1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lexington (Virginia)

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LEXINGTON, a town and the county-seat of Rockbridge county, Virginia, U.S.A., on the North river (a branch of the James), about 30 m. N.N.W. of Lynchburg. Pop. (1900) 3203 (1252 negroes); (1910) 2931. It is served by the Chesapeake & Ohio and the Baltimore & Ohio railways. The famous Natural Bridge is about 16 m. S.W., and there are mineral springs in the vicinity—at Rockbridge Baths, 10 m. N., at Wilson’s Springs, 12 m. N., and at Rockbridge Alum Springs, 17 m. N.W. Lexington is best known as the seat of Washington and Lee University, and of the Virginia Military Institute. The former grew out of Augusta Academy, which was established in 1749 in Augusta county, about 15 m. S.W. of what is now the city of Staunton, was renamed Liberty Hall and was established near Lexington in 1780, and was chartered as Liberty Hall Academy in 1782. In 1798 its name was changed to Washington Academy, in recognition of a gift from George Washington of some shares of canal stock, which he refused to receive from the Virginia legislature. In 1802 the Virginia branch of the Society of the Cincinnati disbanded and turned over to the academy its funds, about $25,000; in 1813 the academy took the name Washington College; and in 1871 its corporate name was changed to Washington and Lee University, the addition to the name being made in honour of General Robert E. Lee, who was the president of the college from August 1865 until his death in 1870. He was succeeded by his son, General George Washington Custis Lee (b. 1832), president from 1871 to 1897, and Dr William Lyne Wilson (1843-1900), the eminent political leader and educator, was president from 1897 to 1900. In 1908-1909 the university comprised a college, a school of commerce, a school of engineering and a school of law, and had a library of 47,000 volumes, 23 instructors and 565 students. In the Lee Memorial chapel, on the campus, General Robert E. Lee is buried, and over his grave is a notable recumbent statue of him by Edward Virginius Valentine (b. 1838). The Virginia Military Institute was established in March 1839, when its cadet corps supplanted the company of soldiers maintained by the state to garrison the Western Arsenal at Lexington. The first superintendent (1839-1890) was General Francis Henney Smith (1812-1890), a graduate (1833) of the United States Military Academy; and from 1851 until the outbreak of the Civil War “Stonewall” Jackson was a professor in the Institute—he is buried in the Lexington cemetery and his grave is marked by a monument. On the campus of the institute is a fine statue, “Virginia Mourning Her Dead,” by Moses Ezekiel (b. 1844), which commemorates the gallantry of a battalion of 250 cadets from the institute, more than 50 of whom were killed or wounded during the engagement at New Market on the 15th of May 1864. In 1908-1909 the institute had 21 instructors and 330 cadets. Flour is manufactured in Lexington and lime in the vicinity. The town owns and operates its water-works. The first settlers of Rockbridge county established themselves in 1737 near the North river, a short distance below Lexington. The first permanent settlement on the present site was made about 1778. On the 11th of June 1864, during the occupation of the town by Federal troops under General David Hunter, most of the buildings in the town and those of the university were damaged and all those of the institute, except the superintendent’s headquarters, were burned.