Wilkes County, North Carolina

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Tribes of American Indians, such as the Tutelo and Cherokees lived in the swamps along the Yadkin, as evidence of the Indian war implements, such as arrow flints, tomahawks. When the settlers began, there were skirmishes. The jungles along the streams were good hiding places to wait for the white settlers to comedy. With clearing of some lands and after spring thaws, Indian skeletons and minie bails were found.[1] [2] [3]
1629-1712 Province of Carolina ruled by Lords Proprietors under British rule.
1712-1776 Province of North Carolina and Province of South Carolina were formed from Category:Province of Carolina
1750 Emigrants, German and Scotch-Irish settlers came from southeastern Pennsylvania, another from eastern North Carolina and one group came northward from South Carolina. By 1752 A Moravian survey party saw an old Cherokee Indian Village in the fields. The Cherokee name for Mulberry Fields is Keowee. The settlers arrived for religious freedom, desire for new lands, and interest in the frontier. [3][4][1][2]
1750 Christopher Gist, the first white man to settle here, and built a home on the north side of the Yadkin west of the present town of Wilkesboro. Gist, an Indian scout, and surveyor, had friendly contacts with the Cherokee Indians. Gist was twice credited with saving the life of Colonel George Washington and showed Daniel Boone the way to Kentucky.
Carolana Map of Wilkes County
Settlers assumed the Cherokee Indians had cleared away the timber, some areas in the western part are barron of trees such as Elk gardens on White Top Mountain, or Grassy Knob which used to * :1753 Immigrants to North Carolina from Scotland and Germany also wanted good farm land, game, a location near fresh water. The area seemed to be bare of trees. james McCann was one of the older generation. [1]
1775-1782 Revolutionary War The Wilkes Militia mustered at the Mulberry Fields The Mulberry Meeting House a frequent place to discuss current issues. [4]
1776-81 North Carolina contributed 7,800 men to the North Carolina line in the Continental Army under General George Washington. There were 10,000 in the North Carolina militia and State troops.
1777 North Carolina Legislature formed Wilkes County from Surry and District of Washington, effective 1778 [4]The Assembly named created the Wilkes County Regiment and the Militia that were active throughout the Revolutionary War. First court was in John Brown's house, Brown's Ford, NC). Second court was near the bend of Yadkin county, "the Mulberry Field Meeting House. [2] [3] .[1]
1777 Wilkes county Wilkes was named for a radical, John Wilkes who supported the colonists in America. This caused him to lose his Lord Mayor position of the City of London.[5][4][1][6]
June 3, 1778- 1801 Mulberry Meeting House was chosen for the courthouse as a centrally located place. New Commissioners were to buy (50 acres) of land for the new courthouse, stocks and pillory. Wilkesborough, NC was laid out. [5]
1779 Mar 3, Wilkes County Regiment fought its first battle at Briar Creek, Georgia
1780 The Robert Cleveland Log House was built east of Purlear. This was relocated to Wilkesboro in 1986 and is the oldest house in Wilkes County.
1780 During the Kings Mountain had half of the American forces from Wikes County area. They fought for liberty, when the enemy had said this was a place where he could not be driven from. By war's end, that person and his forces were dead on the battle field. [5][2][1]
Nov 21, 1789 North Carolina was admitted to the Union as 12th State.
1788-1849 Wilkes County lost land in 1799 for Ashe County, then more land for Caldwell County creation, 1841. In 1847, Wilkes lost land for the Alexander County. By 1849 Caldwell, Ashe and Yancey along with gave up land for Watauga County. [4][1]
1795 An act was passed naming new commissioners to purchase fifty acres of land on which to find a place in the center of the county. Then they were to lay out a town and build public buildings, eluding prison and stocks..
