|Named for||Thomas Nelson Jr.|
|• Total||474 sq mi (1,230 km2)|
|• Land||471 sq mi (1,220 km2)|
|• Water||3.5 sq mi (9 km2) 0.7%|
|• Density||31/sq mi (12/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (Eastern)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
Nelson County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 14,775. Its county seat is Lovingston.
Nelson County is part of the Charlottesville, VA Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Nelson County is home to Swannanoa mansion and Wintergreen Resort, a local ski area. It is the location of Walton's Mountain, made famous by the television show The Waltons. A new Bed and Breakfast, John & Olivia's B&B, has opened recently to extend The Waltons experience. Nelson County is also home to 12 wineries/vineyards, seven craft breweries, three cideries, three distilleries, six fruit orchards as well as Crabtree Falls and White Rock Falls. Nelson County offers The Quarry Gardens, Pharsalia, and the local library's flower gardens for gardening enthusiasts.
At the time the English began settling Virginia in the 1600s, the inhabitants of what is now Nelson County were a Siouan-speaking tribe called the Nahyssan. They were probably connected to the Manahoac.
Nelson County was created in 1807 from Amherst County. The government was formed the following year. The county is named for Thomas Nelson Jr., a signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, who served as Governor of Virginia in 1781. An earlier Virginia county, also named in his honor, became part of Kentucky when it separated from Virginia in 1792.
See also: Hurricane Camille
On the night of August 19–20, 1969, Nelson County was struck by disastrous flooding caused by Hurricane Camille. The hurricane hit the Gulf Coast two days earlier, weakened over land, and stalled on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, dumping a world-record quantity of 27 inches (690 mm) of rain, mainly in a three-hour period. Over five hours, it yielded more than 37 inches (940 mm), while the previous day had seen a deluge of 5 inches (130 mm) in half an hour, with the ground already saturated. There were reports of animals drowning in trees and people who had had to cup their hands around their mouth and nose to breathe.
Flash floods and mudslides killed 153 people, 31 from Roseland, Tyro, and Massies Mill alone. Over 133 public bridges were washed out in Nelson County, while some communities were under water. In the tiny community of Davis Creek, 52 people were killed or could not be found; only 3 of 35 homes were left standing after the floodwaters receded. The bodies of some people have never been found; others washed as much as 25 miles (40 km) downstream along the creeks and rivers. The entire county was virtually cut off, with many roads and virtually all bridges, telephone, radio, TV, and electric service interrupted.
The waters of the Tye, Piney, Buffalo, and Rockfish rivers flow into the James River. There was severe flooding elsewhere in Virginia, such as along the Maury River, which destroyed the town of Glasgow in Rockbridge County.
The James River and its tributaries normally drain Nelson County, but in the face of unusually high flooding from other tributaries such as Hatt Creek (along the James River some 80 miles (130 km) to the east) the James River crested more than 20 feet (6.1 m) above flood stage at Westham, as Nelson County citizens watched portions of houses and other buildings, bodies, and dead livestock flow past. Just a few miles further downstream, the James River crested at the City Locks in Richmond at 28.6 feet (8.7 m) swamping downtown areas and also flooding a substantial portion of South Richmond (formerly the separate city of Manchester). The Hurricane Camille disaster did over $140 million (in 1969 dollars) in damage across Virginia, however in no other place in Virginia was the storm as devastating and deadly as in Nelson County, where one percent of the population was killed and where many bodies were never recovered. Visitors to Nelson County can participate on a self-guided tour of notable locations related to Hurricane Camille. There are exhibits dedicated to Hurricane Camille at the Oakland Museum.
Nelsonite, the Virginia state rock, is named for Nelson County. Nelsonite is a distinctive igneous rock composed primarily of the minerals ilmenite and apatite, and as such it's rich in both titanium and calcium phosphate
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 474 square miles (1,230 km2), of which 471 square miles (1,220 km2) is land and 3.5 square miles (9.1 km2) (0.7%) is water. The Blue Ridge Mountains form the northwest boundary of the county; the James River forms the boundary to the southeast. Internally, Nelson consists of the Rockfish, Tye and Piney rivers, along with many known creeks.
