Since Europeans first settled along the banks of Back Creek in the 1740s, southwest Roanoke County's history has been as fluid as the creek itself. Local historian Nelson Harris details the eclectic history of the area. The once dense forest with log cabins gave way to the sprawling suburbs of the present. The colonial-era Trader's Path that directed Scots-Irish homesteaders, the growth of the apple industry in Bent Mountain after the Civil War, a state highway built by convicts during the Depression and Cave Spring becoming a modern commercial center have shaped the region. The changing picture of daily life in Back Creek spanning two centuries emerges in stories of one-room schoolhouses, doctors on horseback, country stores, local baseball and NASCAR races at Starkey.
Local historian Nelson Harris is a native and former mayor of Roanoke. He has been the pastor of Heights Community Church since 1999 and is an adjunct faculty member at Virginia Western Community College. He is a past president of the Historical Society of Western Virginia, a columnist for the Roanoker magazine, and has been recognized by the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation for his research and advocacy of regional history. He is the author of fourteen books, including Downtown Roanoke, A History of Back Creek, Aviation in Roanoke and Hidden History of Roanoke.