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Highland County, Virginia

Highland County, Virginia
Highland County Courthouse in Monterey
Seal of Highland County, Virginia
Map of Virginia highlighting Highland County
Location in the state of Virginia
Map of the United States highlighting Virginia
Virginia's location in the U.S.
Founded 1847
Seat Monterey
Largest town Monterey
 • Total 416 sq mi (1,077 km2)
 • Land 415 sq mi (1,075 km2)
 • Water 0.7 sq mi (2 km2), 0.2%
Population (est.)
 • (2014) 2,297
 • Density 5.59/sq mi (2/km²)
Congressional district 6th
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Website .org.highlandcovawww

Highland County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 2,321,[1] in 2014, the population was estimated to be 2,297.[2] Its county seat is Monterey.[3] Known as "Virginia's Switzerland" or "Virginia's Little Switzerland", Highland County is the least populous county in Virginia. Highland lays claim to being one of the least populous counties and one of the highest average elevations east of the Mississippi River.


  • History 1
  • Geography 2
    • Protected areas 2.1
  • Climate and weather 3
  • Economy 4
  • Transportation 5
    • Highways 5.1
      • U.S. Route 250 5.1.1
      • U.S. Route 220 5.1.2
      • Virginia State Route 84 5.1.3
    • Other transportation 5.2
  • Community services 6
    • Education 6.1
    • Healthcare 6.2
    • Emergency services 6.3
  • Demographics 7
  • Government and politics 8
  • Attractions 9
  • Communities 10
    • Town 10.1
    • Unincorporated communities 10.2
  • See also 11
  • References 12
    • Bibliography 12.1
  • External links 13


Settlement of this portion of the Colony of Virginia by Europeans began around 1745. Located west of the Tidewater and Piedmont regions in Virginia and also west of the Shenandoah Valley, this area is beyond (known in old Virginia as the "Transmountaine") the Blue Ridge Mountains. Rather than cross such a formidable physical barrier, most early settlers came southerly up the Valley across the Potomac River from Maryland and Pennsylvania. Many followed the Great Wagon Road, also known as the Valley Pike (U.S. Route 11 in modern times). As German immigrants began to push over the mountains to the northern area of the present county, those of Scots-Irish descent settled in the southern part.

Even after Virginia and the other 12 colonies won their independence from [4]

Highland County was formed in 1847 from Bath County and Pendleton County after a bill was passed by the Virginia General Assembly on March 19 of that year.[5] The desire for the new county's formation arose due to multiple reasons, including the distances from the areas in present day Highland to the county seats of Bath and Pendleton and the advantageous position of the new turnpike.[6] Highland was named for its lofty elevation.[7]

Control of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike became crucial during the [4]

In the 20th century, the Turnpike was re-designated as [4]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Highland County has a total area of 415.9 square miles (1,077.2 km2), of which 415.2 square miles (1,075.4 km2) is land and 0.7 square miles (1.8 km2) (0.2%) is water.[8]

The county's western border is naturally defined and lies along the Eastern Continental Divide in the Allegheny Mountains. Likewise, the eastern border lies along the ridge line of Shenandoah Mountain. The northern and southern boundaries of the county are defined more artificially, cutting across numerous mountain ridges and valleys.[9][10][11] The county is bordered to the west by Pocahontas County in the state of West Virginia, to the north by Pendleton County, West Virginia, to the east by Augusta County, Virginia, and to the south by Bath County, Virginia.[11][12] The county is 153 miles (246 km) northwest of Richmond, Virginia.[12]

