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It is part of the Kingsport–Bristol (TN)–Bristol (VA) Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is a component of the Johnson City–Kingsport–Bristol, TN-VA Combined Statistical Area – commonly known as the "Tri-Cities" region. Big Stone Gap was named for a large rock formation on what was once called Big Stone Mountain. The town's name has been spelled variously over its history: it appears in early records as Big Ston de Gap and later as Big Ston'de Gapp; today it is usually rendered simply as "Big Stone Gap". In 1876, when Wise County was created from parts of Scott and Russell counties by an act of Virginia's General Assembly, this community became its county seat. It remained so until 1908 when Bluefield became that county's seat after voters approved a move there during elections held earlier that year.