Marker Text: On 5 Sept. 1716, in this region, it is believed, Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood and his party of government officials, gentry, Native Americans, soldiers, and servants crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains into the Shenandoah Valley. Their adventure into Virginia's western lands began at Germanna late in Aug. and ended when they returned there on 10 Sept. According to legend, Spotswood gave his companions small golden horseshoes on their return and the group became known as the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe. The journey has been fictionalized and mythologized in literature since the 19th century.
Location: On U.S. Route 33 (Spotswood Trail) near the intersection with the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park just outside the Swift Run entrance to the Skyline Drive at the crest of the hill. Erected by the Department of Historic Resources in 2004, this marker replaces an earlier marker erected in 1934.
Photo on the right is looking west toward the valley and Route 33 and the entrance station to Shenandoah National at Swift Run Gap is on the right in the background.
The Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition took place in 1716 in the British Colony of Virginia. It is a frequently recounted event in the History of Virginia. According to existing records on September 5, 1716, Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood and his party of government officials is believed to have reached a point near the location of this marker, the top ridge of the Blue Ridge mountains at Swift Run Gap (elevation 2,365 feet) to have their first look of the Shenandoah Valley.
Photo on the left taken looking east toward Skyline Drive, which can be seen crossing Route 33 over the bridge on the right.
The company of men included Virginia gentry, Native Americans, soldiers, and servants who crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains into the Shenandoah Valley. Their adventure into Virginia's western lands began at Germanna in late August and ended when they returned to Germanna on September 10.
In addition to the state historical marker, there is also a commemorative plaque and pyramid-shaped stone at Swift Run Gap next to the state marker indicating the historic crossing of the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe. The Skyline Drive and the Appalachian Trail both pass east of this location as well.
After the journey, Spotswood gave each officer of the expedition a stickpin made of gold and shaped like a horseshoe on which he had inscribed the words in Latin "Sic jurat transcendere montes," which translates into English as "Thus he swears to cross the mountains." The horseshoes were encrusted with small stones and were small enough to be worn from a watch chain. The presentation of these memento's of the journey is the reason why later the expedition soon became popularly known as the "Knights of the Golden Horseshoe." None of these pins are known to exist today. The journey has been fictionalized and mythologized in literature since the 19th century.
In West Virginia, there is a competition named after the Knights of Golden Horseshoe. All 8th grade students take a test to show their knowledge of West Virginia's history. Students with the highest scores are "knighted" and receive a golden horseshoe in Charleston, West Virginia, the state capital. Receiving this award is a source of great pride among WV students and adults who received the award in the past.
Marker Text: In honor of Governor Alexander Spotswood and the Knights of the Horseshoe: John Fontaine • Robert Beverley • William Robertson • Dr. Robinson Todd • James Taylor • Robert Brooke • George Mason • Captain Smith • Jeremiah Clouder and others whose names are unknown, who with rangers, Indians and servants, about fifty in all, reached the summit of this pass. September 5, 1716.
Erected 1921 by Colonial Dames of America in the State of Virginia, September 5th.
Photo of the monument on the right was the first monument placed here in 1921 to commemorate this event in Virginia history and is one of three markers.
Lt. Governor Spotswood and his party were not the first colonists to see the Shenandoah Valley. About 40 years before, John Lederer viewed the valley during his explorations in to the valley and the following marker located west of Front Royal, VA indicates this event.
Marker Text: John Lederer, First explorer to view this valley, saw it from this point, August 26, 1670, Erected 1927.
Location: On VA Route 55 (John Marshal Highway) at the intersection with County Route 638 (Fiery Run Road) in Linden, Virginia in Warren County.
Photo on the right is the marker looking west on Route 55 toward the Shenandoah Valley. Marker is not easy to see driving down the road.