Hackett's Mill
1800 Mulberry Fields, North Carolina became Wilkesboro, NC when William Lenoir laid out the town. He did not want it to be named for him, so they named the next town nearby for him as Lenoir, NC. [4] [3] [1]
1800s The Old Wilkes County Jail was built which is an example of North Carolina 1800's architecture for jails. The jail held Confederate stores and Union prisoners during the Civil War. The original materials were used, during restoration. To enter the cells, a person had to enter through wood door, and iron doors. The front door even had nails (one inch apart). [1][5]
1823 With another North Carolina act, the 2nd courthouse in the Public square was built. Wilkesboro has been the county seat and the courthouse has served the county since this time. [5][4][1]
1841-47 Caldwell county was created from part of Wilkes and Burke counties. More land of Wilkes County with some of Ashe County and Yancey County was use to form Watauga County. [6]
Confederate Memorial
1861-65 Civil War -The Wilkes county Jail held Confederate stores and Union prisoners.[5][1]
1862-65 During the Civil War some men served in the Union army. Most men served in the Confederacy. Names were Gordon, Stokes, Barber, Cowles. [2] [1]
1865 Stoneman’s Raid was a Union cavalry raid in eastern North Carolina. The General had been ordered to destroy, rather than fight battles. Gen. Stoneman and cavalry started in Tennessee, into the North Carolina mountains, pillaging Boone and capturing Wilkesboro, NC. After this he attacked towns in Virginia. In Salisbury there was a supplies depot there and a Confederate prison for Union Prisoners in Maxwell Chambers mill (which operated from 1861- 1865) with at times 10,000 prisoners.[7] Gen. Stoneman with Gen Palmer severed railroads, burned mills, and the Reedy Fork Bridge which could be seen burning for miles. With all the area destroyed they almost caught Confederate Gen. Robert E Lee as he retreated. [7]
Marker of Stoneman Raid, 1865
1868 Tom Dula was prisoner in this jail. His lawyer, Gov. Zebulon Vance arranged a change of venue for Dula. Another prisoner was "Otto Wood, an escape artist. The "Tom Dooley" of legend and song was hanged in 1868 for the murder of Laura Foster in Ferguson, North Carolina. Ballad, "Hand Down your Head, Tom Dooley" [5] The "Tom Dooley" of legend and song was hanged in 1868 for the murder of Laura Foster in Ferguson, North Carolina. [3][1][5]
1906 Wilkes Journal-Patriot newspaper was founded, published (3 X per wk)
The US Army's Corps of Engineers built the W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir on the Yadkin River (4 miles west of Wilkesboro after the 1916 and 1940 floods. The Dam opened1962, (four miles west) of Wilkesboro. The lake which formed had a shoreline of 56 miles.[6]
Map of Wilkes, NC
1910- North Wilkesboro Citizens started making their own homemade liquor, known as Moonshine was illegally produced. Soon this area was known as the "Moonshine Capital of the World". Young men would deliver the Moonshine to the larger towns and cities of North Carolina. Some of the white liquor was delivered as far as Detroit, New Jersey and southern Florida. [6][5]
1947 The young men would outrun the police and federal liquor agents in their converted speeding cars. This led to fast cars for the bootleggers to deliver the whiskey by speeding across the state in their modified cars. If they were not delivering whiskey, they raced their souped up cars to brag about the cars and for cash. [1] Since this often involved outrunning local police and federal agents in auto chases, the county became one of the birthplaces of the sport of stock-car racing.[6] Soon there were dirt, oval sized tracks in Wilkesboro. Thousands of people gathered for the races. These races were built across Virginia and South Carolina as well as North Carolina. [1]The county became one of the birthplaces of the sport of stock-car racing.[6]