A typical view of valleys and mountain ridges near Hightown

The average elevation of Highland County is 2,832 feet (863 m), which is the 16th highest average elevation among counties in the Eastern United States.[13] The highest elevation in the county is 4,545 feet (1,385 m) in the Allegheny Mountains and the lowest elevation is 1,625 feet (495 m) near the Cowpasture River southwest of Patna.[11][14] The western regions of the county are generally higher in elevation than are the eastern and especially southeastern regions.[15] As the county lies within the Ridge-and-Valley province of the Appalachian Mountains, it features numerous valleys and mountain ridges that are generally oriented in a "northeast to southwest" direction.[14] The valleys are from west to east the Alleghany Valley, the Bluegrass Valley, the Monterey Valley, the Bullpasture Valley, and the Cowpasture Valley.[10][16] The majority of the county and all the southern portions of the county form part of the James River watershed, while northern sections drain into the Potomac River. West of Monterey, the divide is roughly centered along the path of U.S. Route 250; however, in eastern Highland County, the James watershed extends further northward.[14][17]

Map of Highland County showing magisterial districts

The westernmost valley, the Alleghany Valley, is narrow and situated between Allegheny Mountain to the west and Lantz Mountain to the east. It is drained by Back Creek, a tributary of the Jackson River, in the southern section of the county and is drained by Straight Fork to the north. The Laurel Fork runs to the west of Alleghany Valley, joining the Straight Fork in Pendleton County, West Virginia to the north to form the North Fork South Branch Potomac River. The Bluegrass Valley contains the headwaters of the Jackson River south of U.S. 250 and the South Branch Potomac River to the north. The northern section of the valley, in the area of the village of Blue Grass, is considerably wider than the southern section of the valley. The Jackson River flows out of Bluegrass Valley to the east through Vanderpool Gap approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) south of Hightown. A short distance south, the Bluegrass Valley is drained by the Back Creek. Monterey Valley is located roughly in the center of the county, and its drainage is separated at Monterey. To the north of Monterey, the valley is drained by the Strait Creek and South Branch Potomac River; to the south, the valley is drained by the Jackson River. The Bullpasture Valley is drained throughout the county to the south by the Bullpasture River. The Cowpasture Valley, the easternmost valley in the county, is mostly drained to the south by the Cowpasture River, although a small portion to the north is drained by the South Fork South Branch Potomac River.[9][11][18]

Protected areas

Highland County contains parts of the

  • Highland County government official website
  • Highland County Chamber of Commerce website
  • (regional newspaper)The Recorder
  • Faces of Farmers: Local Food and Farmers in Highland
  • The Highland Center
  • McDowell Volunteer Fire Department

External links

  • "Community Profile: Highland County" (PDF). Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Retrieved December 31, 2013. 
  • "Economic Overview 2002 Bath and Highland County" (PDF). Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission. 2002. Retrieved January 4, 2014. 
  • Morton, Oren Frederic (1922). A Handbook of Highland County: And a Supplement to Pendleton and Highland History. Highland Recorder. 
  • Morton, Oren Frederic (1911). A History of Highland County, Virginia. 
  • Scott, Chris (2008). Highland County. Arcadia Publishing. 


