Mitchell County, North Carolina

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Mitchell County
Mitchell County Courthouse in Bakersville.
Official seal of Mitchell County
Map of North Carolina highlighting Mitchell County
Location within the U.S. state of North Carolina
Map of the United States highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 36°01′N 82°10′W / 36.01°N 82.16°W / 36.01; -82.16
Country United States
State North Carolina
Named forElisha Mitchell[1]
Largest townSpruce Pine
 • Total222 sq mi (570 km2)
 • Land221 sq mi (570 km2)
 • Water0.7 sq mi (2 km2)  0.3%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density70/sq mi (30/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district11th

Mitchell County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 15,579.[2] Its county seat is Bakersville, population 454 (2010), elevation 2470 ft..[3]

The county is home to the "Mineral City of the World", Spruce Pine and Roan Mountain which includes the world's largest natural rhododendron garden, and the longest stretch of grassy bald in the Appalachian range. Throughout the year such festivals as North Carolina Mineral and Gem Festival and North Carolina Rhododendron Festival bring many people to the area. Mitchell County was one of the three entirely dry counties in North Carolina, along with Graham and Yancey, but in March, 2009, after much controversy, the Town of Spruce Pine approved beer, wine, and ABC store sales. However, alcohol sales are still illegal in the areas of the county outside the town of Spruce Pine, except areas within 1.5 air miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway.


The county was formed in 1861 from parts of Burke County, Caldwell County, McDowell County, Watauga County, and Yancey County. It was named for Elisha Mitchell, professor of mathematics, chemistry, geology, and mineralogy at the University of North Carolina from 1818 until his death in 1857. Dr. Mitchell was the first scientist to argue that a nearby peak in the Black Mountains was the highest point east of the Mississippi River. He measured the mountain's height and climbed and explored it. In 1857 he fell to his death on a waterfall on the side of the mountain. The mountain was subsequently named Mount Mitchell in his honor.

By 1899, Mitchell County had a sundown town policy of preventing Black Americans from living or working in the county.[4] By the early 1920s, Black Americans began working and living in the county in larger numbers, especially as mine workers and as convict laborers constructing local infrastructure, including new state highways such as what is now US Highway 19E. In September 1923, a 75-year-old white woman named Alice Thomas accused John Goss, an escaped Black convict laborer, of raping her. A white mob formed in Spruce Pine, and when they could not locate the fugitive Goss, the mob (which included members of the Ku Klux Klan) forced nearly all of the Black people onto train cars heading out of the county. Governor Cameron Morrison, an ally of the infrastructure construction and mining industries, declared martial law and called in the National Guard in an attempt to stop the mob violence, but by the time the Guard units arrived two days later, the Black mine and construction laborers had already been driven from the county. The National Guard occupied Spruce Pine for nearly two weeks. Despite Morrison's declaration of martial law having little effect, it was the first time martial law was declared in response to an instance of mass racial violence in the United States. Ultimately, 86 members of the white supremacist mob were indicted for their actions, many of whom pled guilty to minor offences. Goss was arrested in Hickory four days after the alleged rape, and at the orders of the Governor, jailed in Raleigh to avert lynching. He was tried three weeks later in Mitchell County, convicted by jury after five minutes of deliberation, and executed by electrocution.[5][6]

The county took a direct hit from "The Storm of the Century", also known as the "’93 Superstorm", or "The (Great) Blizzard of 1993". This storm event was similar in nature to a hurricane. The storm occurred between March 12–13, 1993, on the East Coast of North America. Parts of Cuba, Gulf Coast States, Eastern United States and Eastern Canada were greatly impacted.

The county suffered a tragic event on the evening of Friday, May 3, 2002 when a fire broke out at the Mitchell County jail in Bakersville, North Carolina. As a result of the fire eight men lost their lives.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 222 square miles (570 km2), of which 221 square miles (570 km2) is land and 0.7 square miles (1.8 km2) (0.3%) is water.[7] It is the fourth-smallest county in North Carolina by land area and second-smallest by total area. The northwest sections of county border the State of Tennessee. Sections of both the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail are located in the county. Parts of the Pisgah National Forest and Roan Mountain State Park are located in the northern sections of the county. All over Mitchell and neighboring Avery County you will find several conservation lands within the Pisgah Forest. Little Yellow Mountain is a natural land conservation area and one day it will be turned over to the state.

