Nelson and Albemarle County were originally the home to the Monacan tribe of Native Americans, a settlement along the James River was established by English colonists in the early 1700s. These settlers converted the old Monacan hunting trails into a trade route to shuttle goods between Richmond and the Appalachian Mountains. Today we call this Route 29.
One of the first men to build upon this early infrastructure was Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson is undeniably the most famous figure in local history as the third United States president, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and the founder the University of Virginia. His maintop plantation, Monticello, can be found on the hilltop above the university. He inherited this mountaintop land, some 5,000 acres, from his father at the age of 26. He then used the labor of enslaved Africans to cultivate tobacco and construct the plantation house. Living next door at Ash-Lawn Highland, now called James Monroe Highland, James Monroe, went to become the fifth president of the United States. Further away in By the end of the 1800s, Nelson and Albemarle County's' agricultural products included tobacco, apples and chestnut trees; the produce and lumber were carried to market by canal and railroad.
During the 1930s Earl Hamner, Jr. began writing of his experiences growing up in Nelson County during the Depression. Those writings eventually provided the substance for the The Waltons TV series. In 1969, Hurricane Camille caused a flood, devastating Nelson County. Since Camille, Nelson County has slowly recovered its land, its infrastructure and the will to grow and prosper again. Events that have aided in this recovery include: the 1972 development of Wintergreen Resort, the restoration in progress at Oak Ridge Estate and Pharsalia Farm, development of Walton’s Mountain Museum, the resurgence of the apple industry, the maturation of new vineyards, and the steady growth in Nelson County’s tourism industry. For a list of museums and historical sites, visit the Nelson County Museums and Heritage website and
The Nelson County Visitor’s Center is located on Route 29 in Lovingston. For more information on Nelson County and a calendar of county wide events, please visit www.nelsoncounty.com. The Nelson County Visitors Guide is a downloadable PDF with additional resources and details.