We’ve talked a lot about small towns lately – and the general consensus is that “small” is a VERY subjective term. Some people consider anything with less than 50,000 people small, while others from towns with populations in the hundreds remind us what “small” really looks like. So we thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the smallest towns in Virginia.
Using census reports provided by City-Data, a leading resource for census, income and residential data for cities and towns around the country, we found that there are more than 180 towns in Virginia with a population less than 1,000. That’s a whole lotta little! With so many to choose from, it’s impossible to bring you information on all of them, so instead, we’re taking a look at a few of our favorites. With populations ranging from just over 200 to almost 1,000, these towns are worth the visit – just don’t blink or you might miss them.
1. Scotland: Population 203
As the smallest town on our list, the latest census data shows barely 200 residents in this little town in Surry County. But what it lacks in size, it makes up in beauty. Scotland is also home to the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry, a free, 20-minute ferry across the James River between Scotland and Jamestown that operates 24-hours a day. The ferry carries cars, as well as people across the river and provides views of pelicans, ospreys, eagles and gulls, not to mention a great view of Jamestown’s shores – just as the first settlers might have seen it.
2. Boyce: Population 599
This historic little town just outside of Berryville began in 1881 with the construction of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad, later known as the Norfolk and Western Railway, in Clarke County. At the citizens’ request in the early 20th century, a modern, grand railroad station was built and today, it still stands as one of the few remaining example of the old, elegant stations of the past. The town has not even doubled in size since its incorporation in 1910 and serves as a well-preserved example of the railroads' influence during the 19th and 20th centuries.
3. Schuyler: Population 298
Located in Nelson County, Schuyler may not have a large population, but it got a big name for itself in the 1970s and 80s with the TV series “The Waltons.” Based on the books by author and Schulyler native, Earl Hamner, Jr., “The Walton’s” provided a semi-autobiographical account of growing up in rural Virginia during the Depression Era. Today, the Walton’s Mountain Museum is in the old Schuyler High School and offers replicas of John-Boy’s bedroom, the family’s kitchen and living room and, of course, Ike Godsey’s Store. Since it opened in 1992, the museum’s admission price has helped the Schuyler food bank and volunteer fire and rescue squad. Visitors can browse through exhibits from the show, original manuscripts and other historical displays from the area.
4. Fincastle: Population 352
Featured in our recent post on historic towns, Fincastle, located in Botetourt County, played a big role in the early exploration of America. Founded in 1772, Fincastle is where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out on to explore the Louisiana Purchase. Today, the town is a designated Lewis and Clark community and many of the local homes and buildings date back to the 1700 and 1800s, including the historic courthouse designed by Thomas Jefferson himself. With barely 350 residents, Fincastle is home to at least 10 significant sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
5. Ewing: Population 439
This little town only barely makes it into Virginia, but is rich with frontier history from both early Europeans and Native Americans. Located in the southwestern-most corner of the state, it sits just by the borders of Kentucky and Tennessee. While it is not an officially incorporated town, the post office was established in 1891 and today, Ewing is home to the Wilderness Road State Park. The park offers a visitors center and a theater showing the award-winning docudrama, "Wilderness Road, Spirit of a Nation,” as well as a frontier museum and the reconstructed “Martin's Station,” an outdoor living history museum that shows what life was like on the Virginia frontier in 1775.
6. Sugar Grove: Population 758
As one of the “larger” towns on the list with just over 750 residents, Sugar Grove sits just outside of Marion in Smyth County. Nestled amidst the mountains of Southwest Virginia and the Jefferson National Forest, Sugar Grove offers a look at small town living at its best. With a local farmer’s market, restaurants and shops, Sugar Grove is a close-knit, but welcoming community. Not only does it have a cool name, but it is also one of the best places for fall foliage tours.
7. Montross: Population 384
This Northern Neck town in Westmoreland County may be small, but it offers some of the area’s richest history. Located near the George Washington Birthplace National Monument and Stratford Hall Plantation (birthplace of Robert E. Lee, Richard Henry Lee, and Francis Lightfoot Lee), Montross offers a quaint downtown with shops and restaurants featuring local fare, as well as historical sites, including The Old Westmoreland Court House where several events significant to the Revolutionary War occurred. Montross is also the site of a Coca-Cola bottling plant where the area’s iconic Northern Neck Ginger Ale used to be made. With easy access to the Potomac, Montross offers quite a lot for such a small town.
8. McKenney: Population 481
Located in Dinwiddie County just outside of the Richmond Metro Area, McKenney doesn’t lack for things to do. Surrounded by agriculture and history, McKenney is near the Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier, which has been called one of the most innovative Civil War parks in the country. With outdoor activites to spare, a farmers’ market and an old-fashioned downtown, McKenney is a classic example of small town Virginia.
9. Occoquan: Population 976
Named one of the “Top 14 Small Cities In Virginia” by CitiesJournal, Occoquan sits on the Occoquan River. This riverside town may have a population of less than 1,000, but it does not fall short on charm. Named from an Algonquian Indian word meaning "at the end of the water,” the town began in 1765 with the construction of grist mills and tobacco warehouses, including, the Merchant's Mill, the first automated grist mill in the nation. Today, Occoquan is an artists' community, featuring shops, dining, ghost walks, boating and fishing…all with brick sidewalks lit by old-fashioned gaslights. The historic town square is only made up of six square blocks, but it is home to 100+ shops and restaurants – making Occoquan a small town with big town convenience.
10. The Plains: Population 221
This town in Fauquier County may be tiny, but there is a LOT going on. Situated in some of the state’s most beautiful horse country, The Plains is home to Great Meadow, an outdoor venue that hosts several large annual events, including the Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase horse race which brings more than 50,000 visitors to this small town every May. Like many old Virginia towns, Main Street is the heart of the community and offers easy walking access to a farmer’s market, history museums, several historic churches, shops and restaurants. And here’s another interesting little tidbit about the Plains -- it is also home to the richest woman in Virginia, Jacqueline Mars. Mars is heiress to the Mars Candy fortune with an estimated wealth of nearly $ 26 billion (that’s BILLION, with a “B”).
11. Yogaville: Population 226
OK, this is an unusual one, make no mistake. But as we are including other unincorporated, census-designated areas on the list, Yogaville absolutely deserves a place. Yogaville is an interfaith community located in rural Buckingham County and is home to the Satchidananda Ashram. Founded in 1980 by Yogiraj Sri Swami Satchidananda, best known for opening the Woodstock Festival, Yogaville is the international headquarters of Swami Satchidananda's documented teachings and, in addition to housing a permanent community of 226 residents, offers classes, workshops and teachings. The highlight of the community is the LOTUS shrine. Shaped like a lotus flower, the shrine features 10 altars representing Hindu, Shinto, Tao, Buddhist, Islam, Sikh, Native American, African and two unnamed religions.
12. Tangier Island: Population 732
Last but not least, Tangier has already earned recognition on some our previous lists for both its history and the fact that it is truly a hidden gem. Often overshadowed by the more well-known communities on the Eastern Shore like Chincoteague and Assateague, Tangier Island deserves a second look. This tiny island 12 miles off the Virginia coast is primarily a fishing village and can only be reached by boat or small aircraft. Far from being a handicap, its isolation and small size have allowed it to retain its distinct, post-Shakespearean English accent, which historians believe is similar to what original settlers would have spoken.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, there are dozens more small towns that aren’t on the list. And because some of them are so small, there’s not much information about them. Do you live in a town with fewer than 1,000 people? If so, let us know about it in the comments below!