Shelburne County was founded in 1784 shortly following the influx of Loyalist settlers evacuated from the newly independent United States of America. It gets its name from Lord Shelburne. He was the British Prime Minister from 1782 to 1783. The boundaries of Shelburne County were established by Governor and Council on December 16, 1785.
The first Loyalist arrived in May 1783. They were faced with a somewhat bleak environment in which to make their homes. The land is very rocky with acidic rocky soil. There was also a lot of forrest. The area had previously been settled by french speaking Catholic Arcadians, many of whom had been ethnically cleansed to Louisiana where they name is preserved in the term Cajun. The new arrivals included Black Loyalists who were given substandard land particularly around Birchtown. In 1796 about 600 Jamaican Maroons were deported to this area of Nova Scotia as well.
In 1824, at a time when the lines of a number of counties were being cut out and marked, the boundary between Queens and Shelburne Counties was surveyed.
In 1836 Shelburne County was divided into two separate and distinct counties with Yarmouth County being formed out of what had been part of Shelburne County.
In 1854, Shelburne County was divided into two districts - the District of Shelburne and the District of Barrington.