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  2. ^ a b "Virginia State 2014 Population Estimates". Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Retrieved February 5, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  4. ^ a b c SPT: Beginnings of an Alliance
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  6. ^ Oren, 1911, p. 114.
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  15. ^ "County of Highland - Elevation (Map)" (PDF). Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission. 2010. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
  16. ^ Scott, 2008, p. 7.
  17. ^ "County of Highland - Designated Watersheds Map" (PDF). Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission. 2010. Retrieved January 4, 2014. 
  18. ^ Oren, 1911, pp. 11-13.
  19. ^ "County of Highland - Public Lands (Map)" (PDF). Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission. 2010. Retrieved January 4, 2014. 
  20. ^ a b "Highland WMA". Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Highland Wildlife Management Area (Map)" (PDF). Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Retrieved January 4, 2014. 
  22. ^ Economic Overview 2002 Bath and Highland County, 2002, p. 1.
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  26. ^ "Climate Summary for Monterey, Virginia". Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
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  28. ^ a b Oren, 1922, pp. 8-9.
  29. ^ Oren, 1911, p. 21.
  30. ^ a b Economic Overview 2002 Bath and Highland County, 2002, p. 2.
  31. ^ "Highland County Climate (1948-1990)". Regional Data Center for Virginia's Central Shenandoah Valley. Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  32. ^ a b c "Virginia Historical Tornadoes by County". National Weather Service. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
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  34. ^ a b "Tornado Database File (1950-2012)" (CSV). National Weather Service. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
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  38. ^ "Virginia 50-Meter Wind Map". U.S. Department of Energy: Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  39. ^ "Wind Database Files (1955-2012)". National Weather Service. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  40. ^ "Labor force data by county, not seasonally adjusted, October 2012-November 2013(p)" (TXT). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 9, 2013. 
  41. ^ Oren, 1922, pp. 19-20.
  42. ^ "Comprehensive Plan: Land Use". Highland County. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  43. ^ a b c Community Profile: Highland County, p. 5.
  44. ^ "County Data Summary: Crops, Livestock, and Census Data by County: Halifax-King & Queen" (PDF). National Agricultural Statistics Service, United States Department of Agriculture. p. 95. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  45. ^ Anita K. Rose (2007). "Virginia's Forests" (PDF). United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. p. 73. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  46. ^ "Harvest Value Listed By County Name". Virginia Department of Forestry. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  47. ^ Community Profile: Highland County, p. 6.
  48. ^ "Counties in Appalachia". Appalachian Regional Commission. Retrieved January 14, 2014. 
  49. ^ "County Economic Status, Fiscal Year 2014: Appalachian Virginia". Appalachian Regional Commission. Retrieved January 14, 2014. 
  50. ^ a b c d e "Comprehensive Plan: Transportation". Highland County. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  51. ^ a b c  
  52. ^ "County of Highland - Average Annual Daily Traffic (2008)" (PDF). Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission. 2010. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  53. ^ a b c Traffic Engineering Division. "Virginia Department of Transportation - Jurisdiction Report: Daily Traffic Volume Estimates Including Vehicle Classification Estimates: Highland County/Town of Monterey" (PDF). Virginia Department of Transportation. p. 7. Retrieved December 30, 2013. 
  54. ^ a b  
  55. ^ Winegar, Deane; Winegar, Garvey (2002). Highroad Guide to the Virginia Mountains. John F. Blair. p. 181.  
  56. ^ a b  
  57. ^ Jonathan L. Tso, Ronald R. McDowell, Katharine Lee Avary, David L. Matchen, and Gerald P. Wilkes (2004). "Middle Eocene Igneous Rocks in the Valley and Ridge of Virginia and West Virginia". Circular 1264.  
  58. ^  
  59. ^ Community Profile: Highland County, p. 10.
  60. ^  
  61. ^ Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Commonwealth of Virginia. 1892. pp. 748–749. 
  62. ^ Oren, 1911, p. 141.
  63. ^ Oren, 1911, p. 233.
  64. ^ a b Oren, 1922, p. 25.
  65. ^ a b Economic Overview 2002 Bath and Highland County, 2002, p. 3.
  66. ^ "Highland County > Education". Highland County Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  67. ^ a b "Comprehensive Plan: Education". Highland County. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  68. ^ "County of Highland - Topographic Map (Monterey)" (PDF). Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission. 2010. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  69. ^ "District - Welcome". Highland County School District. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  70. ^ "Highland County Education: Average Daily Student Membership". Regional Data Center for Virginia's Central Shenandoah Valley. Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  71. ^ a b Oren, 1911, pp. 150-153.