Nelson County Public Schools is a Virginia public school division. It operates two elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. The middle and high schools are connected and located just outside Lovingston, Virginia. Nelson County also provides free GED testing to all adults.
Jefferson-Madison Regional Library is the regional library system that provides services to the citizens of Nelson.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
1990-2000 2010 2020
|Race / Ethnicity||Pop 2010||Pop 2020||% 2010||% 2020|
|White alone (NH)||12,283||11,879||81.78%||80.40%|
|Black or African American alone (NH)||1,941||1,526||12.92%||10.33%|
|Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH)||43||47||0.29%||0.32%|
|Asian alone (NH)||66||67||0.44%||0.45%|
|Pacific Islander alone (NH)||4||2||0.03%||0.01%|
|Some Other Race alone (NH)||23||68||0.15%||0.46%|
|Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH)||201||523||1.34%||3.54%|
|Hispanic or Latino (any race)||459||663||3.06%||4.49%|
Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.
As of the census of 2010, there were 15,020 people, 6,396 households, and 4,302 families residing in the county. The population density was 31.9 people per square mile (12/km2). There were 8,554 housing units at an average density of 18 per square mile (7/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 83.3% White, 13.1% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.5% Asian, Z% Pacific Islander, 1.1% from other races, and 1.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 3.1% of the population.
There were 6,396 households, out of which 21.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.6% were married couples living together, 11.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.7% were non-families. 27.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 2.81.
In the county, the population was spread out, with 19.3% under the age of 18, 5.7% from 18 to 24, 25.5% from 25 to 44, 29.60% from 45 to 64, and 19.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42.8 years. For every 100 females there were 95.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $48,118, and the median income for a family was $57,356. Males had a median income of $45,222 versus $34,842 for females. The per capita income for the county was $26,996. About 8.9% of families and 11.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.8% of those under the age of 18 and 9.5% ages 65 or older.
Scenic Drives are popular in Nelson County. Visitors to the county can enjoy mountain views from The Blue Ridge Parkway. The Nelson Scenic Loop is 50 miles long and comprises Route 151, Route 664, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Route 56.
The Wintergreen Resort near Nellysford opened in 1975. A planned development begun in 1969, it offers 45 holes of championship golf; seasonal skiing, snowboarding and snowtubing. On the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge, Wintergreen is a "top down" resort in which practically all of the amenities are built on the peaks and ridges, rather than at the base like a traditional ski resort.
Sections of the former Virginia Blue Ridge Railway along the Tye River are now part of the Blue Ridge Railway Trail, which was under development in the early 21st century. The trail will eventually connect the James River with the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail.
Another railway trail is the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel. The Blue Ridge Tunnel is a historic railroad tunnel built during the construction of the Blue Ridge Railroad in the 1850s. The trip through the tunnel is about 2.5 miles long, and the tunnel itself will be part of a greenway system connecting three counties. The tunnel runs through Afton Mountain, under Rockfish Gap, and the Appalachian Trail is located above it as well. The Eastern portal will be in Nelson County.
Fishing and camping are popular activities in Nelson County. Sections of the Tye River are also popular for whitewater boating with canoes and kayaks. The rapids are rated Class I to Class II+. Depending on water conditions, some rapids on the Tye River can approach class III.
The first annual Lockn' Music Festival was held September 5–8, 2013 on a farm in Nelson County near Arrington, Virginia.
Camp Jeep was held at the Oak Ridge Estate in Arrington for several years beginning in 1999, with the last event taking place in 2007.
Nelson County is well known for its wedding venues at its craft beverage producers and farms.
There are no cities or incorporated towns in Nelson County. It consists of unincorporated communities including census-designated places (CDPs).
Nelson County is very competitive in presidential elections. The last time any candidate exceeded 55% of the vote was 1984, when Ronald Reagan carried the county in his 49-state landslide.