Staunton ( STAN-tən) is an independent city in the U.S. Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2020 census, the population was 25,750. In Virginia, independent cities are separate jurisdictions from the counties that surround them, so the government offices of Augusta County are in Verona, which is contiguous to Staunton. Staunton is a principal city of the Staunton-Waynesboro Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had a 2010 population of 118,502. Staunton is known for being the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson, the 28th U.S. president, and as the home of Mary Baldwin University, historically a women's college. The city is also home to Stuart Hall, a private co-ed preparatory school, as well as the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. It was the first city in the United States with a fully defined city manager system.
The area was first settled in 1732 by John Lewis and family. In 1736, William Beverley, a wealthy planter and merchant from Essex County, was granted by the Crown over 118,000 acres (48,000 hectares) in what would become Augusta County. Surveyor Thomas Lewis in 1746 laid out the first town plat for Beverley of what was originally called Beverley's Mill Place. Founded in 1747, it was renamed in honor of Lady Rebecca Staunton, wife to Royal Lieutenant-Governor Sir William Gooch. Because the town was located at the geographical center of the colony (which then included West Virginia), Staunton served between 1738 and 1771 as regional capital for much of what was later known as the Northwest Territory, with the westernmost courthouse in British North America prior to the Revolution. By 1760, Staunton was one of the major "remote trading centers in the backcountry" which coordinated the transportation of the vast amounts of grain and tobacco then being produced in response to the change of Britain from a net exporter of produce to an importer. Staunton thus played a crucial role in the mid 18th century expansion of the economies of the American Colonies which, in turn, contributed to the success of the American Revolution. It served as capital of Virginia in June 1781, when state legislators fled Richmond and then Charlottesville to avoid capture by the British.
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