Highland County, Virginia

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Highland County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2000 census, the population was 2,536. Its county seat is Monterey[1]. Known as "Virginia's Little Switzerland",[2] 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.



Settlement of this portion of the Colony of Virginia by Europeans began around 1745. Located west of the Tidewater and Piedmont regions to the east 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 Trail, 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 Scotch-Irish descent settled in the southern part.[3]

Even after Virginia and the other 12 colonies won their independence from Great Britain after the American Revolutionary War, the area remained sparsely populated. In the 1840s, the historic Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike was built through the area. Engineered by Claudius Crozet through the mountainous terrain, it was a toll road partially funded by the Virginia Board of Public Works. The turnpike formed an important link between the upper Shenandoah Valley with the Ohio River.[4]

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