At Port Republic, the North River and the South River meet to form the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. When European explorers first entered the area in the early 1700's, it was inhabited by the Shawnee, who came here after battles to refurbish their arsenal as indicated by the large amounts of chopped flint and imperfect arrowheads found here. They took advantage of nature's abundance, lush vegetation, fish and game, provided by the River and its forests.
When the first settlers arrived they were quick to recognize the vast industrial potential of the area, seeing the rivers as a source of power for driving machinery and as waterways for transporting commodities. The first flour mill was built c. 1745 by Captain Henry Downs. In the same time period, the area became home to three influential Virginians: John Madison (Madison Hall), Gabriel Jones (Bogota) and Thomas Lewis (Lynnwood).
In 1802, the village was chartered as a town by an Act of the General Assembly. It was laid off into lots and streets on the land of John Carthrea, Jr. and its size was nearly doubled immediately by the "Carthrea addition" of land of John Carthrea, Sr. The growth and prosperity was such that the next year the town of New Haven (now nearly non-existent) was established on the North River bank opposite Port.
In 1784, George Washington, while visiting at the home of Gabriel Jones, had written in his diary about the possible navigability of the South Fork of the Shenandoah to its confluence with the Potomac. In 1814, the New Shenandoah Company was established by Act of the General Assembly (through efforts headed by Stephen Harnsberger) to make the river navigable for flat-bottomed boats. These were called "gundalows," as long as 90 feet. Commodities were brought in from nearby farms, industries, and mines on the eight public roads which led to Port, and were shipped to Harper's Ferry. Boating became a major industry which endured more than a half century.
Another local lad and member of the company was Abraham Scott Hooke (whose family has lived in Port Republic since 1756). Hooke carried a pine box three miles on his horse in which to bury Silas. Later the body was exhumed, brought home and buried in Port Republic Cemetery.