In 1800, James Simpson, a Botetourt County landowner, purchased 31 acres of land for $100 and dedicated half of the purchase to plotting a new town. The Town of Salem was officially established when Simpson recorded his ownership at Fincastle Courthouse in October 1802, and it later became the government seat when Roanoke County was carved from Botetourt County in 1838. Today, Salem is an independent city, boasting a rich tradition of educational, commercial, and residential success. Roanoke County, like Salem, has emerged from its agrarian past to become a suburban county that embraces the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as the strength and success of corporate centers and residential communities.
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.