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Vance County, North Carolina facts for kids

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Vance County, North Carolina
Seal of Vance County, North Carolina
Map of North Carolina highlighting Vance County
Location in the state of North Carolina
Map of the USA highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location in the U.S.
Founded 1881
Seat Henderson
Largest City Henderson
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

270 sq mi (699 km²)
254 sq mi (658 km²)
16 sq mi (41 km²), 6.0%
 - (2010)
 - Density

179/sq mi (69/km²)
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Named for: Zebulon Baird Vance
Vance county flag
Vance County flag.

Vance County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 45,422. Its county seat is Henderson.

Vance County comprises the Henderson, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC Combined Statistical Area, which had a 2012 estimated population of 1,998,808.


The county was formed by the white Democratic-dominated legislature in 1881 following the Reconstruction Era from parts of Franklin, Granville, and Warren counties. The county is named after Zebulon Baird Vance, a Governor of North Carolina (1862–65 & 1877–79) and United States Senator (1879–94).

According to the 1955 book, Zeb's Black Baby, by Samuel Thomas Peace, Sr., this was a political decision to concentrate blacks and Republicans in one county and keep Democratic majorities in the other counties, an example of gerrymandering:

The formation of Vance County was accomplished largely as a political expediency. It was in 1881 when Blacks in large numbers were voting solidly Republican. Granville and Franklin Counties were nip and tuck, Democratic or Republican. From the Democratic standpoint, Warren County was hopelessly Republican. But by taking from Granville, Franklin and Warren, those sections that were heavily Republican and out of these sections forming the new county of Vance, the Democratic party could lose Vance to the Republicans and save Granville and Franklin for the Democrats. [U.S.] Senator Vance was a Democrat. He took kindly to this move and thanked the [North Carolina] Legislature for honoring him with naming the new county after him. At the same time...Vance showed his humor by always referring to Vance County as 'Zeb's Black Baby.'

In the 1890 Census, Vance County was more than 63 percent African American. In 1894 a biracial coalition of Populists and Republicans elected African American George M. White to the US Congress and gained control of the state house. The Democrats were determined to forestall this happening again. White strongly opposed the new constitution, saying "I cannot live in North Carolina and be a man and be treated as a man." He left the state after his second term expired, setting up a business in Washington, DC.

The Democrats in the North Carolina legislature settled the political competition with the Republicans by following other southern states and passing a law in 1896 making voting more difficult, and a new constitution in 1899 that disfranchised most blacks by poll taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses. Contemporary accounts estimated that 75,000 black male citizens of the state lost the vote. In 1900 blacks numbered 630,207 citizens, about 33% of the state's total population. This situation held until past the mid-20th century and after passage of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 270 square miles (700 km2), of which 254 square miles (660 km2) is land and 16 square miles (41 km2) (6.0%) is water.

Kerr Lake and Kerr Lake State Recreation Area are partially located in Vance County.

Adjacent counties

Major highways

  • I-85
  • US 1
  • US 158
  • NC 39


Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 17,581
1900 16,684 −5.1%
1910 19,425 16.4%
1920 22,799 17.4%
1930 27,294 19.7%
1940 29,961 9.8%
1950 32,101 7.1%
1960 32,002 −0.3%
1970 32,691 2.2%
1980 36,748 12.4%
1990 38,892 5.8%
2000 42,954 10.4%
2010 45,422 5.7%
Est. 2015 44,568 −1.9%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2013

From 1930 through 1970, the rural county population declined and growth slowed markedly as many blacks migrated to the North for better jobs and other opportunities in the Great Migration. Combined with other economic changes, this resulted in the county losing what had been its large African-American majority by the late 20th century. In the early 21st century, the white and black populations are nearly equal.


Map of Vance County North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels
Map of Vance County, North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels



Census-designated place

Unincorporated communities

  • Adcock Crossroads
  • Bearpond
  • Bobbitt
  • Brookston
  • Bullocksville
  • Cokesbury
  • Dabney
  • Drewry
  • Epsom
  • Faulkner Crossroads
  • Floytan Crossroads
  • Gill
  • Gillburg
  • Greenway
  • Greystone
  • Harris Crossroads
  • Hicks Crossroads
  • Knotts Crossroads
  • Nutbush
  • Townsville
  • Tungsten
  • Watkins
  • Weldons Mill
  • Williamsboro


  • Dabney
  • Henderson
  • Kittrell
  • Middleburg
  • Sandy Creek
  • Townsville
  • Watkins
  • Williamsboro
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