond, in 1850.
The first officials of Mercer county were as follows: Judge of the Circuit court, James E. Brown of Wythe county; Clerk, John M. Cunningham; attorney for the common-wealth, Thomas J. Boyd; Sheriff, Capt. William Smith; Clerk of the County Court, Moses E. Kerr; Member of the Legislature, (1838) William Smith; County Surveyor, Robert Hall.
Updated March 6, 2001