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VT Special Collections Online

The Origins of New Town

Deed, Vaughn Property

Handwritten Vaughn property deed (exact date unknown).

New Town was a primarily African American neighborhood in Blacksburg, first established near the end of Reconstruction. It stood at the current site of Collegiate Square.

In 1874, Gilbert Vaughn, a former slave, bought a half-acre plot of land and became the first black landowner of New Town. The first mention of the neighborhood’s name is an 1884 deed bestowing a half-acre plot “near the town of Blacksburg in Montgomery County in what is known as ‘New or Clapboard town’” to an African American couple, Aaron and Hannah Watson.

Many families like the Vaughns and the Watsons originally came to Montgomery County as slaves during the tobacco boom of 1850. This community remained in Blacksburg after Emancipation and settled in neighborhoods like New Town. Some families remained in the neighborhood for generations.