Franklin County, Virginia

This article is about the county. For the independent city in southeast Virginia, see Franklin, Virginia.
Franklin County, Virginia

Franklin County Courthouse in May 2010
Map of Virginia highlighting Franklin County
Location in the U.S. state of Virginia
Map of the United States highlighting Virginia
Virginia's location in the U.S.
Founded 1785
Named for Benjamin Franklin
Seat Rocky Mount
Largest town Rocky Mount
  Total 712 sq mi (1,844 km2)
  Land 690 sq mi (1,787 km2)
  Water 21 sq mi (54 km2), 3.0%
Population (est.)
  (2015) 56,264
  Density 79/sq mi (31/km²)
Congressional district 5th
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4

Franklin County is a county located in the Blue Ridge foothills of the U.S. state of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 56,159.[1] Its county seat is Rocky Mount.[2]

Franklin County is part of the Roanoke, VA Metropolitan Statistical Area and is located in the Roanoke Region of Virginia.[3] The Roanoke River forms its northeast boundary with Bedford County.


Historic marker for Fort Blackwater, one of the earliest frontier forts outside of the Tidewater area. Built in 1756 in present-day Franklin County
Franklin County historic marker, State of Virginia

The Blue Ridge Foothills had long been inhabited by indigenous peoples. At the time of European encounter, mostly Siouan-speaking tribes lived in this area.

A few colonists moved into the area before the American Revolutionary War, but most settlement happened afterward, as people moved west seeking new lands. Cultivation of tobacco had exhausted soils in the eastern part of the state. The county was formed in 1785 from parts of Bedford and Henry counties. It was named for Benjamin Franklin.[4] The Piedmont and backcountry areas were largely settled by Scots-Irish, who were the last major immigrant group from the British Isles to enter the colonies before the Revolutionary War. There were also migrants from coastal areas, including free people of color, who moved to the frontier to escape racial strictures associated with the slave society of Virginia.[5]

In the 20th century during Prohibition, local wits named Franklin County the "Moonshine Capital of the World", as moonshine production and bootlegging drove the economy. As of 2000, the local chamber of commerce had adopted the title as a heritage identification for the area. Moonshine is still being made in the area.[6]

Historians estimate that in the 1920s, 99 of every 100 Franklin County residents were in some way involved in the illegal liquor trade.[7] The bootleggers became involved with gangsters from Chicago and other major cities, and some local law enforcement officials were part of the criminal activities and killing of competitors.[8] "Between 1930 and 1935 local still operators and their business partners sold a volume of whiskey that would have generated $5,500,000 in excise taxes at the old 1920 tax rate."[8]

A lengthy federal investigation resulted in indictments and trials for 34 suspects in 1935 for what was called the "Great Moonshine Conspiracy," which attracted national attention. The writer Sherwood Anderson was among the many outsiders who came to cover the trial. At what was then the longest trial in state history, 31 people were convicted, but their jail sentences were relatively light (two years or less). Thirteen conspirators were sentenced only to probation.[8]

This period has recently received new attention by writers. T. Keister Greer's history The Great Moonshine Conspiracy Trial of 1935 (2002) covered the trial and its background in the county.[9] The writer Matt Bondurant had ancestors in the area, whose exploits during this period inspired his historical novel, The Wettest County in the World (2008). (The title was based on a statement by Anderson.) The book was adapted as a film, Lawless, in 2012. In 2014 an historical novel with lots of history about the county and town came out: "Moonshine Corner, Keys to Rocky Mount," ISBN 9781500980115, by the widow of T. Keister Greer, Ibby Greer.

Late 20th century to present

Since the 1980s, much residential development has occurred around Smith Mountain Lake. People live there who commute to work in the urbanized areas of Roanoke, Lynchburg, Martinsville, and Danville. Retirees have also moved in, and both groups have increased the county's population.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 712 square miles (1,840 km2), of which 690 square miles (1,800 km2) is land and 21 square miles (54 km2) (3.0%) is water.[10] It is upriver of the fall line of the Roanoke River, located at Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina.


The county is divided into supervisor districts; a few are: Blackwater, Blue Ridge, Boones Mill, Gills Creek, Rocky Mount, Snow Creek, Union Hall, Ferrum, Glade Hill, Penhook, and Callaway

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

Major highways


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 201556,264[11]0.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[12]
1790-1960[13] 1900-1990[14]
1990-2000[15] 2010-2013[1]

As of the census[16] of 2000, there were 47,286 people, 18,963 households, and 13,918 families residing in the county. The population density was 68 people per square mile (26/km²). There were 22,717 housing units at an average density of 33 per square mile (13/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 88.95% White, 9.35% Black or African American, 0.19% Native American, 0.36% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.42% from other races, and 0.71% from two or more races. 1.21% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 18,963 households out of which 29.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.10% were married couples living together, 9.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.60% were non-families. 22.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.84.

In the county, the population was spread out with 22.20% under the age of 18, 8.10% from 18 to 24, 28.20% from 25 to 44, 27.20% from 45 to 64, and 14.30% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 97.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.30 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $38,056, and the median income for a family was $45,163. Males had a median income of $29,807 versus $22,215 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,605. About 7.30% of families and 9.70% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.70% of those under age 18 and 9.80% of those age 65 or over.


Board of supervisors

Blackwater District: E. Cline Brubaker (I)

Blue Ridge District: Timothy Tatum (R)

Boone District: R.A. "Ronnie" Thompson (R)

Gills Creek District: Bob M. Camicia (R)

Rocky Mount District: Charles D. Wagner (I)

Snow Creek District: W. Leland Mitchell (I)

Union Hall District: David R. "Buddy" Cundiff (I)

Constitutional officers

Clerk of the Circuit Court: Teresa J. Brown (I)

Commissioner of the Revenue: Margaret Stone Torrence (I)

Commonwealth's Attorney: Timothy W. "Tim" Allen (I)

Sheriff: W.Q. "Bill" Overton, Jr. (I)

Treasurer: Susan Wray

Franklin is represented by Republicans Ralph K. Smith and William M. Stanley, Jr. in the Virginia Senate, Republicans Charles D. Poindexter and Kathy J. Byron in the Virginia House of Delegates, and Robert Hurt in the U.S. House of Representatives.



Unincorporated communities

Notable people

See also


  1. 1 2 "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  2. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  3. Roanoke Region of Virginia
  4. Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 131.
  5. Paul Heinegg, Free African Americans in Virginia, North and South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware, 2005
  6. "Making Illegal Liquor -- and profits -- in Appalachian Hills", CNN, 28 August 2000
  7. America: The Story of Us, television documentary, 2010, The History Channel
  8. 1 2 3 Moonshine - Blue Ridge Style, Blue Ridge Institute, accessed 17 May 2013
  9. Review: "The Great Moonshine Conspiracy Trial of 1935 by T. Keister Greer", Blue Ridge Traditions Magazine, 2002, ISBN 0-9722355-1-5 Magazine has closed down, referring to image instead.
  10. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  11. "County Totals Dataset: Population, Population Change and Estimated Components of Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  12. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  13. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  14. "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  15. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  16. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-05-14.

Coordinates: 36°59′N 79°53′W / 36.99°N 79.88°W / 36.99; -79.88

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