Morganton, North Carolina

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Morganton, North Carolina
Coordinates: 35°44′33″N 81°41′32″W / 35.74250°N 81.69222°W / 35.74250; -81.69222Coordinates: 35°44′33″N 81°41′32″W / 35.74250°N 81.69222°W / 35.74250; -81.69222
Country United States
State North Carolina
County Burke
Founded 1777
Incorporated 1784
 • Mayor Mel L. Cohen
 • Total 19.2 sq mi (49.6 km2)
 • Land 19.2 sq mi (49.6 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 1,161 ft (354 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 16,918
 • Density 883/sq mi (341.1/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 28655, 28680
Area code(s) 828
FIPS code 37-44400[1]
GNIS feature ID 0990244[2]

Morganton is a city in Burke County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 16,918 at the 2010 census.[3] It is the county seat of Burke County.[4]

Morganton is one of the principal cities in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area.


Joara archeological site[edit]

The oldest known European inland (non-coastal) settlement in the United States has been identified at Joara, a former Mississippian culture village near Morganton. Fort San Juan, built there by Spanish explorers in 1567 and occupied for 18 months, is being excavated.[5][6][7]

Near the city is the significant archaeological and historic site of Joara, a regional chiefdom of Mississippian culture and the location where the Spanish built Fort San Juan[8] in 1567. It was settled by the Mississippian culture by AD 1000. It was also the first European colonial settlement in the interior of the United States, built more than 40 years before the English settled Jamestown, Virginia.[9]

National Register of Historic Places[edit]

The Avery Avenue Historic District, Avery Avenue School, Alphonse Calhoun Avery House, Bellevue, Broughton Hospital Historic District, Burke County Courthouse, Creekside, U. S. B. Dale's Market, Dunavant Cotton Manufacturing Company, Gaither House, Garrou-Morganton Full-Fashioned Hosiery Mills, Gaston Chapel, Hunting Creek Railroad Bridge, Jonesboro Historic District, John Alexander Lackey House, Magnolia Place, Morganton Downtown Historic District, Mountain View, North Carolina School for the Deaf Historic District, North Carolina School for the Deaf: Main Building, North Green Street-Bouchelle Street Historic District, Quaker Meadows, Quaker Meadows Cemetery, Dr. Joseph Bennett Riddle House, South King Street Historic District, Swan Ponds, Tate House, Franklin Pierce Tate House, West Union Street Historic District, Western North Carolina Insane Asylum, and White Street-Valdese Avenue Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[10][11]


Morganton is located in central Burke County at 35°44′33″N 81°41′32″W / 35.74250°N 81.69222°W / 35.74250; -81.69222 (35.742585, -81.692360),[12] in the Catawba River valley in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Interstate 40 passes through the southern part of the city, leading east 19 miles (31 km) to Hickory and west 54 miles (87 km) to Asheville. U.S. Route 70 passes east-west through the center of the city paralleling I-40, and U.S. Route 64 passes north-south, leading northeast 15 miles (24 km) to Lenoir and southwest 32 miles (51 km) to Rutherfordton.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Morganton has a total area of 19.2 square miles (49.6 km2), all of it land.[3]


Morganton Village, 1939

As of the census[1] of 2010, there were 16,918 people, 7,618 households, and 4,117 families residing in the city. The population density was 953.0 people per square mile (368.0/km²). There were 7,313 housing units at an average density of 402.6 per square mile (155.5/km²). The racial composition of the city was: 75.67% White, 12.76% Black or African American, 11.16% Hispanic or Latino American, 1.99% Asian American, 0.55% Native American, 0.81% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, 6.64% some other race, and 1.58% two or more races.

There were 7,618 households out of which 22.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.1% were married couples living together, 12.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.7% were non-families. 34.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the city the population was spread out with 21.1% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 18.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 95.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,836, and the median income for a family was $42,687. Males had a median income of $29,118 versus $24,723 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,906. About 9.7% of families and 13.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.0% of those under age 18 and 11.9% of those age 65 or over.


The state of North Carolina is a major employer in Morganton. State-operated facilities located in Morganton include Broughton Hospital (a psychiatric hospital) and the North Carolina School for the Deaf. Other employers include furniture manufacturing facilities and businesses catering to the many tourists who travel through the area on Interstate 40 to nearby attractions in the Blue Ridge Mountains.



  • WCIS / 760 AM / Religious
  • WMNC / 1430 AM / Country
  • WMNC / 92.1 FM / Country
  • WHGW / 100.3 FM / Religious


  • The Morganton News-Herald is the daily newspaper (circulation 12,000).


Colleges and universities[edit]

  • Western Piedmont Community College
  • Montreat College (Morganton)
  • Foothills Higher Education Center, occupied by Western Piedmont Community College’s Division of Continuing Education and serves as a satellite campus for certain courses of study offered by Appalachian State University, Lees-McRae College, and Western Carolina University.

Public schools[edit]

Private schools[edit]

Charter schools[edit]

Special education[edit]

Other institutions[edit]

Notable people[edit]

Synthron plant explosion[edit]

On January 31, 2006, an explosion occurred at Synthron Inc., a paint additive chemical manufacturer's plant in Morganton.[28] Workers at Synthron reported hearing a loud hiss minutes before the explosion.[29] Most were able to escape the building before the blast, but even some who were outside were thrown as far as 20 feet (6.1 m). The explosion was heard and felt as far away as 50 miles (80 km).