  72. ^ Scott, 2008, p. 95.
  73. ^ Virginia, a Hand-book: Giving Its History, Climate, and Mineral Wealth, Its Educational, Agricultural, and Industrial Advantages, Volumes 81-893. Thomas Whitehead, Virginia. Dept. of Agriculture, Virginia. Board of Agriculture. Everett Waddey Company. 1893. p. 264. 
  74. ^ William T. Frazier (August 2001). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Monterey High School" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources. pp. 5–7. 
  75. ^ a b c d e "Comprehensive Plan: Community Services". Highland County. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  76. ^ a b "Highland County > Medical". Highland County Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  77. ^ "Frontier Areas from 2010 U.S. Census" (XLS). National Center for Frontier Communities. Retrieved December 30, 2013. 
  78. ^ "What is the definition of frontier?". Rural Assistance Center. Retrieved December 30, 2013. 
  79. ^ a b Economic Overview 2002 Bath and Highland County, 2002, p. 4.
  80. ^ "History of the McDowell Vol. Fire Dept.". McDowell Volunteer Fire Department. Retrieved December 30, 2013. 
  81. ^ "Crime in Virginia" (PDF). Virginia Uniform Crime Reporting Program, Department of State Police. 2012. Retrieved December 30, 2013. 
  82. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  83. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 2, 2014. 
  84. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 2, 2014. 
  85. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 2, 2014. 
  86. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 2, 2014. 
  87. ^ a b c d e "American FactFinder".  
  88. ^ "County Totals Datasets: Population, Population Change and Estimated Components of Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012" (CSV). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 3, 2013. 
  89. ^ "DP02. Selected Social Characteristics in the United States: 2008-2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates".  
  90. ^ "County Membership Report: Highland County, Virginia". The Association of Religion Data Archives. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  91. ^ "2010 U.S. Religion Census: Religious Congregations & Membership Study - Links and Rankings (All Years)". Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. 2010. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
  92. ^ a b Leip, David. "Presidential General Election Results". US Election Atlas. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  93. ^ a b c "Comprehensive Plan: Government Structure and Finance". Highland County. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  94. ^ a b "County of Highland - Magisterial Districts" (PDF). Highland County. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  95. ^ "Highland County Local Taxes". Regional Data Center for Virginia's Central Shenandoah Valley. Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  96. ^ Leip, David. "Virginia Gubernatorial Election Results". US Election Atlas. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  97. ^ "Directory of Representatives: Virginia". United States House of Representatives. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  98. ^ "Senators of the 113th Congress: Virginia". United States Senate. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  99. ^ "Senator R. Creigh Deeds: Democrat-District 25". Virginia Senate. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  100. ^ "Virginia House of Delegates 2013: Delegate Richard P. Bell". Virginia House of Delegates. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  101. ^ "Retail Privatization Options" (PDF). Commonwealth of Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control. 2011. p. 34. Retrieved January 16, 2014. 
  102. ^ "Highland County > Government". Highland County Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  103. ^ "Highland County Leaders". Highland County. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  104. ^ "Welcome to Highland County, Virginia". Highland County. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  105. ^ "Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail: Little Switzerland". Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  106. ^ "Explore Virginia's Western Highlands". Virginia's Western Highlands Travel Council. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  107. ^ Colbert, Judy (2013). Scenic Routes & Byways: Virginia. Globe Pequot. p. 47.  
  108. ^ Scott, 2008, p. 21.
  109. ^ "About Highland Historical Society". Highland Historical Society. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  110. ^ "Exhibits". Highland Historical Society. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  111. ^ "2. McDOWELL (8 May 1862)". National Park Service. 1995. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  112. ^ a b "56th Annual Highland Maple Festival". Highland County Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  113. ^ "Highland Maple Festival (Highland County)". The Library of Congress. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  114. ^ a b "Highland Farmer's Market". The Highland Center. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  115. ^ "Comprehensive Plan: Recreational Routes in Highland County". Highland County. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  116. ^ "Events > Mountain Mama Road Bike Challenge". Highland County Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  117. ^ Scott, 2008, p. 73.


