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Orange is Finally Incorporated


In 1749, the county court was moved to the newly designated county seat of Orange Court House from its location near Raccoon ford. During the eighteenth century, the town consisted of the courthouse and a few public buildings (jail and clerk’s office) on the “public lot”, a small number of houses, taverns, and stores. During this time, the majority of the town’s activities was centered on the courthouse building, situated across the railroad tracks from the current Southern Railway depot. In addition to holding court, the courthouse also served as a place of worship during the period after the Revolution. In 1796, a post office was officially established in Orange to confirm its importance to the surrounding county.

In response to the growing population and increasing commerce in Orange (attested to by the presence of two local newspapers, tailor, hotel, dry goods stores, girls academy, etc.), the General Assembly passed an act on March 3, 1834, allowing for the incorporation of a town to be known as “Orange”. The town was laid off in lots and local residents supported incorporation. However no action was taken to cause the legislation to go into effect. In 1835, A New and Comprehensive Gazetteer of Virginia described the town of Orange in great detail. Orange contained at least 50 houses, 9 stores, 2 brick churches, 2 hotels, 1 girls academy, 2 schools, a wide array of trades’ shops (carpentry, cobbler, blacksmiths, etc.), and 3 doctor’s offices. It can be argued that from a commercial perspective, Orange may have had a much broader commercial base in the mid-19th century than it does today.


After 20 more years of inaction in this regard, the General Assembly took up the matter of incorporating Orange as a town again in December 1855. The Assembly approved the town’s incorporation, but in order for the incorporation to go into effect, a majority of qualified voters in the town must provide their written consent.


Consent from a majority of voters in Orange did not happen until after the Civil War. Due to changes in the Virginia constitution enacted after the Civil War, the General Assembly amended the 1855 charter of incorporation of the Town of Orange in 1870 and 1871. Finally in March 1872, a petition was filed in the County Court for an election of town trustees (town council), which had been signed by a majority of voters. The election was held on June 3rd and the first official meeting of the Town Council was held on June 28, 1872. In 1890, the official name of the town was changed to Orange from Orange Court House.


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