On the day of the explosion, operations appeared normal until after the steam was turned off and the polymer initiating solution was pumped into the reactor. The operator in charge noted that initially the reaction did not proceed as vigorously as expected, but later the solvent evaporated and the condensed solvent flow returning to the reactor appeared within normal range. A few minutes later, the operator heard a loud hissing and saw vapor venting from the reactor manway. The irritating vapor forced him out of the building. Three other employees also left the building because of the vapors. The operator then reentered the building wearing a respirator and was able to start emergency cooling water flow to the reactor. The building exploded less than 30 seconds after he exited the second time.[29] The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) stated that the solvent vapor leaked from the overheated and over-pressurised process reactor, forming a flammable vapour cloud inside the building that ignited.[30]

In the end, 14 people were injured in the blast, of whom one man later died.[30] In addition, at least 300 fish died due to chemicals leaking into a creek behind the Synthron plant which leads into the Catawba River.


15 miles outside of Morganton is Lake James, which is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.[31][32] There are also multiple ski areas located approximately an hour from Morganton.[33]

Golf courses[edit]

  • Quaker Meadows Golf Course
  • Mimosa Hills Golf and Country Club
  • Silver Creek Plantation[34]


  • Mimosa 7, a movie theater operated by Marquee Cinemas[35]
  • City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium (CoMMA), a public auditorium that hosts plays, musicals, graduations, and other cultural and public events.[36][37]

In literature[edit]

Morganton is the setting for the Jules Verne novel Master of the World. The book provides a description of the town when Verne visited it in the 19th century. In the Verne novel, Morganton is the place where people see the great machine that can travel four different ways (air, above water, below water, and land). They first spot the machine over a mountain referred to as "the Great Eyrie" in Morganton. The mountain is described as a flat-topped mountain, which most local residents believe stands for Table Rock.

Leon Fink's history The Maya of Morganton: Work and Community in the Nuevo New South provides an account of the efforts of Guatemalan-born workers in Morganton to organize a union at the Case Farms poultry plant during the 1990s. As Fink argues, the plight of immigrant workers in Morganton is emblematic of how labor and factory work have changed in the "Nuevo" South, and the relationship between globalization and the creation of new immigrant communities in the US.


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Morganton city, North Carolina". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  5. ^ "Spain Makes a Stand", Smithsonian Magazine, March 2006. Accessed 2007-08-02.
  6. ^ "Joara and Fort San Juan", Antiquity, March 2004.
  7. ^ Archaeological site, Warren Wilson College
  8. ^ North Carolina History Project"
  9. ^ Constance E. Richards, "Contact and Conflict", American Archaeologist, Spring 2008, accessed 26 Jun 2009
  10. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  11. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Listings". NRHP Featured Property. National Park Service. 2013-02-27. 
  12. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  13. ^ "Etta Baker, 93, Blues Guitarist, Dies". New York Times. September 26, 2006. 
  14. ^ [1][dead link]
  15. ^ "Inductee - Johnny Bristol". North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. 2009-10-03. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  16. ^ March 9, 2012 (2012-03-09). "Joe Cheves | NC Sports Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  17. ^ "Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr. Library and Museum". 1990-10-17. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  18. ^ "Morganton, NC native Alfreda Gerald is in ... | Film Industry | NC & …". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  19. ^ "Leon Johnson NFL Football Statistics". 1974-07-13. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  20. ^ Location Name:  Chatham Community Library (2013-02-23). "A Morning with Bill Leslie | Chatham Chamber of Commerce". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  21. ^ 8:30a. "Bill Leslie". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  22. ^ "Burl Noggle". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, January 12, 2014. Retrieved January 12, 2014. 
  23. ^ Staff, Golfweek (2011-01-02). "Career amateur Billy Joe Patton dies at 88". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  24. ^ "Former Wake Forest Golfer Billy Joe Patton Passes - The Official Site of Wake Forest Demon Deacon Athletics". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  25. ^ "This Month in North Carolina History - Frankie Silver". 2009-06-04. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  26. ^ "North Carolina Museum of History homepage". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Synthron Chemical Explosion - Investigations | the U.S. Chemical Safety Board". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  29. ^ a b "The First Responder". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  30. ^ a b "Maintenance failures behind Synthron blast - CSB". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  31. ^ "Home". Camp Lake James. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  32. ^ Meg Jernigan, Demand Media. "Lake James State Park Campground Near Morganton, North Carolina | USA Today". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  33. ^ "Ski Resorts in or near Morganton, North Carolina NC". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  34. ^ "Morganton, North Carolina Golf Courses". 2007-04-03. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  35. ^ "Marquee Cinemas". Marquee Cinemas. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  36. ^ "Welcome to CoMMA! "25 Years and Still Lovin' it"". 2012-05-07. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  37. ^


  • Gerald W. Sweitzer and Kathy Fields, The 50 Best Small Southern Towns, Atlanta: Peachtree Publishing Co., 2001 (ISBN 1-56145-253-X)

External links[edit]