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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Vance County

Vance County seal


COUNTY SEAT: Henderson

FORMED: 1881
FORMED FROM: Granville, Warren, Franklin

LAND AREA: 253.52 square miles

White: 45.1%
Black/African American: 51.5%    
American Indian: 1.0%        
Asian: 0.8%    
Pacific Islander: 0.1%
Two or more races: 1.6%
Hispanic/Latino: 8.3% (of any race)

From State & County QuickFacts, US Census Bureau, 2020.


Vance County

Piedmont region


REGION: Piedmont
RIVER BASIN: Roanoke, Tar-Pamlico, Map
NEIGHBORING COUNTIES: Franklin, Granville, Warren

Vance County, NC

See also: North Carolina Counties (to access links to NCpedia articles for all 100 counties)

by Jay Mazzocchi, 2006

Vance County, located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, was formed in 1881 from Granville, Warren, and Franklin Counties and named for Zebulon Baird Vance, governor of North Carolina and U.S. congressman and senator. It is situated along the Virginia border. Early inhabitants of the area included the Occaneechi Indians, followed by German, Scotch-Irish, and English settlers. Henderson, the county seat, was incorporated in 1841 and named for Leonard Henderson, chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1829 to 1833. Other communities in the county include Middleburg, Gillburg, Gill, Williamsboro, Greystone, and Epsom. Kerr Lake State Recreation Area brings thousands of visitors to Vance County for boating, waterskiing, and fishing. Other notable physical features of the county include the Tar River, Roland Pond, and Island, Anderson, and Tabbs Creeks.

Rose's department stores were started in Henderson by brothers Paul H. Rose and T. B. Rose in 1915. Vance County landmarks and historic sites include the county courthouse (1884) and St. John's Episcopal Church (1773). Cultural institutions include the Kerr Lake Art Society and the Vance County Historical Museum. The county hosts festivals and annual events such as the Vance County Regional Fair, the Memorial Day Weekend Concert in the Park, and the Kerr Lake Art Show.

Vance County agricultural commodities include tobacco, soybeans, horticultural crops, dairy products, and livestock. Manufactures include textiles, glass containers, manufactured homes, apparel, metal fabrications, lumber and wood products, pet food, plastics, and home furnishings. The minerals tungsten, heubnerite, rutile, and sillimanite are mined in the county. The estimated population of Vance County was 43,800 in 2004.

Annotated history of Vance County's formation:

For an annotated history of the county's formation, with the laws affecting the county, boundary lines and changes, and other origin information, visit these references in The Formation of the North Carolina Counties (Corbitt, 2000), available online at North Carolina Digital Collections (note, there may be additional items of interest for the county not listed here):

County formation history:

Index entry for the county:

Additional resources:

Corbitt, David Leroy. 2000. The formation of the North Carolina counties, 1663-1943 (accessed June 20, 2017).

Vance County Government:

Henderson-Vance County Chamber of Commerce:

DigitalNC, Vance County:

North Carolina Digital Collections (explore by place, time period, format):

Image credits:

Rudersdorf, Amy. 2010. "NC County Maps." Government & Heritage Library, State Library of North Carolina.

Origin - location: