Virginia Counties
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Virginia Counties

The Commonwealth of Virginia is divided into ninety-five counties and thirty-eight independent cities, which are considered county-equivalents for census purposes.

City of Salem, Virginia

City of Salem Education, Geography, and HistorySalem, Virginia City Hall

Salem is an independent city in the US commonwealth of Virginia. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 24,802. It is the county seat of Roanoke County, although the two are separate jurisdictions. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Salem with Roanoke County for statistical purposes.

Salem is bordered by the city of Roanoke and is included in the Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Etymology - Origin of City of Name

The City of Salem, in Roanoke County, was laid out in 1802 on land owned by James Simpson. The town is said to have been named by a member of the Bryan family, of Salem, New Jersey.


County QuickFacts: City of Salem

City History

Salem is an independent city in Virginia, USA, bordered by the city of Roanoke to the east but otherwise adjacent to Roanoke County

The earliest history of Salem exists as archaeological evidence of Native American tribes as far back as 8000 B.C. until the middle of the 18th century. Europeans first explored the area of Salem in 1671, when the Totero people had a village nearby. European explorers Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam gave the area its first recorded name: Totero Town, after this tribe, who supplied them with a guide to help with further exploration. Fort Lewis, named for General Andrew Lewis, of what is now Roanoke County, was constructed to the west of the town in 1752. The city's Andrew Lewis Middle School was named after the General. Salem grew as a small settlement serving travelers on the Great Wilderness Road (roughly the same path followed by US-11 and later Interstate 81 today) and was officially founded in 1802, though it received its charter in 1806. It is not known with certainty why the town was named Salem; however, the most widely accepted explanation is that Salem was named to honor William Bryan, a prominent citizen, who had moved from Salem, New Jersey. Salem was attacked twice during the American Civil War, but its Salem Flying Artillery was said to have fired the last Confederate shot at Appomattox Court House prior to the surrender of Robert E. Lee. Also, one of the city's four elementary schools is named G.W. Carver. During segregation, this school served as the high school for African Americans in Salem.

Salem annexed South Salem in 1953 and an eastern tract in 1960, giving it a population of 16,058 and thus making it Virginia's largest town at that time. Salem officially became a city on December 31, 1967. Salem became a city to avoid the possibility of annexation into the city of Roanoke.

Salem, Virginia established on 6 January 1806. [Virginia Genealogy, Sources & Resources, by Carol McGinnis, Genealogical Publishing Inc., Baltimore, MD, 1993.]

Salem, Virginia was incorporated as a town in 1836 and incorporated as a city in 1968. It was established on 6 January 1806. County Seat for Roanoke County, Virginia. [Virginia Genealogy, Sources & Resources, by Carol McGinnis, Genealogical Publishing Inc., Baltimore, MD, 1993.]

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 14.6 square miles (37.8 km2).

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • City of Roanoke to the east but otherwise adjacent to Roanoke County


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