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Lee County, Virginia facts for kids

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Lee County
Lee County
Lee County Courthouse in Jonesville
Lee County Courthouse in Jonesville
Map of Virginia highlighting Lee County
Location within the U.S. state of Virginia
Map of the United States highlighting Virginia
Virginia's location within the U.S.
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Country  United States
State  Virginia
Founded October 25, 1792
Named for Light Horse Harry Lee
Seat Jonesville
Largest town Pennington Gap
Area
 • Total 437 sq mi (1,130 km2)
 • Land 436 sq mi (1,130 km2)
 • Water 1.9 sq mi (5 km2)  0.4%
Population
 (2010)
 • Total 25,587
 • Estimate 
(2018)
23,541
 • Density 58.55/sq mi (22.607/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 9th

Lee County is the westernmost county in the U.S. Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2018 census estimate, the population was 23,541. Its county seat is Jonesville.

History

The first Europeans to enter what is present-day Lee County were a party of Spanish explorers, Juan de Villalobos and Francisco de Silvera, sent by Hernando de Soto in 1540, in search of gold.

The county was formed in 1793 from Russell County. It was named for Light Horse Harry Lee, the Governor of Virginia from 1791 to 1794, who was famous for his exploits as a leader of light cavalry during the American Revolutionary War. He was also the father of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Lee County was the final front on the Kentucky Trace, now known as the Wilderness Road and The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. During the 1780s and 1790s, fortified buildings called "stations" were built along the trail for shelter from Indian raids as the settlers followed Daniel Boone's footsteps into Kentucky. The stations in Lee County were Yoakum Station at present-day Dryden, west to Powell River and Station Creek at today's Rocky Station, then to Mump's Fort at Jonesville, followed by Prist Station, Chadwell Station at Chadwell Gap, Martin's Station at Rose Hill, Owen Station at Ewing, and finally Gibson Station, which still bears its original name.

One of the largest early landowners in the was Revolutionary War officer and explorer Joseph Martin, whom Martin's Station and Martin's Creek at Rose Hill are named for. Because of his rank, Martin had been awarded some 25,000 acres (100 km2), which he later divided up and sold.

In 1814, parts of Lee County, Russell County, and Washington County were combined to form Scott County. In 1856, parts of Lee County, Russell County, and Scott County were combined to form Wise County.

Geography

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 437 square miles (1,130 km2), of which 436 square miles (1,130 km2) is land and 1.9 square miles (4.9 km2) (0.4%) is water.

Lee County is physically closer to eight state capitals other than its own capital in Richmond: Raleigh, North Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Nashville, Tennessee; Charleston, West Virginia; Frankfort, Kentucky; Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis, Indiana. Additionally, Cumberland Gap in the far western part of Lee County is closer to Montgomery, Alabama, a ninth state capital.

Districts

The county is divided into seven districts: Jonesville, Rocky Station, Rocky Station Mineral, Rose Hill, White Shoals, Yoakum, St. Charles, Pennington Gap, Keokee, Robbins Chapel and Yoakum Mineral.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

Major highways

  • US 23
  • US 58
  • US 421

  • US 58 Alt.
  • SR 70

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1800 3,538
1810 4,694 32.7%
1820 4,256 −9.3%
1830 6,461 51.8%
1840 8,441 30.6%
1850 10,267 21.6%
1860 11,032 7.5%
1870 13,268 20.3%
1880 15,116 13.9%
1890 18,216 20.5%
1900 19,856 9.0%
1910 23,840 20.1%
1920 25,293 6.1%
1930 30,419 20.3%
1940 39,296 29.2%
1950 36,106 −8.1%
1960 25,824 −28.5%
1970 20,321 −21.3%
1980 25,956 27.7%
1990 24,496 −5.6%
2000 23,589 −3.7%
2010 25,587 8.5%
2018 (est.) 23,541 −8.0%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2018

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 25,587 people living in the county. 94.2% were White, 3.7% Black or African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.2% Asian, 0.6% of some other race and 0.9% of two or more races. 1.6% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race).

According to the census 2009 estimates, there were 25001 people, 11,587 households, and 6,852 families living in the county. The population density was 54 people per square mile (21/km2). There were 11,587 housing units at an average density of 25 per square mile (10/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 96.3% White, 2.9% Black or African American, 0.2% Asian, 0.1% from other races, 0.7% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

The largest ancestry groups in Lee County include: English (14 percent), Irish (11 percent), German (9 percent), and Scottish-Irish (3 percent).

There were 9,706 households, out of which 29.0 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.0 percent were married couples living together, 11.7 percent had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.4 percent were non-families. 27.0 percent of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.1 percent had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 2.91.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 22.8 percent under the age of 18, 8.0 percent from 18 to 24, 27.5 percent from 25 to 44, 26.3 percent from 45 to 64, and 15.4 percent who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 94.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.3 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $29,889, and the median income for a family was $40,721. The per capita income for the county was $16,317. About 20.3 percent of families and 22.7 percent of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.1 percent of those under age 18 and 23.3 percent of those age 65 or over.

Communities

Towns

Census-designated places

Other unincorporated communities

Economy

The economy of Lee County has been based largely on growing tobacco and mining coal. The decline of both has resulted in high unemployment in the county and a decrease in population since 1940, which was the peak.

Using the slogan Where Virginia Begins, the county has attempted to increase its heritage tourism industry by emphasizing its role in the route used by settlers going west through the Cumberland Gap, at Lee County's western tip.

Lee County shares Cumberland Gap National Historical Park with Kentucky and Tennessee. Attractions listed in the park include Hensley's Settlement, the Pinnacle Overlook, the Sand Cave, and the White Rocks overlooking the towns of Ewing and Rose Hill in Virginia.

Education

Public high schools

Public middle schools

  • Pennington Middle School, Pennington Gap
  • Jonesville Middle School, Jonesville

Public elementary schools

  • Dryden Elementary School, Dryden
  • Elk Knob Elementary School, Woodway
  • Flatwoods Elementary School, Flatwoods
  • Rose Hill Elementary School, Rose Hill
  • St. Charles Elementary School, St. Charles

Pennington Elementary School, consisting of three buildings built at various times (1912, 1917 and 1937), was demolished in 1989. A bank was constructed on its Morgan Avenue site. Three other elementary schools, Ewing, Keokee and Stickleyville, were closed in June 2012.

Technical schools

  • Lee County Vo/Career Tech, Ben Hur

Notable residents

  • Frank Rowlett, cryptologist, member of the Signals Intelligence Service
  • Carol Wood, mathematician
  • Campbell Slemp, congressman
  • Andrew Taylor Still, founder of osteopathic medicine
  • William C. Wampler, U.S. Representative
  • Barry Audia, professional boxer
  • Jim Pankovits, Major League Baseball player
  • Elbert S. Martin, congressman
  • John Preston Martin, U.S. Senator from Kentucky
  • Steve Rasnic Tem, author
  • Glen Morgan Williams, federal judge
  • Don Newton, comic artist
  • James Buchanan Richmond, congressman
  • C. Bascom Slemp, congressman
  • Claude Ely, singer/songwriter
  • Walker Cress, Major League Baseball player
  • Cynthia D Kinser, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia
  • Pete DeBusk, founder of DeRoyal Industries

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