See also

Unincorporated communities



Additionally, other outdoor sports such as fishing, hiking, hunting, caving, and cycling are enjoyed in the county.[14][20][115] Every August the Mountain Mama Road Bike Challenge brings cyclists from all over the country to challenge themselves on the steep roads of Highland County.[116] The Highland County fair is the longest continuously running fair in Virginia.[117]

[114] The

The Highland County Museum and Heritage Center is located at McDowell, Virginia and is operated by the Highland Historic Society.[109] Exhibits feature the history of Highland County and the history of the Battle of McDowell during the American Civil War.[110] According to the National Park Service, the battlefield is the best preserved battlefield of all Shenandoah Valley battlefields.[111]

Highland County is known by the nickname "Virginia's Switzerland" or "Virginia's Little Switzerland",[104][105] in reference to the steep mountains and valleys.[106][107] The mountains of Highland have historically attracted many tourists to the region, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and other prominent inventors and businessmen who visited the area in 1918.[108]


Local Officials[102][103]
Board of Supervisors County Administrator County Treasurer Commissioner of Revenue Clerk of the Circuit Court Commonwealth Attorney Sheriff
David W. Blanchard, Lee Blagg, Kevin Wagner Roberta A. Lambert Lois White Darlene Crummett Lois Showalter Melissa A. Dowd Tim Duff

The county is a dry county, meaning the "on-premises sale of liquor by the drink" is prohibited. Highland is the northernmost of ten dry counties in Virginia.[101]

Highland County has historically been a stronghold for the Republican Party in national elections, voting for the Republican candidate for U.S. President in every election since at least 1960.[92] Also, since the 1989 Virginia Gubernatorial Election, the county has voted for the Republican candidate.[96] Currently, Highland County is located in Virginia's 6th congressional district[94] which is represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by Republican Bob Goodlatte.[97] The county, along with the rest of the Commonwealth of Virginia, is represented in the U.S. Senate by Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.[98] Highland County is located in the 25th Senate of Virginia district represented by Democrat R. Creigh Deeds[99] and the 20th Virginia House of Delegates district represented by Republican Richard P. Bell.[100]

Highland County levies a 1% sales tax, a 1.5% personal property tax, a 1% machinery and tools tax, and a .37% real estate tax.[65][95] 46% of the county's total revenue in 2010 was derived from local taxes, of which 76% was accounted for in property tax levies. The remaining 54% of the county's revenue was from state and federal sources.[93]

The local government of Highland County consists of three elected members of the Board of Supervisors who serve four-year terms after election at-large.[30] Three magisterial districts divide the county, which are, from west to east, Blue Grass, Monterey, and Stonewall.[93][94] The Board of Supervisors oversees all "legislative and administrative affairs of the county." A chief administrative officer of the county is selected from the three members of the Board. The Board of Supervisors also appoints a county administrator who handles the implementation of county policies and ordinances. In addition to the Board of Supervisors, other elected members of the county government include the "County Treasurer, the Commissioner of Revenue, the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Commonwealth Attorney, and the County Sheriff." Monterey, the county seat, is an incorporated town and thus has its own government officials consisting of a town council and a mayor.[93]

U.S. Presidential elections results[92]
Year Republican Democratic
2012 65.4% 924 32.5% 459
2008 59.8% 930 38.0% 590
2004 64.6% 982 34.3% 522
2000 65.6% 942 31.5% 453
1996 51.7% 631 36.5% 446
1992 49.0% 686 35.3% 494

Government and politics

[91] The religious makeup of Highland County is composed mainly of

The median income for a household in the county was $63,636, and the median income for a family was $76,566. Males had a median income of $53,704 versus $41,720 for females. The per capita income for the county was $33,326. About 7.8% of families and 11.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.6% of those under age 18 and 7.9% of those age 65 or over.[87]

In the county, the population was spread out with 14.9% under the age of 18, 5.4% from 18 to 24, 16.6% from 25 to 44, 38.2% from 45 to 64, and 24.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 52.9 years. For every 100 females there were 99.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.5 males.[87]

There were 1,081 households out of which 17.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.4% were married couples living together, 6.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.3% were non-families. 29.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.15 and the average family size was 2.60.[87]

As of the census[87] of 2010, there were 2,321 people, making it the least populous county in Virginia. The county was the fifth least populous county east of the Mississippi River and the 115th least populous county in the entire United States.[88] There were 1,081 households and 721 families residing in the county. The population density was 5.59 people per square mile (2.16/km²). There were 1,837 housing units at an average density of 4.42 per square mile (1.71/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 98.6% White, 0.3% Black or African American, 0.2% Native American, 0.2% Asian, 0.5% from other races, and 0.2% from two or more races. 0.8% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.[87] The ancestry of the population was 30.5% German, 16.4% American, 14.5% Scotch-Irish, 11.6% Irish, 11.3% English, and 4.8% French. The remainder of the population was split among twelve other different countries of mostly European origin, all of which accounted for less than 100 people each.[89]


