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Nelson County was officially incorporated in 1807.

Filled with historical sites, century farms, country roads, and ancient mountains; the cultural landscape provides a timeless charm.

Pharsalia is an 1814 plantation home with stunning views of The Priest Wilderness Area. Oak Ridge Estate is an 1802 mansion on 5,000 acres of rolling hills, forest, and streams. Swannanoa is an Italianate marble villa atop Afton Mountain. Visit the Walton’s Mountain Museum in Schuyler and Earl Hamner House, boyhood home of Earl Hamner, Jr., creator of The Walton’s TV Show. Oakland Museum is located in an old tavern; it houses exhibits on Rural Electrification, Historic Properties, Roads & Ancient Mountains, Nelson County Schools and Hurricane Camille remnants, a Category 5 hurricane that devastated Nelson County in 1969. The Nelson Heritage Center has an African-American history exhibit and offers community events.

Historic Woodson’s Mill (1794) produces stone-ground grain products. Take a drive through the Historic Districts of Lovingston, Schuyler, Southern Rockfish Valley, Norwood-Wingina and Afton-Greenwood; or meander along the James River from Wingina to Norwood and view the area where some of the first settlers established homes along the river.  The Rockfish Valley Foundation Nature History Center  features exhibits from the Virginia Museum of Natural History.  Exhibits include an array of taxidermied native wildlife. Young visitors will have the chance to experience animal pelts, insects, rocks and other artifacts.  The Dodd Cabin is a restored historic log cabin open to visitors on a seasonal basis.

Additionally, two of Nelson’s craft beverage locations have museums on-site. The Virginia Distillery Museum is part of the walking tour of Virginia Distillery Company’s production distillery and includes fascinating historical distilling equipment and three video features. The Bold Rock Cider Museum offers cider artifacts for view and a unique opportunity to learn facts about the history and production of hard cider.

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Other Historic Activities

Historic Highway Mile Markers

Virginia’s state historical highway markers are hard to miss on the state’s roadways. There are now more than 2,200 of them erected in Virginia to commemorate people, places, or events of regional, statewide or national significance.

Virginia Dept of Historic Resources

Historic Districts & Historic Properties

The Department of Historic Resources (DHR) administers two programs designed to recognize our resources and to encourage their continued preservation: the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register, established in 1966 and managed by the National Park Service, is the official list of structures, sites, objects, and districts that embody the historical and cultural foundations of the nation. The Virginia Landmarks Register, also established in 1966 and managed by the Department of Historic Resources, is the state’s official list of properties important to Virginia’s history. The same criteria are used to evaluate resources for inclusion in the state register as are used for the National Register

Nelson County Register (DHR) | Afton-Greenwood Historic District | Lovingston Historic District | Norwood-Wingina Historic District

Schuyler Historic District | South Rockfish Historic District

Hurricane Camille

Hurricane Camille arrived in Virginia on the night of August 19, 1969, one of only three category five storms ever to make landfall in the United States since record-keeping began. One of the worst natural disasters in Virginia’s history, the storm produced what meteorologists at the time guessed might be the most rainfall “theoretically possible.” As it swept through Virginia overnight, with Nelson County receiving the brunt of the storm. Communication networks were not in place or were knocked out, leaving floods and landslides to trap residents as they slept. Hurricane Camille cost Virginia 113 lives lost and $116 million in damages. It also served as a lesson that inland flooding could be as great a danger as coastal flooding during a hurricane.

Encylopedia Virginia | Hurricane Camille on Wikipedia | Oakland Museum

Nelson County Cemeteries

The Nelson Memorial Library and the Nelson County Historical Society are both excellent resources for information on local cemeteries. You may purchase the Nelson County Cemetery Book at the Nelson County Visitor Center and the Oakland Museum. You may also want to consider contacting local churches for additional information on cemeteries.

Nelson County Historical Society | Nelson Memorial Library | Interment Cemetery Records Online | List of Nelson County Cemeteries

Geneology & Research Information

The Nelson County Historical Society research files are located in the Nelson Memorial Library in Lovingston. They can be accessed when the library is open. Research Committee members are in the library on Wednesday from 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM to help with inquiries.

Nelson County Historical Society
P.O. Box 474, Lovingston, VA 22949
Inquiries to: 

The following items may be found in the files:
Family genealogy – filed by surname,  Government and County History, Cemeteries, Churches, Communities, Homes, Post Offices, Schools, Transportation, Wars

Research Locations

Nelson County Clerk’s Office
Nelson County Historical Society
Nelson Heritage Center
Nelson Memorial Library
Oakland Museum