Soon Wilkes County had Auto Racing and NASCAR. [1] If the Bootleggers were not delivering whiskey they raced their cars for bargain and cash. This led to auto racing and NASCAR. [1]
1947- Historians consider Wilkes county, North Carolina as a birthplace for NASCAR. The North Wilkesboro Speedway was the first NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing) track began in May 18, 1947. Many became superstars as well as moonshine deliverers. One example was Junior Johnson. There was a 1965 article written about Junior Johnson, called the "The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson, Yes!". The movie "The Last American Hero was produced which starred Jeff Bridges, about the moonshine deliverers and the Speedway. [6]
North Wilkesboro Speedway
[8] Stars that raced on the North Wilkesboro Super Speedway were Junior Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Dean, Combs, Richard Petty, Jimmy Pardue, Benny Parsons and Curtis Turner. The Speedway closed after NASCAR races declined and two owners moved some races to tracks in Texas and New Hampshire, by 2011[1][9][10][6]
1959-75 -Wall of Faces Vietnam memorial List
Oct 23, 2017 A rare EF 1 tornado touched down in Wilkesboro, NC and North Wilkesboro, NC. It moved through Fairplains, and Hays communities, with damage to each place. [6]
Stonemountain State Park


Boomer, NC The first name of this town was Warrior Creek, which was renamed for the postmaster who called "Boomer".[11]
Hayes, North Carolina The first post master inspired this town's name in 1890. In 2000 the population was 1,731. [12][11]
Lovelace, North Carolina - This was named for resident of 1800's, Archibald Lovelace. [11]
New Castle, North Carolina A plantation belonging to James Clemmons Hunt was originally called Hunt's Store in 1840 New Castle - named for plantation of James Clemmons Hunt; known as Hunt's Store in 1840.[11]
Robert Cleveland log Home
Mulberry, North Carolina Was settled in 1750's, then renamed Mulberry Fields.[11]
Moravian Falls, North Carolina This town began in the late 17000's. A nearby waterfall was the source of the name.. Other names for the town were "Petersburg" and "Forks of the Road".[11]
North Wilkesboro, North Carolina - Began in 1891. The Norfolk and Southern Railroad installed tracks which led to North Wilkesboro development. It is thought Daniel Boon with family lived here prior to their move to Kentucky. Maps of 1752 and 1770 show this as Mulberry Fields. [11]
Ronda, North Carolina This town was named for Benjamin Cleaveland's Wilkes County estate known as "Roundabout" was incorporated,1907. [11]
Traphill, NC Although this was settled in 1775, the first post office was 1837. [11]
Wilkesboro, North Carolina -The town began in 1800, incorporated 1847 and became the county Seat of Wilkes County.. Residents of the town were loyal to the Union instead of the Confederacy, 1862-65. {{Blue|Mulberry Fields, North Carolina became Wilkesboro, NC when William Lenoir laid out the town. He did not want it to be named for him, so they named the next town nearby for him as Lenoir, NC. [4] [3] [1][11]
1800 Mulberry Fields, North Carolina became Wilkesboro, NC when William Lenoir laid out the town. He did not want it to be named for him, so they named the next town nearby for him as Lenoir, NC. [4] [3] [1]
Sketches of Wilkes County

Adjacent Counties

  • Alexander County (south)
  • Alleghany County (north)
  • Ashe County (northwest)
  • Caldwell County (southwest)
  • Iredell County (southeast)
  • Surry County (northeast)
  • Watauga County (west)
  • Yadkin County (east)


Wilkesboro, NC Courthouse, 1903

Courthouse, Wilkes County

Current Courthouse, 2000

Current courthouse, 2000.


Location- Wilkes County, located in the eastern slope of Blue Ridge Mountain region of North Carolina, in the Appalachian Chain.
Blue Ridge Mountains run from southwest to northeast, (dominance of the western and northern horizon).
Mountains Thompkins Knob - highest point is 4,079 feet, Stone Mountain
Yadkin River and the W. Kerr Scott Reservoir.
total area of 757 square miles (1,960 km2), of which 754 square miles (1,950 km2) is land and 2.6 square miles (6.7 km2) (0.3%) is water.
Crops- tobacco, apples, poulty and beef
Economics products - thick forests were logged for the pines and other trees.
Hardboard siding for houses are milled here.
Builder's tools, milling equipment, glass products, lingerie, furniture, shoes, and hosiery [3]
Elevation ranges from 900 feet in the east to over 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) in the west.
Mountain ridge Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the crest of the Blue Ridge on the county's northern and western borders. Brushy mans are the southern border.
Terrain - in east- level and less hills, far east part of county i the Piedmont region.
Foothills - foothills and valleys of the Blue Ridge are midsection, w
Fault - , a fault runs through the Brushy Mountains, cause mild earth tremors
State Parks
Brushy Mountain 0- an isolated spur of the blue Ridge
Lake=- W. Kerr Scott Lake- largest lake in Wikes
Rivers Mulberry Creek, Yadkin River, Reddles River, Roaring River
Climate - varies due to changes of elevation. Winter - temperature in 40's in Eastern part, with snow in the mountains.
Precipitation - frequent thunderstorms in spring and summer; rain snow sleet, winter
Tornados are rare
High winds - cause tree damage and power lines,
Tornadoes are rare
Brushy mountains have mild earth tremors.

