Stuarts Draft, one of Augusta County’s oldest settlements, derives its name from the son of a British fugitive and a local geographic feature. Stuart was the family name of the offspring of a Scottish dissident who came to settle the area in the 1730’s after fleeing religious persecution in Britain. Archibald Stuart was a Scotch Presbyterian, living in Ireland with an Irish wife in the 1720’s, during the reign of King James I, a Catholic who took part in a movement to fight religious harassment in 1725. Ironically, Stuart was persecuted by the royal government for this act and fled Britain for the American Colonies, leaving his family in Ireland.
Settling in western Pennsylvania, Stuart found safe haven. When a general amnesty was declared for fugitives like Stuart seven years later in 1732, he sent for his family to join him in the new world. Promises of protection from Indian raids on the frontier by Virginia Governor William Gooch drew settlers like Stuart to Augusta County, which was created by an act of the Colony’s House of Burgesses in 1738, the same year Stuart arrived in the area. Two years earlier, William Beverley, one of the county’s founders, received a patent from Gooch for 118,491 acres in what had been part of Orange County and became Augusta County. Beverley sold parcels of his land to settlers like the Stuart family, which bought several hundred acres from him in the Stuarts Draft area, about three miles east of Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church, near the intersection of U.S. 340 and Northgate Avenue, in what is now southwest Waynesboro. He helped build Tinkling Spring Presbyterian’s first meeting house in 1744.
Records in the Augusta County Courthouse indicate Thomas Stuart, Archibald’s son, obtained a deed for 353 acres in the Stuarts Draft area in 1749. He is acknowledged as Stuarts Draft’s founder. The name Stuarts Draft was first used nearly 100 years later in 1837, when a post office opened. The origin of the term Draft is disputed. Some authorities say the word describes the wide, flat plain adjacent to the South River, where several industries are now located, others say it refers to the narrow valley just north of the village. Others say it is because of the constant breeze blowing through the area.