As far as can be ascertained the first white settler to make a permanent home close to what is now Pembroke, VA was Philip Lybrook. Lybrook and his family travel from Pennsylvania to Pembroke sometime between 1748 and 1755. His family was originally from Holland, where the name was said to be spelled Leibroch. This family settled at a point along the New River where Sinking Creek flows into the river. Fast forward a bit to 1765 John Snidow, his wife, and eight children started from Pennsylvania to settle near their friend Philip Lybrook. It was thought that John had paid a visit to Philip earlier, had liked what he saw, and had gotten a grant of land in the area that is now Pembroke. And so with his wife, Elizabeth Helm Snidow, sons Philip, Christian, John, Theophilus, and Jacob, daughters Barbara and two small girls (later killed by the Indians 1774) he started south to settle on his tract of land.
On the way south, they met a band of friendly Indians who fed them a good supper. John liked the meat they provided so well that he ate a great quantity of it. After asking what it was, they told him rattlesnake. Needless to say he died, however it is unknown whether it was from overeating, shock, or something else. Elizabeth, the widow, along with her children proceeded on their journey and settled the land which now is the little town of Pembroke. Much of this original grant is still in the possession of the Snidow’s who are the descendants of Philip and Elizabeth Snidow.
Other early settlers were the Chapman’s, the Johnston’s, and the Burkes. The story goes that in 1845 the town was named by John Lyebrook, a descendant of Philip. John, at that time, was postmaster and he had been reading a book in which he ran across the name Pembroke. Some think that it may have been a copy of Shakespeares’ Sonnets which was dedicated in part to the Earl of Pembroke. He thought it was a pretty name, so he printed PEMBROKE on a board and hung it onto the post office building. Some folks who do not know today call it “pem-brook”, but it is plainly “pem-broke”.
The town of Pembroke was officially incorporated in 1948. The first mayor was Capt. T. P. Smith. The town hall that we know today was finished in 1968. The town is now home to a Volunteer Fire Department and a Police Department in which we are very proud of. Pembroke is governed by five councilmen and a mayor who are all elected for four year terms. The first council was composed of J.J. Miller, Jack Garman, and John J. Snidow. The 2014-2018 Town Council consists of Bonnie Butler, Gabriel Caldwell, Jerry Eaton, Billy Williams and Betty Spears. The Mayor is James D. ‘Dusty’ Stump and the Vice Mayor is Bonnie Butler. Our beautiful and tightknit community of Pembroke has numerous Churches and local businesses in which bring life and excitement to our town.
Compiled by Louise Robinson – (Retired Librarian at Pembroke Elementary School)