Established in 1787 and named for Edmund Randolph, then governor of Virginia, this 1,040-square-mile jurisdiction is West Virginia's largest county. Since prehistoric times settlement has centered in the area that early white settlers named Tygart (or Tygart's) Valley, for early settler David Tygart. Averaging only a mile in width, these fertile lowlands extend almost forty miles through the heart of the county.
On August 2, 1771, in response to George Washington's request to locate and survey lands in the area, William Crawford allowed that he did “not much like running any land in Tygart's Valley, as the people in general are very contentious there, for want of the law being properly established.” Eighty years later, things were better. In 1856 Englishman Charles Lanman, in Adventures in the Wilds of the United States and British American Provinces, described the valley's inhabitants as “a worthy and hard-working yeomanry.” During the mid-nineteenth century, agriculture, principally livestock, formed the basis of the economy. In 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, the U.S. Census counted a population of only 4,990. Fifty years later, in 1910, railroads, coal, and lumber had increased the count to 26,028. Growth since then has tapered off, and the 2000 population was 28,262.
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