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Rappahannock County, Virginia facts for kids

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Rappahannock County
Rappahannock County Courthouse in Washington, Virginia
Rappahannock County Courthouse in Washington, Virginia
Official seal of Rappahannock County
Map of Virginia highlighting Rappahannock County
Location within the U.S. state of Virginia
Map of the United States highlighting Virginia
Virginia's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Virginia
Founded 1833
Named for Rappahannock River
Seat Washington
Largest town Washington
 • Total 267 sq mi (690 km2)
 • Land 266 sq mi (690 km2)
 • Water 0.8 sq mi (2 km2)  0.3%
 • Total 7,348
 • Density 27.52/sq mi (10.626/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 5th

Rappahannock County is a county located in the northern Piedmont region of the Commonwealth of Virginia, US, adjacent to Shenandoah National Park. As of the 2020 Census, the population was 7,348. Its county seat is Washington. The name "Rappahannock" comes from the Algonquian word lappihanne (also noted as toppehannock), meaning "river of quick, rising water" or "where the tide ebbs and flows." The county is included in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area.


Rappahannock County was founded by an act of the Virginia General Assembly in 1833, based on the growing population's need to have better access to a county seat. The county's land was carved from Culpeper County. Rappahannock county was named for the river that separates it from Fauquier County.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 267.2 square miles (692.0 km2), of which 266.4 sq mi (690.0 km2) is land and 0.8 sq mi (2.1 km2) (0.3%) is water.

The Rappahannock River forms the northeastern boundary and separates Rappahannock County from Fauquier County. Rappahannock County is bounded on the southeast by Culpeper County and on the southwest by Madison County. The Blue Ridge Mountains occupy much of the western portion of the county.

Adjacent counties

National protected area


The summits of the following mountains are located within Rappahannock County:

  • Pignut Mountain
  • Castleton Mountain
  • Jenkins Mountain
  • Jefferson Mountain
  • Meetinghouse Mountain
  • Little Mulky Mountain
  • Little Jenkins Mountain
  • Googe Mountain
  • Round Mountain
  • Hickerson Mountain
  • Fork Mountain
  • Battle Mountain
  • Little Battle Mountain
  • Piney Ridge
  • Pickerel Ridge
  • Poes Mountain
  • Aaron Mountain
  • Red Oak Mountain

Major highways


Historical population
Census Pop.
1840 9,257
1850 9,782 5.7%
1860 8,850 −9.5%
1870 8,261 −6.7%
1880 9,291 12.5%
1890 8,678 −6.6%
1900 8,843 1.9%
1910 8,044 −9.0%
1920 8,070 0.3%
1930 7,717 −4.4%
1940 7,208 −6.6%
1950 6,112 −15.2%
1960 5,368 −12.2%
1970 5,199 −3.1%
1980 6,093 17.2%
1990 6,622 8.7%
2000 6,983 5.5%
2010 7,373 5.6%
2020 7,348 −0.3%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010 2020

2020 census

Rappahannock County, Virginia - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010 Pop 2020 % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 6,653 6,444 90.23% 87.70%
Black or African American alone (NH) 318 198 4.31% 2.69%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 15 17 0.20% 0.23%
Asian alone (NH) 39 63 0.53% 0.86%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 3 0 0.04% 0.00%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 9 30 0.12% 0.41%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 108 307 1.46% 4.18%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 228 289 3.09% 3.93%
Total 7,373 7,348 100.00% 100.00%

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.

From 1840 to 1970, the county had a marked decline in population, from 9,257 people to 5,199 people. This was primarily due to freed slaves moving north and fewer people needed to operate farms. Since then there has been an increase in the population, to an estimated 7,370 people in the year 2019. In that year, 16% of people were age 17 years or younger, 56% were age 18–64 years, and 28% were age 65 years or older. It was also estimated that 92.4% of residents were white, 4.2% were African American, and 3.4% were other or mixed races.

Rappahannock residents are among the oldest in Virginia, with a median age of 47.5 years in 2010; this is about 11 years greater than the U.S. as a whole. The 2010 census found 19% of residents were age 65 and older, which is a marked increase over the 2000 census finding of 14%. Provisional estimates for the year 2019 indicate that this percentage has increased further, to 28% of the county population. The population of the county is widely dispersed, with a density of only 27.9 people per square mile, ranking it 122nd among Virginia's 132 cities and counties in population density.

It was estimated that there were 2,976 households in Rappahannock County in 2017, with an average of 2.5 persons per household. Almost all housing in the county is composed of single-family homes. Between 1960 and 2010, the number of housing units more than doubled. In 2017, it was estimated that there were 3,945 housing units, 79% of which were occupied year-round and 14% of which were seasonal units. The owner-occupied housing rate was 74%.

The county has been populated by three waves: those who've lived in the county for many generations, those who started coming to the county in the 1960s and 1970s as young adults, and retirees and weekenders who decided to settle in the county since about 1990. The poor, near poor, middle income, and wealthy all live scrambled together. “All seem to appreciate the beauty and quiet of the county, its family farms, the quality of its rivers and streams, and the unblemished views of the night skies.”



Census-designated places

Other unincorporated communities


Historically, the county has had a rural economy based on agriculture. However, present day agriculture has been influenced by significant removal of land from farming. Between 1949 and 1974, the total number of farms declined about 63%, from 687 to 257 farms. This trend showed a slow reverse and in 2017 there were 439 farms in the county, although only 86 farms contained 180 acres or more. Almost all are family farms. Some farmers don't own the land they farm, but lease it from owners who are content to have pastures maintained and fences kept in good order. Cropland is primarily devoted to hay, and pastureland is primarily for beef cattle, with small amounts of land for sheep and goats.

