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Nelson County, Virginia

Nelson County administrative offices are located at 84 Courthouse Square, Lovington, VA 22949; phone: 434-263-7000.


Nelson County [†] is located in the western Piedmont section of Virginia. The county presently encompasses 471 square miles, and is bordered by Albemarle County on the northeast, by Buckingham County on the southeast, by Appomattox County at its southern tip, by Amherst County on the southwest, and by Rockbridge and Augusta Counties on the west and northwest. The southeastern border of the county is defined by the James River, and the Blue Ridge Mountains run along the northwest border.

The county is watered by the James River and its tributaries including the Tye River and Rockfish River. The county's lowest elevations are along the James River in the Howardsville vicinity at approximately 275 feet above sea level. The highest elevation is a peak dubbed "The Priest," which stands 4,063 feet above sea level.

Historically, the county was served by several important regional transportation routes. The James River facilitated the settlement of the county in the eighteenth century and linked it to eastern markets. Originally river traffic relied solely on the natural course of the river, which was hazardous in places. To reduce the difficulties of river travel, the James River and Kanawha Canal was built in the 1830s and 1840s. Roads were also important transportation improvements, initially trading paths and tobacco rolling roads (so named for the tobacco hogsheads that were rolled along them), then turnpikes in the nineteenth century, and finally paved roads for car and truck traffic in the twentieth century. The first railroad to traverse the county was the Orange and Alexandria, completed in 1860.

† Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Survey of Architectural Resources in the Norwood and Wingina Vicinities of Nelson County, Virginia. 2014, www.dhr.virginia.gov, accessed September, 2019.

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