The Confederate veterans of Wise County are said to have held occasional reunions in the 1860s-1870s. Old settlers invited both the Confederate veterans and Wise County pioneers to an 1881 reunion at Cold Springs. This was on July 12, the anniversary of Captain George Stevens' victory over hostile Indians in 1874.
About 5,000 people attended the 1881 reunion. The "Wise County Messenger" reported a successful day - "only the music being a failure". Events included speeches and picnicking. The reunion began to occupy the present site in 1896. By 1900 it extended to three days—honoring old settlers on the first, the veterans on the second, and daughters and sons of Confederates on the third. Sometimes 12,000 would attend, parading from courthouse to camp ground. Programs included candidates' speeches, rodeos, and sham battles. Evenings were devoted to visiting.
In 1909, the grounds were leased for 25 years. Later, campsites were leased and improved by participants.
The Wise County Old Settlers Association, formed in 1904, sponsored a 1907 Pioneer History by C.D. Cates.
Extended to a week, with visiting in daytime and stated events in the evenings, this reunion is now the oldest recurring public event in the county.