Orchard land in the county was devoted to apple production for many years, with a smaller peach crop. The production of orchard crops has sharply declined to the point where only 20 small farms still harvested apples and 10 still harvested peaches in 2017. Vineyards now occupy a small part of county farmland. Wineries, organic farms, and consumer demand for grass-fed beef have created new opportunities for farmers. Several farm operations have successfully tapped into the Washington D.C. market, selling their produce at urban farmer's markets. There are nine award-winning wineries in the county, as well as two distilleries, two breweries, and a cider and mead facility.

Together with the decline in farms, agriculture no longer employs as high a percentage of the workforce as was once the case. In 2010, only 7% of the 3,412 employed persons were in the employment category of farming, forestry, fishing, and mining. In that year, 17% were employed in health/education, 15% in construction, 12.5% in professional/administrative occupations, 10.9% in personal/recreation services, 9.6% in retail trade, and the remainder in miscellaneous other occupations. About 19% of residents were age 65 years or older, and most of these were retired.

The median family income in 2010 was $75,975; 35% of families had incomes of $100,000 or greater. Rappahannock County ranks among the top 10 wealthiest jurisdictions in Virginia. In 2017, county residents had a gross income of $265 million, but much of that wealth was concentrated in a small number of residents. The county ranks in the 17th percentile for income inequality compared to all U.S. counties. About 10% of county families are below the federal poverty level.

There are no large private employers located in the county. Indeed, the largest is the Inn at Little Washington, a world-renowned restaurant with affiliated overnight lodging. There are no supermarkets, pharmacies, large stores, or large office buildings in the county. The absence of a commercial tax base places pressure on homeowners’ property taxes to fund the county budget. In a survey by the University of Virginia for the Foothills Forum, residents wanted the beauty, the mountain vistas, the clean rivers and the dark, starlit skies preserved, even if they must drive out of the county to shop at a supermarket or fill a prescription. About 80% of county residents surveyed ranked inadequate cellphone and internet coverage as the biggest issues facing the county. Coverage is available primarily along the main highways passing through the county or through unreliable satellite service. The Rappahannock County Broadband Authority has been established to investigate this issue.


Education was provided by private schools during the 1800s until mandatory public education was instituted by the Underwood Constitution of 1869–1870, which resulted in the creation of 14 white and 7 black primary education schools in Rappahannock County. High schools for whites were established in the town of Washington and the village of Sperryville in 1908–1909; black students were bussed out of the county to the Manassas Industrial Institute and the George Washington Carver school.

In 2017–2018, the Rappahannock County Public Schools District served about 812 students in grades preK through 12 at one elementary school and one high school. The graduation rate was 94%, and 80% of graduates continued their education after completing high school. Per pupil expenditures were $14,406. Of this, 80% was derived from local taxes and only 20% from the State. Overall in Virginia, the State contributes 55% to counties for education. Rappahannock County's Local Composite Index, an indicator used to allocate State aid to school districts, was 11th highest in Virginia, resulting in extreme limitations on State aid for education in the county. The Local Composite Index uses the true value of real estate in its computation, whereas most Rappahannock County land is under land use or conservation easements and is taxed at significantly less than true value. The large proportion of education costs derived from local real estate taxes is symptomatic of the fact that there are no large businesses in the county.

There are also four private schools in the county. In 2018, Wakefield Country Day School served 150 students, Hearthstone School served 50 students, Belle Meade Montessori School served 25 students, and the Child Care and Learning Center served 65 children. About 60 county children were home-schooled.

Although there is no large higher education facility in the county, the Rapp Center for Education is a non-profit organization committed to lifelong learning and workforce training and is registered with the State Council for Higher Education. Knowledgeable residents of the county teach numerous courses in their particular specialties through this facility. Healthcare training is provided toward certification as a Clinical Medical Assistant, Radiography Technician, and Pharmacy Technician. Courses are also taught on Information Technology knowledge and skills to help people develop a broader understanding of IT.

Notable people

  • Kevin H. Adams, artist; former Combat Artist in the U.S. Marine Corps; artist in residence at Shenandoah National Park
  • Charles T. "Chuck" Akre, investor, financier and businessman; founder, chairman, and chief investment officer of Akre Capital Management, FBR Focus, and other funds
  • Jane Bowling-Wilson, executive director, Northern Piedmont Community Foundation
  • Fred Catlin, founder of Albemarle Montessori Children's Community of Charlottesville, Virginia; mayor of the town of Washington, Virginia
  • William Dietel, international philanthropic consultant and co-founder of the Foothills Forum
  • John Jacquemin, CEO, Mooring Financial Corporation; director, Penn National Gaming
  • Ben Jones, former U.S. representative from Georgia; played Cooter on the television show, The Dukes of Hazzard
  • John W. Kiser, nonfiction author
  • Peter Kramer, woodworker, furniture designer, renovation specialist, and former mayor of the town of Washington
  • Ronald F. Maxwell, film director and screenwriter whose films include the American Civil War historical fiction films Gettysburg, Gods and Generals, and Copperhead
  • Patrick O’Connell, chef and owner of the internationally renowned Inn at Little Washington
  • Paul Reisler, composer, songwriter, recording artist, performer, teacher, and founder and artistic director of Kid Pan Alley
  • Bob Ryan, retired chief meteorologist for national television stations
  • John Fox Sullivan, former publisher at large, Atlantic Media; former mayor of Washington, Virginia

Images for kids

See also

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