Vance County, North Carolina

Year Established

County Seat

Significance of County Name

Population (2020)



Zebulon Baird Vance


Legislative Act Creating County

First Settled / By

County Evolution by Decade

Official County Website

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1750s / Settlers of Granville County

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Historical Post Offices

American Revolution

American Civil War

Significant Education Events

Alphabetical / Date Started


Camps & Forts

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Airports in Vance County

Maps of Vance County

Books About Vance County

Genealogy Sources

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A History of Vance County

Kerr Lake - Vance County, North Carolina

Vance County was formed in 1881 from Granville, Warren, and Franklin counties. It was named in honor of Zebulon Baird Vance, a member of Congress, Governor of North Carolina, and a United States Senator. It is in the northeastern section of the state and is bounded by Warren, Franklin, and Granville counties and the state of Virginia. The present land area is 253.52 square miles and the 2010 population was 45,422. The Act directed the county commissioners to select a site in Henderson for the erection of the court house. Henderson has been the county seat ever since inception. 
"The formation of Vance County was accomplished largely as a political expediency. It was in 1881, when negroes in large numbers were voting solidly Republican, Granville and Franklin Counties were nip and tuck, Democratic or Republican. From the Democratic standpoint, Warren County was hopelessly Republican. But by taking from Granville, Franklin, and Warren, those sections that were heavily Republican and out of these sections forming the new county of Vance, the Democratic party could lose Vance to the Republicans and save Granville and Franklin for the Democrats. [U.S.] Senator [Zebulon Baird] Vance was a Democrat. He took kindly to this move and thanked the [North Carolina] Legislature for honoring him with naming the new county after him. At the same time Senator Zebulon Baird Vance showed his humor by always referring to Vance County as 'Zeb's Black Baby.'" - from Zeb's Black Baby, by Samuel Thomas Peace Sr., published 1955, Henderson, NC.
Originally a part of the state of Virginia, King Charles II of England redrew colony lines in 1665 with the second charter to the eight Lords Proprietors, thus putting what is now Vance County into what is the present state of North Carolina. As the area prospered in the mid to late 1800s, the idea of creating a separate county surfaced. After original legislative efforts to name the new county as "Gilliam" and later as "Dortch" failed, Vance County was established on May 5, 1881 by the North Carolina General Assembly and was named after former Governor Zebulon Baird Vance, who was known as the Civil War governor. Seventy-three percent of the land territory of the new county came from Granville County and the remaining twenty-three percent came from Warren and Franklin counties.

When first established, Vance County's population was approximately 9,000. Today, it has grown to over 45,000. It had a tax base then of about $2 million, now its base is well over $2 billion. Kerr Lake, the largest man-made lake east of the Mississippi River, was built in the 1950s as a means of flood control for eastern North Carolina. Since that time it has become one of the state's largest parks and tourist attractions.

To say Kerr Lake is big is an understatement. Its over 850 miles of shoreline stretches across Vance County and the North Carolina/Virginia state line, making it one of the largest lakes in the Southeast.

It is also one of the most beautiful. From wooded shores to secluded coves to tranquil picnic areas.

Located conveniently along Interstate 85, Kerr Lake is just a short drive from Raleigh (45 miles), Richmond, VA (110 miles), Charlotte (180 miles) and Washington, D.C. (200 miles).

Vance County Tourism invites you to explore Kerr Lake and enjoy the fishing, camping, boating, skiing, sailing, wind surfing, nature walking, bird watching, golfing, and even the bright lights of fireworks on the Fourth of July.

It appears that Williamsborough was started around 1755, in what was the recently-established (1746) Granville County. Today, it is situated in Vance County, North Carolina, about halfway between the county seat of Henderson and the NC-VA state line, on the current NC Route 39.

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