The Highland County Sheriff's Department provides law enforcement services to the entire county and is located in Monterey.[75] In 2012, the department had 7 sworn officers and employed 5 civilians.[81]

There are three Doe Hill, and Head Waters.[75][79][80] The areas of Monterey and Blue Grass are served by the Highland County Volunteer Fire Department. Rescue squad services for the county are provided by the Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad which has locations in Monterey and McDowell.[75][79]

Emergency services

Highland County does not have a hospital, the closest being in neighboring Augusta and Bath Counties, such as Augusta Health.[75] The Highland Medical Center, Inc. is located in Monterey and is the only general patient care medical facility in Highland County. The center opened in 1996 and became a Federally Qualified Health Center in 2003.[75][76] Highland County is one of four counties in Virginia and one of only 50 counties in states east of the Mississippi River (excluding Minnesota) that is designated as a frontier county.[77] This designation is applied because of Highland's remote characteristics with a low population density and limited access to healthcare and other services.[76][78]


There are no colleges or universities located in Highland County. There are several colleges and universities, however, within the neighboring counties and surrounding area. These include Blue Ridge Community College, James Madison University, Washington and Lee University, and the University of Virginia, among others. These institutions are generally within a two-hour drive from Highland County.[67]

The first record of educational services in the area of Highland County is from 1755 with the arrival of a teacher by the name of William Steuart. It was not until 1820 that education became publicly supported, having been left to private hands previously. Though the system established in 1820 was of a rudimentary quality, books sufficient for teaching the three Rs were provided by public funds. Additional subjects were studied, such as geography and grammar, as resources were available.[71] The first tax levied in support of the public schools was passed in 1847[72] and the county was divided into twelve school districts in 1850.[71] Numerous small schools were distributed throughout the county, and by 1893, there was a total of 47 schools.[73] By the early 1900s, the county was divided into three school districts: Blue Grass, Monterey, and Stonewall. In 1922, the county's school districts were consolidated into one district and there were "52 one- and two-room grammar schools" and "three accredited four-year high schools". By 1929, the total number of schools decreased to 32 as the school district became more consolidated. In 1957, all high schools in the county were consolidated and all high school students were located at the Monterey High School. High school students were again transferred in 1963 to the current high school building, and by 1985, all elementary students were transferred to Monterey Elementary School, housed in the building previously used as the Monterey High School. In 1997, the elementary school was transferred to the complex of the high school, forming the present day status of the school district.[74]

Currently, Public education in Highland County for grades K-12 is provided by Highland County Public Schools. The district has one elementary school, Highland Elementary School, serving grades kindergarten through 5th, and one high school, Highland High School, serving grades 6th though 12th. The high school includes a middle school division consisting of grades 6th through 8th that is in a separate location in the building from the core high school. Both the elementary and high schools are housed in one building located southeast of Monterey.[65][66][67][68] The district is the smallest school district in Virginia in terms of the student body, with a total student count just exceeding 200.[69][70]


Community services

[64] The prospects of a railroad reaching Highland were limited due to the mountainous terrain and a general lack of sufficient traffic to make such an investment economically viable.[64][63] Commercial air transportation is available at the [50] Highland County has no public airfields; however, there is a private airfield located within the county south of Monterey.

