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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.

Nicholas County, West Virginia

Nicholas County Education, Geography, and History

Nicholas County, West Virginia Courthouse

Nicholas County is a county located in the state of West Virginia. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 26,233. Its county seat is Summersville. The county was created in 1818 by the Virginia General Assembly and named for Virginia Governor Wilson Cary Nicholas.

Etymology - Origin of Nicholas County Name

For Wilson Cary Nicholas, Governor of Virginia, 1814-16


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

Early History of Nicholas County, West Virginia

Nicholas County was initially created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly on January 30, 1818 from parts of Greenbrier, Kanawha and Randolph counties. The county's boundaries, however, were disputed and altered to its current status by another act of the Assembly on January 29, 1820. The county was named in honor of Wilson Cary Nicholas (1761-1820).

Wilson Cary Nicholas was born on January 31, 1761 in Williamsburg, Virginia and later attended William and Mary College, leaving school in 1779 to enlist in the American Army. He rose through the ranks and by the end of the Revolutionary War was the commander of General George Washington's Life Guard. He later represented Albemarle County in the Virginia General Assembly (1784-1799), represented Virginia in the US Senate (1799-1804) and in the US House of Representatives (1807-1809). He also was the Governor of Virginia from 1814 to 1816. He owned land in present day Nicholas County and assisted in the county's formation. He died on October 10, 1820 and is buried at Monticello. In 1775, Major William Morris and his slave Peter Morris went on a hunting trip and after following several waterways became the first Englishmen to set foot in the present county. Major Morris claimed the land and offered it to his oldest son, William Morris, Jr. He was not interested in taking possession of the land and sold it to his brother, Henry (1747-1824). Henry moved to the county during the spring of 1791, building a cabin for himself and his family along Peter Creek, named in honor of his father's slave. He was soon joined by the families of Conrad Young and Edward McClung, who built cabins nearby. In 1792, tragedy struck the Morris family. A white man, named Simon Girty, spent the winter with them at the cabin. During the spring, Henry Morris discovered that he was wanted for several crimes and asked him to leave the farm. A dispute over the ownership of one of the Morris' dogs ensued, with Girty being escorted off of the farm at rifle point. That evening, Girty and two Indians attacked and killed two of Morris' daughters, Betsy and Margaret, as they were retrieving the families cows. One of the scalped girls lived long enough to tell her father who had killed her. Henry Morris then pursued the murders, but they escaped.

The first meeting of the Nicholas County court took place on April 7, 1818 at the home of John Hamilton, near Kesler's Cross Lanes. He donated 30 acres of land for the establishment of the county seat. That area was formally established as Summersville on January 19, 1820. It was named in honor of Judge Lewis Summers who introduced the bill in the Virginia General Assembly that created Nicholas County. The town was incorporated on March 20, 1860. In July 1861, a Confederate spy named Nancy Hart, aged 20 and said to be remarkably beautiful, led an attack on Summersville that resulted in most of it being burnt to the ground. She was later captured and held in the Summersville jail. It was said that her striking beauty and dark, roving eyes played havoc with the guards. She was soon given the privilege of walking in the jail's courtyard with a guard escort. One evening she asked her guard if she could examine his pistol. The foolish guard, said to be overcome by her beauty and guile, gave it to her. She shot him dead on the spot and escaped to Confederate territory. After the war, she returned to the county, married Joshua Douglas, and lived in the county until her death. From: West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia, compiled by Hardesty.

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 654 square miles (1,690 km2), of which 647 square miles (1,680 km2) is land and 7.6 square miles (20 km2) (1.2%) is water.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • North: Braxton County
  • Northeast: Webster County
  • Northwest: Clay County
  • Southeast: Greenbrier County
  • Southwest: Fayette County


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