Bisected by the Roanoke River, Roanoke is the commercial and cultural hub of much of Southwest Virginia and portions of Southern West Virginia.The name for the river was that used by the Algonquian speakers who lived 300 miles away where the river emptied into the sea near Roanoke Island.The Great Indian Warpath which later merged into the colonial Great Wagon Road, one of the most heavily traveled roads of eighteenth century America, ran from Philadelphia through the Shenandoah Valley to the future site of the City of Roanoke, where the Roanoke River passed through the Blue Ridge.
The native people who lived near where the city was founded did not speak Algonquian. There were also Cherokee speakers in that general area who fought with the Catawba people.
The city grew frequently through annexation through the middle of the twentieth century. The state legislature has since prohibited cities from annexing land from adjacent counties.
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However, the Financial Panic of 1873 wrecked the AM&O's finances.
After several years of operating under receiverships, Mahone's role as a railroad builder ended in 1881 when northern financial interests took control.
As the N&W brought people and jobs, the Town of Roanoke quickly became an independent city in 1884.
In fact, Roanoke became a city so quickly that it earned the nickname "Magic City".
The Roanoke Gap proved a useful route for immigrants to settle the Carolina Piedmont region.
At Roanoke Gap, another branch of the Great Wagon Road, the Wilderness Road, continued southwest to Tennessee.
Roanoke is the largest municipality in Southwest Virginia, and is the principal municipality of the Roanoke Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which had a 2010 population of 308,707.