8 Interesting Facts About Orange County, Virginia.

photo courtesy of Barboursville Vineyards

  • Orange County is grape country. With six wineries and hundreds of acres of grape vines, it’s one of the major producers of grapes and wine in Virginia.
  • After being inhabited for thousands of years by various cultures of indigenous peoples, the first European settlement in what was to become Orange County was Germanna, formed in 1714 when Governor Alexander Spotswood settled 12 German immigrant families there – a total of 42 people.
  • Established in 1734, Orange County was originally the largest Virginia County ever formed, and maybe the largest in U.S. history! It initially included the vast unknown territory from its present eastern boundary to the Mississippi River on the west and to the Great Lakes on the north. It included territory that would later become Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin.

  • Orange County was named in honor of William IV, Prince of Orange (1711-1751), a title traditionally borne by the heir apparent of the Dutch monarch. The city of Orangeburg, South Carolina, is also named after him.
  • Orange County claims two presidents. The first is James Madison, the fourth U.S. president and “Father of the Constitution,” who served from 1809-1817. His family home from boyhood until his death was Montpelier, in Orange County. The second is Zachary Taylor. Born in Orange County in 1784, Taylor was the 12th U.S. president, serving from 1849 until his untimely death in 1850. Not only were they both from Orange County, they were second cousins.

Orange County, Virginia boundaries in 1734

  • The Battle of the Wilderness – fought in 1864 in Eastern Orange County – was a significant turning point in the Civil War as Union troops began driving toward Richmond. It marked the first time generals Grant and Lee faced off against each other. Today, the site is part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, which has preserved 2,773 acres of the original battlefield.
  • After the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, General Robert E. Lee and his army hunkered down in Orange County for nearly a year. During that time, he regularly attended St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Orange, and a plaque has been placed on the pew where he sat for worship.
  • The Orange County in California may be the most famous one, but by the time it was incorporated in 1889, Virginia’s Orange County was already 175 years old. One story holds that Orange County, California, was named after Virginia’s Orange County by the winner in a poker game.

Wilderness Battlefield, Ellwood Manor property | photo courtesy Lori Moreno