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Amherst County, Virginia facts for kids

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Amherst County
Amherst County Courthouse
Amherst County Courthouse
Official seal of Amherst County
Map of Virginia highlighting Amherst County
Location within the U.S. state of Virginia
Map of the United States highlighting Virginia
Virginia's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 37°37′N 79°08′W / 37.61°N 79.14°W / 37.61; -79.14Coordinates: 37°37′N 79°08′W / 37.61°N 79.14°W / 37.61; -79.14
Country  United States
State  Virginia
Founded 1761
Named for Jeffery Amherst
Seat Amherst
Largest town Amherst
 • Total 479 sq mi (1,240 km2)
 • Land 474 sq mi (1,230 km2)
 • Water 4.9 sq mi (13 km2)  1.0%
 • Total 32,353
 • Estimate 
 • Density 67.54/sq mi (26.078/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 6th

Amherst County is a county, located in the Piedmont region and near the center of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. The county is part of the Lynchburg, VA Metropolitan Statistical Area, and its county seat is also named Amherst.

Amherst County was created in 1761 out of Albemarle County, and it was named in honor of Lord Jeffery Amherst, the so-called "Conqueror of Canada". In 1807 as population increased, the county was reduced in size in order to form Nelson County. Tobacco was the major cash crop of the county during its early years. The labor-intensive crop was worked and processed by enslaved Africans and African Americans before the American Civil War.

As of the 2010 census, the population of the rural county was 32,353, a small increase from the 31,894 people reported in the 2000 census.


Jeffery Amherst, called the "Conqueror of Canada", for whom the county was named

Native Americans were the first humans to populate the area. They hunted and fished mainly along the countless rivers and streams in the county. With the establishment of the Virginia Colony in 1607, English emigrants arrived in North America. By the late 17th century English explorers and traders traveled up the James River to this area. Early trading posts formed between 1710 and 1720. By 1730, many new families moved into the land currently known as Amherst County drawn by the desire for land and the good tobacco-growing soil.

Amherst County was formed in 1761, from part of southwestern Albemarle County. The original county seat had been in Cabelsville, now Colleen in what would later become Nelson County. The county was named for Lord Amherst, known as the "Conqueror of Canada", who commanded the British forces that successfully secured Canada from the French. Jeffery Amherst had also previously been named Governor of Virginia, although he never came to the colony. In 1806 the county assumed its present proportions when Nelson County was formed from its northern half. At that point, the county seat was moved to the village of Five Oaks, later renamed Amherst. The present county courthouse was built in 1870 and has served the county ever since. On a historically interesting note, Amherst County produced more Confederate soldiers per capita than anywhere else in the C.S.A.

In the early days, the major crop raised in Amherst County was tobacco. Apple orchards were part of mixed farming that replaced tobacco, especially in the late 19th century. Timber, mining and milling were also important industries. The introduction of the railroad in the late 19th century greatly influenced the county's growth. The county contains many good examples of 18th, 19th and early 20th century rural and small town architecture. The downtown area of Amherst is a classic example of early 20th century commercial architecture.

Local attractions

There are numerous attractions throughout the county that entertain many people throughout the area. With the three recreational and public lakes being Mill Creek, Thrashers Lake, and Stonehouse Lake, there is plenty to do on the water. Many like to fish, canoe, or kayak in the water or simply have a cookout along the side of the lakes. There are also many trails and parks that anyone is welcome to visit at any time. There is a significant portion of the Appalachian Trail that runs through the George Washington National Forest in Amherst. There are many offshoot trails that highlight peaks in Amherst such at Mt. Pleasant, Cold Mountain, and Tar Jacket Ridge. There are many local restaurants in the county such at the Briar Patch, Travelers, Vitos Grill, Charlies Chicken, and many others that are very popular spots among the locals who frequent the various eateries.

Festivals in the area

  • Rebec Vineyard's Garlic Festival
  • Lazy Days Vineyard's Summer Solstice Festival
  • Amherst County Sorghum Festival
  • The Batteau Festival


U.S. Route 29 in Madison Heights
Looking towards U.S. 29 in Madison Heights

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 479 square miles (1,240 km2), of which 474 square miles (1,230 km2) is land and 4.9 square miles (13 km2) (1.0%) is water.

Adjacent counties / Independent city

National protected areas

Major highways

  • US 29
  • US 60
  • US 501
  • SR 130
  • SR 151
  • SR 163
  • SR 210


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 13,703
1800 16,801 22.6%
1810 10,548 −37.2%
1820 10,423 −1.2%
1830 12,071 15.8%
1840 12,576 4.2%
1850 12,699 1.0%
1860 13,742 8.2%
1870 14,900 8.4%
1880 18,709 25.6%
1890 17,551 −6.2%
1900 17,864 1.8%
1910 18,932 6.0%
1920 19,771 4.4%
1930 19,020 −3.8%
1940 20,273 6.6%
1950 20,332 0.3%
1960 22,953 12.9%
1970 26,072 13.6%
1980 29,122 11.7%
1990 28,578 −1.9%
2000 31,894 11.6%
2010 32,353 1.4%
2018 (est.) 31,666 −2.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2013

As of the census of 2000, there were 31,894 people, 11,941 households, and 8,645 families residing in the county. The population density was 67 people per square mile (26/km2). There were 12,958 housing units at an average density of 27 per square mile (11/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 77.67% White, 19.79% Black or African American, 0.81% Native American, 0.35% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.41% from other races, and 0.94% from two or more races. 0.96% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 11,941 households, out of which 31.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.00% were married couples living together, 12.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.60% were non-families. 24.00% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 2.95.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 23.50% under the age of 18, 9.70% from 18 to 24, 27.70% from 25 to 44, 25.30% from 45 to 64, and 13.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 91.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $37,393, and the median income for a family was $42,876. Males had a median income of $31,493 versus $22,155 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,952. About 8.00% of families and 10.70% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.20% of those under age 18 and 11.60% of those age 65 or over.



Census-designated place

Other unincorporated communities


Amherst County is served by Amherst County Public Schools, which operates one central high school, two middle schools, and several elementary schools. Temple Christian School is a private school located on the grounds of Temple Baptist Church. Sweet Briar College is also located in Amherst County, just south of the town of Amherst.

Notable residents

  • James John Floyd (1750-1783), born in Amherst County. co-founder of Louisville, KY and early settler in that area. Kentucky Colonel and pioneer judge. Among several places named for him is Floyd Street in Louisville.
  • William Barnett (1761–1834), born in Amherst County, United States Congressman
  • William Becknell, born in Amherst County, first white man to open what would become the Santa Fe Trail
  • Samuel Jordan Cabell (1756–1818), born in Amherst County, United States Congressman
  • Peter Cartwright (1785–1872), born in Amherst County, noted "hellfire and brimstone" preacher
  • Powhatan Ellis, (1790–1863), born in Amherst County, justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, United States Senator from Mississippi, and minister to Mexico. Ellisville, Mississippi, is named in his honor.
  • David S. Garland (1769–1841), Congressman, master of the Brick House (Clifford, Virginia), founder of the New Glasgow Academy.
  • Ottie Cline Powell (1890–1894), born in Amherst County four-year-old boy who died after getting lost collecting firewood outside his schoolhouse. Reportedly haunts the area where he died.
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