Town History

The Town of Amherst was established in 1807 and was named after Sir Jeffery Amherst, a British Major‑General who was the hero of the Battle of Ticonderoga during the French and Indian War and later became Governor‑In‑Chief of the Colony of Virginia from 1763 to 1768.

The Town of Amherst was originally known as “The Oaks” and “Seven Oaks” and started as a stage station on the Charlottesville‑Lynchburg road. Amherst has been the county seat of Amherst County since Nelson County was partitioned from Amherst County in 1807. The original courthouse was built in 1809 on two acres of land purchased “from a Mr. Coleman for ten shillings.” The original courthouse was torn down 1872 and the present courthouse was built “from homemade brick of Amherst County clay.” All Amherst County records have been stored in the courthouse since 1761 when Amherst‑Nelson counties were divided from Albemarle County.

Amherst has a population of 2,231 (per the 2010 Census) and a land area of 4.92 square miles.


In the middle part of the decade that began in 1960, Ward Cruea, a commercial artist from Dayton, Ohio, was visiting his wife’s uncle James Bigby Davis, the Clerk for the Town of Amherst. Cruea became responsible for creating an appropriate design for a seal for the Town of Amherst.

Cruea’s original idea for a theme was the “sleeping giant” (the Blue Ridge Mountain ridgeline west of Amherst), but this was rejected since it represented an area outside the corporate limits of the Town.

According to legend, while a group was in the Clerk’s office in the Town Hall engaged in conversation on the topics of the day, and looking eastward along E. Court Street, it was suggested that the Amherst courthouse be used as a model for the official seal for the Town. During that era, a large letter “A” was attached to a radio antenna tower beside the telephone company building that was adjacent to the courthouse. This internally illuminated “A” was used as a visual navigation beacon by aircraft pilots.

Approximately six months later Cruea returned to the Town and delivered a framed original of a proposed Town seal. His proposal incorporated the courthouse, the “A” and the Town’s date of incorporation. Cruea’s proposal was adopted soon thereafter and is now considered the official seal of the Town of Amherst.

The original and official seal is kept by the Town Clerk on the wall of the Council Chambers in the Town Hall. It is also included in the Town Code as Section 1-9. In later years a black and white rendition was developed.