Rockbridge County was established in October, 1777 from parts of now neighboring Augusta and Botetourt counties, and the first county elections were held in May 1778. Rockbridge County was named for Natural Bridge, a notable landmark in the southern portion of the county. Rockbridge County was formed during an act of assembly intended to reduce the amount of travel to the nearest courthouse, and to ensure trials were held fairly, and among friends rather than strangers. The first court session in Rockbridge County was held at the home of Samuel Wallace on April 7, 1778. Slaves were far fewer in Rockbridge County than in many parts of Virginia, and, thus, the anti-slavery movement was stronger in Rockbridge than in many other counties of Virginia. For instance, several faculty members at Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) vigorously opposed slavery. However, many of the wealthiest residents of Rockbridge County owned slaves and passed down those slaves to their widows and children.
Notable people associated with Rockbridge County
Robert H. Adams (1792–1832), born in Rockbridge County, United States Senator from Mississippi
John Allen (soldier) (1771–1813), born in Rockbridge County, a Kentucky political figure and colonel of militia, killed in the War of 1812
Adam Rankin Alexander (1772–1851), born in Rockbridge County, United States Congressman from Tennessee
Archibald Alexander (1772–1851), born in Rockbridge County, noted Presbyterian clergyman, president of Hampden–Sydney College and one of the founders of and the first professor of Princeton Theological Seminary
Samuel Dale (1772–1841), born in Rockbridge County, American frontiersman, known as the ""Daniel Boone of Alabama" and a veteran of the Creek War of 1813–1814
William C. Friday (1920–2012), American educator, public servant and President of University of North Carolina (1956–1986), born in Raphine, Rockbridge County.
Sam Houston (1793–1863), born in Rockbridge County, the only man to be Governor of two U.S. states (Texas, Tennessee). Also, victor at the Battle of San Jacinto, President of the Republic of Texas, and U.S. Senator.
Miles Poindexter (1868-1946), Graduate of Fancy Hill Academy and Washington & Lee University, United States Senator from Washington, 1920 Republican Primary Presidential Candidate, United States Ambassador to Peru, Author, retired to and died in his home in Arnolds Valley.
Stonewall Jackson, General in the C.S.A. Army, lived in Lexington, the county seat.
Robert E. Lee, former commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the U.S. Civil War, who, after the war, accepted the presidency of Washington and Lee University (then Washington College)
Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the reaper
Sally Mann (born 1951), celebrated American photographer
Charlie Manuel, American and Japanese baseball player and World Series champion manager of the Philadelphia Phillies
Rick Mast, Fan favorite Winston Cup and Busch Series driver
Samuel B. Pryor, (1816–1866), First mayor of Dallas, TX. He was in the first class of the Virginia Military Institute.
Archibald Roane, who later became governor of Tennessee, lived in Rockbridge County in the 1780s
Absalom Willis Robertson, U.S. Senator, father of Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson (b. 1930), American minister, university president and media figure
Archibald Stuart, Founder of Phi Beta Kappa
Cy Twombly, American ex-patriate painter, born in Lexington
Pierre Daura, Spanish/Catalan painter, naturalized American