Orange County, Virginia

county in Virginia, United States

Orange County is a county in the central piedmont region of the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2020 census, the population was 36,254.[2] Its county seat is Orange.[3]

Orange County
Orange County Courthouse
Orange County Courthouse
Map of Virginia highlighting Orange County
Location within the U.S. state of Virginia
Map of the United States highlighting Virginia
Virginia's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 38°14′N 78°01′W / 38.24°N 78.01°W / 38.24; -78.01
Country United States
State Virginia
Named forWilliam III of England
Largest townOrange
 • Total343 sq mi (890 km2)
 • Land341 sq mi (880 km2)
 • Water2.5 sq mi (6 km2)  0.7%
 • Total36,254
 • Density110/sq mi (41/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district7th

Orange County is home to "Montpelier", the 2,700-acre (1,100 ha) estate of James Madison, the 4th President of the United States and "Father of the Constitution." The county celebrated its 275th anniversary in 2009.[4]



The area was lived in for thousands of years by different cultures of Native Americans. At the time the Europeans came, the Ontponea, a sub-group of the Siouan-speaking Manahoac tribe, lived in this Piedmont area.[5]

The first European settlement in what was to become Orange County was Germanna, formed when Governor Alexander Spotswood settled 12 immigrant families from Westphalia, Germany there in 1714. This was a total of 42 people. Orange County was created in August 1734 when the Virginia House of Burgesses adopted “An Act for Dividing Spotsylvania County.” Unlike other counties whose boundaries had ended at the Blue Ridge Mountains, Orange was bounded on the west “by the utmost limits of Virginia” which, at that time, stretched to the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. The colony of Virginia claimed the land, but very little of it had yet been occupied by any English people. Orange County may have been at one time the largest county that ever existed.[6] In 1738 most of the western area was split off into Augusta County. The large county was to encourage settlement further west to counter the French claim to the Ohio River Valley region.[7]

While no battles of the American Revolutionary War were fought in Orange County, 100 men from the county were recruited to the Culpeper Minutemen.[8] They fought in the Battle of Great Bridge, among other engagements.[8]

The development of transportation, including several railroad routes, up through the mid-nineteenth century helped build a agricultural economy in Orange County. The final adjustment of the county’s boundaries occurred in 1838, when Greene County was created from the western portion of Orange. The Town of Orange was legally established in 1834 (officially becoming a town in 1872) and had already served as the county seat for nearly a century. The Town of Gordonsville officially became a town in 1870.[7]

The county saw limited conflict during the Civil War. Most of the activity was centered around the towns of Orange and Gordonsville. The exceptions were the Battle of Mine Run and the Battle of the Wilderness in the eastern portion of the county. The Battle of the Wilderness was a significant turning point in the war. Following Virginia’s readmission to the Union in 1870, and with the loss of slave labor, the agricultural economy resumed with more emphasis on livestock and dairy farming. This was because these activities requiring less physical labor. The dominance of the railroad and the relative ease it offered in delivering goods to larger markets increased the livestock production in the county’s agricultural economy. Agriculture and manufacturing continued to expand into the twentieth century, with a peak of 1279 farms and 20 manufacturing companies located within the county as of 1929. A manufacturing survey produced during the Great Depression noted that Orange County’s economy remained relatively healthy due to its accessibility.[7]

The significance of agriculture to Orange County’s history was great enough that the Commonwealth of Virginia set aside approximately 31,200 acres (126 km2) in the western portion of the county as the Madison-Barbour Rural Historic District. The District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and is the largest such district in Virginia. It includes James Madison’s Montpelier and James Barbour’s Barboursville mansion (designed by Thomas Jefferson, now in ruins). It includes other sites listed on the National Register.[9]

Orange County’s population went up and down following the Civil War up through the 1930s. From that point forward, the population continued to grow steadily, representing an almost 300% increase through the 2010 Census.



According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 343 square miles (890 km2). Of that, 341 square miles (880 km2) is land and 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2) (0.7%) is water.[10] The terrain is made up of rolling hills, generally increasing in altitude and slope as they continue westward toward the Blue Ridge Mountains. The highest point is Cowherd Mountain at 1,196 ft (345 m), approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) northwest of Gordonsville.[11]

Orange County lies within the watersheds of both the Rappahannock River and the York River Both of these drain into the Chesapeake Bay.[12]

Adjacent counties




Nationally protected areas



A Map of Orange County, VA

Major highways




Public transportation

  • The Town of Orange Transit (TOOT) provides bus service around and between the towns of Orange and Gordonsville


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census[13]
1790-1960[14] 1900-1990[15]
1990-2000[16] 2010-2020[2]

As of the census[17] of 2010, there were 33,481 people, 12,895 households (14,616 total housing units), and 9,342 families residing in the county. The county experienced a population increase of 29%, or 7,600 people, since the 2000 census. This ties with Louisa County as the 11th fastest growing county in the state, and one of the fastest outside of Northern Virginia. The racial makeup of the county was 82.4% White, 12.7% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.7% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.4% from other races, and 2.4% from two or more races. 3.4% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Out of the 12,895 households, 27.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.8% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.6% were non-families. Out of the total number of households, 32.6% housed someone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 2.97.

The age distribution of the county's population was 22.9% under the age of 18, 6.7% from 18 to 24, 10.7% from 25 to 44, 28.5% from 45 to 64, and 18.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42.6 years. For every 100 females there were 96 males.

The median income for a household in the county in 2010 was $56,837, and the median income for a family was $65,195. The per capita income for the county was $26,820 and approximately 11.5% of the population was below the poverty line. Orange County had the 9th longest mean travel time to work (37 minutes) out of 132 Virginia localities polled. The median home value was $238,500.


  1. "Orange County Virginia". Orange County Virginia. Archived from the original on 14 September 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "QuickFacts: Orange County, Virginia". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  3. National Association of Counties. "NACo County Explorer". Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  4. Robin Knepper. "Orange County Marks 275 Years of History". BH Media Group, Inc. Archived from the original on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  5. John R. Swanton, The Indian Tribes of North America (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2003), pp. 61–62
  6. John Hastings Gwathmey, Twelve Virginia Counties: Where the Western Migration Began (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1979), p. 277
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Orange Commercial Historic District.” National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. June 1998. Form prepared by Debra McClane of Gray & Pape, Inc. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "The History of the Culpeper Minute Men Battalion 1775". The Culpeper Minute Men Chapter, Virginia Society, Sons of the American Revolution. Archived from the original on 1 September 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  9. "Madison-Barbour Rural Historic District." National Register of Historic Places registration form. December 1989. Form prepared by Jeff O'Dell and John S. Salmon, Virginia Dept. of Historic Resources. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  10. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  11. Orange County 2009 Comprehensive Plan. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  12. Virginia Watersheds. Retrieved 26 July 2013. Archived 2013-08-13 at the Wayback Machine
  13. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  14. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Archived from the original on August 11, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  15. "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  16. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  17. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-05-14.