Named in honor of Thomas Harrison, who deeded two and one-half acres of his plantation to the County for a courthouse in 1779, Harrisonburg was founded in 1780. It was recognized by the Virginia General Assembly as a town in 1849 and incorporated as a city in 1916. In 1794, Bishop Francis Asbury, the first Methodist Bishop iHn America, organized conferences in the Harrison house and eventually started a school in the area. "Stonewall" Jackson's Civil War Valley Campaign ended in Port Republic in 1862. Seven years later the railroad was completed between Washington, D.C., and Harrisonburg.
Harrisonburg became the focal point for the poultry industry with the completion of the railroad and the development of one of the nation's first incubators in the nearby community of Dayton in 1884. Bridgewater College, in Rockingham County, was established in 1880. James Madison University was established by the General Assembly in 1908 as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Harrisonburg. Eastern Mennonite College (now Eastern Mennonite University), a privately endowed liberal arts college, was established nine years later in 1917.