Mercer County, formed in 1837, was named for Hugh Mercer, the Revolutionary War hero who fell at Princeton, New Jersey. Continuing the association with Hugh Mercer, the county seat was named Princeton.
The U.S. Census of 1840, the first taken after Mercer County's formation, tallied 2,233 people, including 98 slaves. The population increased dramatically at the turn of the twentieth century, when railroads began transporting coal from the rich Pocahontas field, part of which lies in the county. In 1890 Mercer's population was 15,988, and in 1910 it had grown to 38,371. By then, both the Norfolk & Western, with major operations in Bluefield, and the Virginian Railway, with its main yards and shop in Princeton, were in full operation. The county's population peaked in 1950 at 75,013, and the 2000 figure was 62,980. Though much of Mercer County still displays a rural countenance, its chief architectural resources are in its two cities, Bluefield and Princeton, the town of Athens, and, most important, Bramwell.
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