Immerse Yourself in History

Beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains lies an unfinished story—one of ingenuity, grit and adventure. This is your opportunity to invest in a piece of living history.

In 1851, the James River and Kanawha Canal reached Buchanan in Botetourt County. As the James River and Kanawha Canal Company inched toward the land now known as RiverStone Ranch, the hairpin curves of the James River made floating the river with a batteaux impossible. With a plan to dig by hand through two mountain ranges and connect the James River with the Mississippi River, a team set to work on the “Third Grand Division” project.

Fast forward three years later, with nearly one-half million dollars spent, the project came to a halt. Lack of funds and mounting tension between the North and the South meant that the entire project was left untouched. Stones lay in the fields waiting to be dressed and placed; a stone culvert left to be covered; and, on either side of the mountain, hundreds of feet of tunnel lay unfinished. Had the tunnel been completed, it would have bypassed almost six miles of twisting river—potentially altering what historical, local commerce and transportation that we know of today.

What makes this piece of history so remarkable is that samples of canal archaeology are surviving on the property, completely untouched. Walking along the grounds is like stepping back nearly 200 years into the past. Visitors to the property can still walk among the lock chambers, and can even see both east and west entrances to the tunnel. 

While the property itself is a dream—with its incredible views and high-yielding timber—the history of it is nearly priceless.

Marshall Canal Tunnel Survey – August 6, 1966

The Marshall Canal-Tunnel is one of the most important canal sites in the United States. Named in honor of Chief Justice John Marshall, an early advocate of the 19th-century canal systems, the project was abandoned in 1856 during the midst of construction and was left unfinished. This fragile, preserved site now serves as an archaeological time capsule of early American tunneling techniques including the use of hand drills and black powder.

 

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