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Nestled in the heart of Virginia lies Prince Edward County, one of the commonwealth’s most interesting rural counties. The county was created in 1754 when a portion of Amelia county was split off to form Prince Edward County. Hampden-Sydney, a men’s liberal arts college, was founded in 1775, and less than a century later in 1839 the Farmville Female Seminar Association, now named Longwood University, was founded in the town of Farmville.
The county has seen more than its share of historic events. In the 1850s, the Southside Railroad brought its line (at the urging and lobbying of the Farmville business community) through the county. The railroad constructed an impressive span called High Bridge over the Appomattox River. During the Civil War, General Lee led the Confederate troops through Prince Edward and surrounding counties. After the Confederates crossed the Appomattox over High Bridge, they tried to burn the bridge to prevent Union troops from following. The bridge was heavily damaged but repaired by the railroad. It continued in operation as a railroad bridge until finally the line was discontinued. The Norfolk Southern Railway donated 31 miles of former railway line including High Bridge to the state, and it is now a multi-use recreational trail. The trail offers picturesque scenery, especially at High Bridge where hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders have breathtaking views of the gorge over the Appomattox River and surrounding farms.
In the 20th century, Prince Edward County found itself once again at the center of American history when Barbara Rose Johns, a student at the all-black Moton School, led a protest against the inequalities faced by black students at the overcrowded, segregated school. Johns’ protest was picked up by the NAACP. Her case was added to several others sponsored by the NAACP that eventually went to the United States Supreme Court as Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka. Prince Edward refused to cooperate with desegregation and closed its school until 1964.
Today, Civil Rights history is celebrated at the Robert Russa Moton Museum, the former high school attended by Johns.
The 23,000 residents of Prince Edward County hold a variety of jobs at the universities, local hospital and healthcare facilities in the county seat of Farmville. Fine restaurants, ranging from cozy to classic, as well as live music, a thriving arts community, and major shopping destinations such as Green Front Furniture make Prince Edward County a growing and lively place to visit.