Rural Retreat is a town in Wythe County located at the divide between the New and Tennessee rivers, near the border of Wythe and Smyth counties. The East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad (later the Virginia and Tennessee, the Norfolk and Western, and now the Norfolk Southern) connected the town to the coastal cities in 1856.
At that time, the town name changed from Mt. Airy to Rural Retreat, to eliminate any chance of shippers getting it confused with Mount Airy, NC. The railroad enabled local farmers to specialize in cabbages before World War II, and Rural Retreat was once the "Cabbage Capital of the World."
Dr. Charles Pepper of Rural Retreat is the namesake of the Dr Pepper soft drink. One of the pharmacists who invented the drink in Texas had lived in Rural Retreat and worked in Dr. Pepper's drugstore after the Civil War. Myths associated with the soft drink include the claim that the pharmacist, Wade Morrison, chose the name because he was in love with the doctor's daughter. Another possibility is that including "Dr" in the name was intended to advertise the health advantages of the drink.
The building that once housed Dr. Pepper's pharmacy burned in the 1990's.1
Wythe County in 1856, as the Virginia and Tennessee brought the first railroad to Southwest Virginia
Source: Library of Congress, Map & profile of the Virginia & Tennessee Rail Road (William Willis Blackford, 1856)