Mendota, meaning "bend in the river," is located on the north fork of the Holston River in the eastern section of Scott County along Rte 58. The river is a great spot for paddlers seeking solitude or trophy-caliber smallmouth bass.
Not far outside town, up a scenic mountain road, visitors also flock to the Mendota Fire Tower on the peak of the Clinch Mountain every fall to view birds of prey. Mendota is widely recognized as the Hawk Capitol of the World, and it lives up to its name.
More than 16 species of raptors (hawks) soar down the spine of the Clinch Mountain every autumn, heading south for the winter along the Appalachian Flyway. The Mendota Fire Tower is a great location to view these hawks, especially at the peak of migration in mid September when up to 1,000 birds per day can be seen soaring past. Broad-winged Hawks are the most common raptors sighted, but the sharp-eyed birder will notice Sharp-shinned, Red-shouldered, and Coopers Hawks, Osprey, Bald and Golden Eagles, American Kestrels, Northern Harriers, Merlins, Peregrine Falcons, and Swallow-tailed Kites.
In 1770, Peter Livingston and his family settled on 2,000 acres beside the North Fork of the Holston River at the mouth of Livingston Creek near present day Mendota, Virginia. The beautiful and fertile river bottoms of his farm yielded good crops and he soon had expanded his cleared land to several acres and eventually brought in slaves to help him work it.
All appeared well until the morning of April 6, 1794, when the dreaded half-breed Cherokee Chief Benge and his followers quietly crept upon the unsuspecting cabins in an attempt to steal slaves to sell to the British. Working some distance away in the fields, Peter and his brother Henry only suspected trouble when they saw smoke rising from the direction of their homes. Rushing back to the scene, they soon learned that their wives and some of their slaves had been carried off. Not knowing the exact route the Indians might take, Peter and Henry followed the trail while others were sent to notify the militias in the surrounding area.
Lt. Vincent Hobbs and his Lee County Militia (of 13) were drilling at Yokum’s Station on April 9 when they receive the word. Hurrying toward Big Stone Gap, he overtook some of Benge’s advance party and quietly dispatched them. Then the Lee County Militia hastily set up an ambush in an obscure hollow near the gap. But before Hobbs and his men were ready, the lead element of Benge’s group came into view.
Although the red-headed Benge fired from cover, the Cherokee chief was killed and the captives released. Hearing the gun fire, Peter and Henry Livingston rushed ahead and were soon reunited with their wives.
More recently, Mendota was an important point on a railroad line connecting Bristol and Hiltons. In the 1920s, a town council worked to turn Mendota into a thriving community, but the government eventually faded due to lack of organization. Today, Mendota is just a sleepy little town leading to recreational opportunities on the Clinch Mountain and Holston River.