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West Virginia Counties

There are fifty-five counties in the state of West Virginia. Fifty of them existed at the time of the Wheeling Convention in 1861, before which West Virginia was part of the state of Virginia. The remaining five (Grant, Mineral, Lincoln, Summers and Mingo) were formed within the state after its admission to the United States on June 20, 1863. At that time, Berkeley County and Jefferson County, the two easternmost counties of West Virginia, refused to recognize their inclusion in the state. In March 1866, the US Congress passed a joint mandate assenting to their inclusion.

Mercer County, West Virginia

Mercer County Education, Geography, and History

Mercer County, West Virginia Courthouse

Mercer County is a county located in the state of West Virginia. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 62,264. Its county seat is Princeton. The county was originally established in the state of Virginia by act of its General Assembly on 17 March 1837, using lands taken from Giles and Tazewell counties.

Mercer County is included in the Bluefield, WV-VA Micropolitan Statistical Area.

Etymology - Origin of Mercer County Name

In honor of Revolutionary War General Hugh Mercer


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

Early History of Mercer County, West Virginia

Mercer County was created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly on March 17, 1837, from parts of Giles and Tazewell counties (Virginia). The county was named in honor of Brigadier-General Hugh Mercer (1725-1877). He was born in Scotland and educated in medicine at Marischal College in Scotland. He immigrated to Philadelphia in 1746 and later moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia. He served as a surgeon in the French and Indian War of 1755 and in the American Revolutionary War. He was mortally wounded by bayonet by British soldiers at the Battle of Princeton, New Jersey on January 3, 1777. He died from the wounds on January 12, 1777. Among his descendants was General George S. Patton, one of America's finest military leaders during World War II.

Mitchell Clay was the first English settlers in the county. He arrived in 1775 with his wife, Phoebe, and their children. In August 1783, a band of 11 Indians attacked his home while he was away on a hunting trip. His wife and two daughters escaped, but the Indians killed one of his sons and one of his daughters. They also captured his son, Ezekiel. It was later learned that Ezekiel was burned at the stake in the Shawnee Indian town at Chillicothe, Ohio. Mr. Clay then sold his farm to George Pearis.

The first meeting of the county court took place at the home of James Calfee, near the present site of Princeton. It was decided at that meeting to name the county seat Princeton, in honor of the site of General Mercer's death. Captain William Smith (1774-1859) was the leading citizen in the community and donated one and a half acres of land for the courthouse. It was built in 1839. On May 1, 1862, during the Civil War, a Confederate Army Colonel named Walter Jenifer set the courthouse on fire as he retreated from the Union Army, under the command of General Jacob Cox. Lieutenant Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes, later the President of the United States, was in command of the Union Army's advancing regiment. The blaze spread through most of the town and destroyed nearly every home and building. After the War, the town was slowly rebuilt. A conflict arose over the location of the county seat in 1865 because Judge Nathaniel Harrison was not allowed by the local residents to hold court in Princeton, primarily because he had left the Confederacy and most of the local residents had supported the South during the Civil War. He held the county court at Concord Church, later called Athens, for five years following the war. In 1869, several Princeton residents stole the county court records and took them back to Princeton. A special election was then held in the county to resolve the issue of where the county seat was to be located. Princeton won.

Princeton's first bank, First State Bank, was organized in 1874 by H.W. Straley. The bank was very primitive, using a trunk as a safe and a beaver hat for a till for coins. At night, the directors took the bank's money home with them for safe keeping. It was reported that on opening day a well-dressed gentleman entered the bank and identified himself as a visiting businessman. Judge David Johnson, the bank's vice-president, was so taken by the gentleman's fine demeanor that he invited the man home for dinner. The gentleman, Frank James, later reported to his brother Jesse that the bank was too insignificant to rob.

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 421 square miles (1,090 km2), of which 419 square miles (1,090 km2) is land and 1.7 square miles (4.4 km2) (0.4%) is water.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • Northeast: Summers County
  • Northwest: Wyoming County; Raleigh County
  • Southeast: Giles County, Va.
  • South: Bland County, Va.
  • Southwest: Tazewell County, Va.
  • West: McDowell County


The Mercer County Public School System has nineteen elementary schools. There are six middle school facilities. There is also the Mercer County Technical Education Center, which is currently being transitioned into a comprehensive technical high school.

Higher educational institutions include Bluefield State College, located in Bluefield, Concord University, located in Athens and New River Community and Technical College, located in Princeton, WV.

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