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Pendleton County, West Virginia facts for kids

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Pendleton County
Pendleton County Courthouse
Pendleton County Courthouse
Map of West Virginia highlighting Pendleton County
Location within the U.S. state of West Virginia
Map of the United States highlighting West Virginia
West Virginia's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  West Virginia
Founded May 1, 1788
Named for Edmund Pendleton
Seat Franklin
Largest town Franklin
 • Total 698 sq mi (1,810 km2)
 • Land 696 sq mi (1,800 km2)
 • Water 2.1 sq mi (5 km2)  0.3%%
 • Total 7,695
 • Estimate 
 • Density 11.024/sq mi (4.257/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 2nd

Pendleton County is a county located in the U.S. state of West Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 7,695, making it the fifth-least populous county in West Virginia. Its county seat is Franklin. The county was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1788 from parts of Augusta, Hardy, and Rockingham Counties and was named for Edmund Pendleton (1721–1803), a distinguished Virginia statesman and jurist. Pendleton County was strongly pro-Confederate during the American Civil War; however, there were pockets of Unionists who supported the state government in Wheeling.

Spruce Knob, located in Pendleton County, is the highest point in the state and in the Alleghenies, its elevation being 4,863 feet. Parts of the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests are also located in Pendleton.


By the 1740s, the three main valleys of what became Pendleton County had been visited and named by white hunters and prospectors. One of the hunters, a single man named Abraham Burner, built himself a log cabin about a half mile downstream of the future site of Brandywine in 1745. He was the county's first white settler. A local historian recorded that:

The site ...[was] on the left bank of the river, and near the beginning of a long, eastward bend. From almost at his very door his huntsman's eye was at times gladdened by seeing perhaps fifty deer either drinking from the steam or plunging in their heads up to their ears in search of moss.

By 1747, immigrants were impinging on the (future) borders of Pendleton from two directions: the larger community was mostly Germans moving up the valley of the South Branch Potomac; the lesser consisted mainly of Scotch-Irish moving northwest from Staunton up into the headwaters of the James River. In an April 1758 surprise raid of Fort Seybert and nearby Fort Upper Tract occasioned by the French and Indian War (1754–63), most of the 60 white settlers sheltering there were massacred by Shawnee and Delaware warriors and the forts were burned.

Pendleton County was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1788 from parts of Augusta, Hardy, and Rockingham Counties and was named for Edmund Pendleton, a distinguished Virginia statesman and jurist. Pendleton County was split between Northern and Southern sympathies during the American Civil War. The northern section of the county, including the enclave in the Smoke Hole community were staunchly Unionist. In June 1863, the county was included by the federal government in the new state of West Virginia against many of the inhabitants' wishes. In fall 1863, Union Brigadier General W.W. Averell swept up the South Branch valley and destroyed the Confederate saltpetre works above Franklin.

At Franklin, the Pendleton County seat, the South Branch of the Potomac River crested at 22.6 feet during the 1985 Election day floods. Flood stage in the shallow riverbed was only 7 feet. Most of the 47 people killed in this incident were in Pendleton and Grant counties, according to the National Weather Service.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 698 square miles (1,810 km2), of which 696 square miles (1,800 km2) is land and 2.1 square miles (5.4 km2) (0.3%) is water. It is the fifth-largest county in West Virginia by area.

Major highways

  • US 33
  • US 220
  • WV 28
  • WV 55

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

  • George Washington National Forest (part)
  • Monongahela National Forest (part)
  • Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area (part)
  • United States National Radio Quiet Zone (part)

National Natural Landmarks


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 2,452
1800 3,962 61.6%
1810 4,239 7.0%
1820 4,846 14.3%
1830 6,271 29.4%
1840 6,940 10.7%
1850 5,795 −16.5%
1860 6,164 6.4%
1870 6,455 4.7%
1880 8,022 24.3%
1890 8,711 8.6%
1900 9,167 5.2%
1910 9,349 2.0%
1920 9,652 3.2%
1930 9,660 0.1%
1940 10,884 12.7%
1950 9,313 −14.4%
1960 8,093 −13.1%
1970 7,031 −13.1%
1980 7,910 12.5%
1990 8,054 1.8%
2000 8,196 1.8%
2010 7,695 −6.1%
2019 (est.) 6,969 −9.4%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2019

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 7,695 people, 3,285 households, and 2,179 families residing in the county. The population density was 11.1 inhabitants per square mile (4.3/km2). There were 5,132 housing units at an average density of 7.4 per square mile (2.9/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 96.2% white, 1.9% black or African American, 0.3% Asian, 0.2% American Indian, 0.2% from other races, and 1.2% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 0.9% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 30.1% were German, 8.1% were American, 7.3% were Irish, and 6.4% were English.

Of the 3,285 households, 24.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.6% were married couples living together, 7.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 33.7% were non-families, and 29.0% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.28 and the average family size was 2.80. The median age was 47.3 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $33,323 and the median income for a family was $49,613. Males had a median income of $38,190 versus $23,243 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,401. About 11.0% of families and 15.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.3% of those under age 18 and 22.2% of those age 65 or over.


Climbing Near Ketterman WV USA


Census-designated place

Unincorporated communities

Historic Places

The following sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Site Year Built Address Community Listed
Bowers House late 19th century Brandywine-Sugar Grove Road Sugar Grove 1985
Circleville School 1930s WV 28 Circleville 1995
Cunningham-Hevener House late 19th century US 220 Upper Tract 1985
Franklin Historic District 19th-20th centuries US 33, Main Street, South Branch Potomac River, & High Street Franklin 1986
McCoy House 1848 Main Street Franklin 1982
McCoy Mill early 19th century Johnstown Road Franklin 1986
Old Judy Church (Old Log Church) early 19th century US 220 near Petersburg 1976
Old Propst Church late 18th century CR 21/9 Brandywine 1986
Pendleton County Poor Farm early 20th century US 220 Upper Tract 1986
Priest Mill early 20th century Off US 220, near Low-Water Bridge Franklin 2000
Sites Homestead (Wayside Inn) early 19th century Seneca Rocks Visitor Center Seneca Rocks 1993



Pendleton County's economy consists mainly of small to medium-sized farms and small businesses. Most of these are in Franklin, the county's only incorporated town. The North Fork Valley, on the western side of the county, has a number of businesses that cater to tourists who come for the area's outdoor recreation opportunities. These include motels, restaurants, and guide services. In recent years, maple syrup has emerged as a major growth industry in the county. Dry Fork Maple Works, the state's largest maple sugaring operation, is based in Pendleton County (though its sugaring operation occurs mainly in neighboring Randolph County).

The county is also home to a number of non-profits whose reaches extend well beyond the county lines. These include Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity, Future Generations and Future Generations Graduate School, The Mountain Institute, and Mountain Springs Farm and Heritage Center.

Sugar Grove Station, an electronic listening post for the National Security Agency, is located near the southeast corner of the Pendleton County.

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