Protected Areas

  • Stone Mountain State Park - good for rock climbing and trout fishing
  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Yadkin River - large
  • W. Kerr Scott Reservoir.-W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir on the Yadkin River (4 miles west of Wilkesboro. It opened 1962. This dam created four miles west of Wilkesboro. Opened in 1962, the dam created a lake with a shoreline of 56 miles.


In 2010 there were 69,340 people here with a population density of 91.91 people/sq. mi. The racial makeup of the county was 90.60% White or European American, 4.08% African American, 0.19% Native American, 0.43% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 3.33% from other races, and 1.33% from two or more races. Of all races, 5.44% of the population were Hispanic or Latino. The median income for a household in the county was $30,668, and the median income for a family was $39,670. Males had a median income of $30,917 versus $26,182 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,319. About 17.60% of families and 21.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 32.60% of those under age 18 and 13.40% of those age 65 or over.[13]

  • This is a wine region. Wilkes County is part of the Yadkin Valley AVA, an American Viticultural Area. Wines made from grapes grown in Wilkes County may use the appellation Yadkin Valley on their labels. With the decline of tobacco farming, some Wilkes County farmers have switched to wine-making, and have hired experts from Europe and California for assistance. As a result, wine-making is growing in popularity in both Wilkes and surrounding counties.

In May of each year, Wilkes county celebrates the new wine industry with the Shine to Wine Festival, held in downtown North Wilkesboro.


  • This County is not suited for Plantation farming due to rocky infertile soil. Since the American Civil War, Wilkes County has been heavily Republican, owing to its strong Unionist sentiment during that war.


  • US 21
  • US 421 (BUS)
  • NC 16
  • NC 18
  • NC 115
  • NC 268 (BUS)



Cultural attractions are
Wilkes Symphony Orchestra
Wilkes Art Gallery
Wilkes Playmakers
Whippoorwill Academy and Village
Tom Dooley Art Museum
Wilkes Agricultural Fair
  • Brushy Mountain Apple Festival
Lowe's Balloons over the Blue Ridge
Wilkes Agricultural Fair
Mountain Bike Ride
Natural attractions are
Stone Mountain State Park
Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest
North Wilkesboro Fireworks Celebration.


Wilkes County communities include Ronda, Roaring River, North Wilkesboro, Moravian Falls, Boomer, Ferguson, Millers Creek, Mulberry, Wilbar, and Austin.

  • Antioch
  • Austin
  • Boomer
  • Elkville
  • Fairplains
  • Ferguson
  • Maple Springs
  • McGrady
  • Millers Creek
  • Moravian Falls
  • Mulberry
  • North Wilkesboro
  • Pleasant Hill
  • Roaring River
  • Rhonda
  • Wilbar


  • 1800's for Profiles of persons born in the 1800s and living in Wilkes County
  • 1900's: for Profiles of persons born in the 1900s and living in Wilkes County
  • 2004 Wilkes County had an estimated population of 67,000 in 2004.



  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 https://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/wilkes-county-1777/
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 https://www.newrivernotes.com/topical_books_1902_northcarolina_historicalsketches_wilkes_county.htm
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 https://www.ncpedia.org/geography/wilkes
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Wilkes_County,_North_Carolina_Genealogy
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 http://www.carolana.com/NC/Counties/wilkes_county_nc.html
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilkes_County,_North_Carolina
  7. 7.0 7.1 https://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/stonemans-raid/
  8. https://www.sbnation.com/longform/2015/3/4/8126311/north-wilkesboro-speedway-after-nascar
  9. https://sometimes-interesting.com/2017/02/12/north-wilkesboro-speedway-defunct-pillar-of-nascar/
  10. https://www.sbnation.com/longform/2015/3/4/8126311/north-wilkesboro-speedway-after-nascar
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 11.8 11.9 http://www.ncalhn.org/wilkes/history.html
  12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hays,_North_Carolina
  13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilkes_County,_North_Carolina

See Also:

  • “Wilkes County.” William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006), p. 1206.
  • When The Engines No Longer Roar: A Case Study of North Wilkesboro, NC and The North Wilkesboro Speedway. Chapter 2: The Birth of a Speedway, The Beginnings of a Sport: The History of North Wilkesboro Speedway (1947-1996).

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