Other transportation

State Route 84 enters Highland County from Pocahontas County, West Virginia in the southwestern part of Highland. The route travels 14.94 miles (24.04 km) in Highland through the villages of Mill Gap and Meadowdale before reaching U.S. 220 at Vanderpool.[11][53][58]

A foggy summer morning viewed from State Route 84

Virginia State Route 84

U.S. 220 is Highland County's major north-south route, entering Highland County from the north from Pendleton County, West Virginia. The road traverses 23.59 miles (37.96 km) within the county.[53] Approximately 34 mile (1.2 km) after entering the county, U.S. 220 crosses the South Branch Potomac River at Forks of Waters. Leaving Forks of Waters, U.S. 220 continues in a southwesterly direction on a roughly straight and level route passing the village of Possum Trot to the town of Monterey. Here, the route intersects U.S. Route 250.[11][56] South of Monterey, U.S. 220 passes by Trimble Knob, a conical shaped hill that was an active volcano or diatreme 35 million years ago.[57] Continuing south, U.S. 220 follows creek and river valleys in between mountain ridges and passes through the villages of Vanderpool and Mustoe. Approximately 15 miles (24 km) south of Monterey, U.S. 220 enters Bath County, Virginia near the village of Bolar.[11][56] Following U.S. 220 south through Bath County into Alleghany County, Virginia leads to a connection with Interstate 64 near Covington, Virginia.[51]

U.S. Route 220

U.S. 250 enters Highland County from the west on the Virginia-West Virginia border from Pocahontas County, West Virginia at an elevation of approximately 4,280 feet (1,300 m). The road traverses 32.45 miles (52.22 km) within the county.[53] Upon entering the county, U.S. 250 descends into the Back Creek valley, whereafter it crosses the long ridge of Lantz mountain. The route then reaches the village of Hightown where it intersects Virginia State Route 640.[11][54] Hightown marks the division between the watersheds of the James and Potomac Rivers, for the headwaters of the Jackson River, a tributary of the James, and the South Branch Potomac River are located near the village.[55] After leaving Hightown, U.S. 250 ascends Monterey Mountain before descending to the county's seat of Monterey. In Monterey, U.S. 250, the county's major east-west route, intersects the county's major north-south route, U.S. 220. Continuing eastward, U.S. 250 follows the flow of Crab Run through mountainous terrain towards McDowell. Here, the route crosses the Bullpasture River and winds its way towards the Cowpasture River, after which it enters the village of Head Waters. From Head Waters, U.S. 250 ascends in elevation on a winding and mountainous path to enter Augusta County, Virginia over Shenandoah Mountain.[11][54] Continuing on U.S. 250 east provides access to Interstate 64 and Interstate 81 near Staunton.[51]

U.S. 250 in Monterey

U.S. Route 250

Highland County does not possess within its borders any section of the Interstate Highway System, though east-west Interstate 64 and north-south Interstate 81 are accessible in adjacent Augusta County near Staunton. Highland County has three primary state highways, which are Virginia State Route 84 and two U.S. Routes, U.S. Route 250 and U.S. Route 220.[50][51] These primary routes have experienced increases in traffic volumes in recent years,[50] although the highest annual average daily traffic for any location in the county in 2008 was 1600 vehicles.[52] All primary routes and over 213 miles (343 km) of secondary roads in the county are serviced and maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation.[50]

U.S. Route 250 near Hightown



Highland County is located in the Appalachian region as defined by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).[48] The county as of 2014 is considered to have a "transitional" economy by the ARC, meaning it ranks "between the worst 25 percent and the best 25 percent" of counties and it is in a transitional period between weak and strong economies.[49]

The largest employment sector in the county in 2012 was government, accounting for 34.1% of jobs. Among government jobs, local government jobs represented the majority, with 25.7% of jobs in all sectors. The finance and insurance sector accounted for 9.6% of all jobs, and health care and social assistance accounted for 8.2%. Construction held 7.2% of jobs, followed by retail trade with 6.8%. The remainder of jobs were distributed among various other sectors.[43] The largest employers were Allen Lowry Logging and Highland County Public Schools.[47]

