Nicholas County, formed in 1818 from the three surrounding counties of Kanawha, Greenbrier, and Randolph, was named for Wilson Cary Nicholas, governor of Virginia from 1814 to 1816. Its 1820 population numbered 1,853. The lumber industry spurred the county's rapid growth in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the appropriately named Richwood, near the eastern boundary, became one of the state's leading lumber towns. When timber production declined, the coal industry took its place, reaching peak production in 1970 with more than six million tons. Ten years later, in 1980, the county's population peaked with a figure of 28,126. The 2000 census counted a population of 26,562.
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