In October 2013, Highland County's labor force was composed of 1,142 people and had an unemployment rate of 5.3%.[40] Historically, agriculture has played a significant role in the economy of Highland County. Cattle grazing is especially suited for the area as the mountainous terrain leaves only a small fraction of the total land suitable for cultivation.[41] Agricultural purposes use approximately 36% of the county's land.[42] In 2012, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting accounted for 7.8% of the jobs in the county.[43] According to 2007 census data, there were 239 farms, 76,764 acres (310.65 km2) of farmland, and 8,581 acres (34.73 km2) of harvested cropland in the county. Wool production is a significant industry in the county,[43] which was ranked fifth in Virginia in 2010 for the largest number of lamb and sheep with approximately 4,500 head. Highland County in 2010 had approximately 8,000 head of cattle, 53rd in the state, and produced 15,700 tons of hay in 2009, also ranked 53rd in the state.[44] The county has 211,300 acres (855 km2) of timberland, of which the majority is on private lands.[45] Between 1986 and 2001, the average annual average harvest value of timber in the county was $1,248,889, ranked 54th in the state.[46]

Cattle near Blue Grass


Highland County has significant wind resources, attaining an average annual wind power class of 5 in some regions.[14][37] Class 5 wind power is considered excellent for generating electricity via wind power, with average annual wind speeds between 16.8 miles per hour (27.0 km/h) and 17.9 miles per hour (28.8 km/h).[38] Between 1955 and 2012, there have been twenty-one instances of damaging wind in the county on record with the National Weather Service. Of the nine instances which have estimated wind speeds, the average maximum gust speed was 52.8 miles per hour (85.0 km/h).[39]

Since 1955, Highland County has experienced twenty instances of severe hail, which is defined by the National Weather Service as hailstones having a diameter of at least 1 inch (2.5 cm). If the old definition of at least 34 inch (1.9 cm) diameter hailstones is considered, the county has experienced twenty-two instances of severe hail during the same period.[36]

Tornadoes in Highland County are very rare, with only one tornado on record in the county with the National Weather Service.[32][33] This tornado occurred on April 28, 1959 at approximately 3:00 PM near Mustoe.[34][35] The tornado's classification on the Fujita scale is reported by the National Weather Service in its database to be unknown,[34] though another document records it as an F1.[32] The exact path of the tornado is uncertain, however, no damage or injuries were reported.[32] Another possible, but unconfirmed, tornado touchdown may have occurred on April 4, 1974 during the 1974 Super Outbreak. A barn and chicken house were damaged during this storm and a building was lifted off its foundation in the Big Valley area.[33]

Highland County is in the marine west coast climate zone, with a Köppen Climate Classification of Cfb.[26] As such, Highland experiences warm summers with an average temperature less than 72 °F (22 °C) during all months. In addition, the region features consistent rainfall year-round and lacks a dry season.[27] Monterey, the county seat, is representative of the average climate of Highland, as it is situated at roughly the mean elevation for the county.[28] Locations in the county's higher elevations experience cooler temperatures whereas locations in lower elevations experience warmer and milder temperatures.[28] The lowest temperature on record in Monterey occurred in January 1985 at −26 °F (−32 °C) and the highest recorded temperature occurred in July 1952 at 95 °F (35 °C).[25] The winter season is long in Highland, though less severely cold than other locations.[29] The average annual temperature for the county is 47.6 °F (8.7 °C).[30] From 1948 to 1990, the average annual precipitation was 40.96 inches (104.0 cm) and the average annual snowfall was 34.40 inches (87.4 cm).[31]

Monterey, VA
Climate chart ()
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
Source: NOAA (normals, 1971–2000);[24] The Weather Channel[25]

Climate and weather

All of Highland County is located within the United States National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square-mile (34,000 km2) area of limited radio activity. The area is intended to minimize interference at the Green Bank Telescope operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia and the Sugar Grove Station in Sugar Grove, West Virginia.[23]

[22]) of Highland County's land, or approximately 28% of the county's total land area.2 and Highland Wildlife Management Area combined account for 71,455 acres (289.17 kmnational forest The [21][20] located in three distinct locations within the county. These locations include the Jack Mountain tract southwest of McDowell, the Bullpasture Mountain tract south of McDowell in the southeastern corner of the county, and the Little Doe Hill tract west of McDowell.wildlife preserve) 2, is a 14,283-acre (57.80 kmVirginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, held by the Highland Wildlife Management Area The [19]

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