Adjacent counties[edit]

National protected areas[edit]

Major highways[edit]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2018 (est.)15,000[8]−3.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[9]
1790-1960[10] 1900-1990[11]
1990-2000[12] 2010-2013[2]


As of 2015, the largest self-reported ancestry groups in Mitchell County were:[13]

Largest ancestries (2015) Percent
American 17.3%
English 14.7%
German 12.2%
Irish 11.9%
Scots-Irish 9.8%
Scottish 5.0%
French (except Basque) 2.3%
Italian 1.9%
Swedish 1.6%
Dutch 1.5%

As of the census[14] of 2000, there were 15,687 people, 6,551 households, and 4,736 families residing in the county. The population density was 71 people per square mile (27/km2). There were 7,919 housing units at an average density of 36 per square mile (14/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 97.87% White, 0.22% Black or African American, 0.45% Native American, 0.20% Asian, 0.66% from other races, and 0.60% from two or more races. 1.98% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 6,551 households, out of which 27.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.90% were married couples living together, 8.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.70% were non-families. 25.20% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.82.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 21.20% under the age of 18, 6.80% from 18 to 24, 26.40% from 25 to 44, 27.10% from 45 to 64, and 18.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 95.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.30 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $30,508, and the median income for a family was $36,367. Males had a median income of $26,550 versus $20,905 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,933. About 10.70% of families and 13.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.20% of those under age 18 and 16.40% of those age 65 or over.


Map of Mitchell County, North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels



  • Bakersville
  • Bradshaw
  • Cane Creek
  • Fork Mountain-Little Rock Creek
  • Grassy Creek
  • Harrell
  • Poplar
  • Red Hill
  • Snow Creek
  • Spruce Pine

Unincorporated communities[edit]


Owing to its Civil War-era Unionist sympathies, along with its rural nature, Mitchell has continuously been an overwhelmingly Republican county. No Democratic presidential candidate has carried Mitchell County since Samuel J. Tilden in 1876. At this time Mitchell included Avery County, detached from it in 1911, and even more Republican. However, since Tilden's win, every Republican candidate has obtained at least sixty percent of the county's vote, with the solitary exception of the 1912 election when the party was divided between the two candidacies of William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt, the latter of whom carried the county.

Presidential elections results
Presidential elections results[15]
Year Republican Democratic Third parties
2020 78.4% 7,090 20.7% 1,867 0.9% 84
2016 77.6% 6,282 19.7% 1,596 2.7% 218
2012 74.8% 5,806 23.7% 1,838 1.6% 121
2008 70.1% 5,499 28.5% 2,238 1.4% 109
2004 72.9% 5,686 26.7% 2,080 0.4% 32
2000 75.5% 4,984 23.3% 1,535 1.2% 81
1996 65.2% 3,874 25.2% 1,496 9.7% 576
1992 62.8% 4,405 24.6% 1,727 12.6% 883
1988 76.8% 4,620 22.9% 1,377 0.3% 17
1984 78.5% 4,737 21.3% 1,286 0.2% 11
1980 68.9% 4,322 28.2% 1,765 2.9% 183
1976 64.5% 3,728 35.1% 2,031 0.4% 21
1972 83.5% 4,240 15.7% 800 0.8% 41
1968 72.7% 3,778 15.8% 819 11.6% 603
1964 65.3% 3,263 34.7% 1,736
1960 80.5% 4,831 19.6% 1,174
1956 80.0% 4,269 20.0% 1,069
1952 76.4% 4,009 23.6% 1,236
1948 76.4% 2,908 21.5% 818 2.2% 83
1944 75.7% 3,192 24.3% 1,024
1940 69.4% 3,290 30.6% 1,450
1936 66.7% 3,380 33.3% 1,687
1932 68.1% 3,798 31.8% 1,773 0.2% 9
1928 80.6% 3,436 19.4% 827
1924 68.8% 1,540 30.8% 689 0.4% 8
1920 75.5% 2,153 24.5% 697
1916 73.8% 1,298 26.3% 462
1912 15.6% 203 29.5% 385 54.9% 716

2016 presidential primaries[edit]

In the 2016 Republican Primary in Mitchell County, Donald Trump received 1,775 votes (or 46.8 percent of the total votes) followed by Ted Cruz who came in second with 1,188 votes (or 31.3% of the total votes). In the 2016 Democratic Primary, Bernie Sanders received 450 votes (57.9% of the total) whereas Hillary Clinton only won 314 votes (40.4% of the total).[16] In the general election Donald Trump received 6,282 votes (or 77.6% of the total vote) whereas Hillary Clinton only received 1,596 votes (19.7% of the vote) and Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson received 138 votes (1.7% of total votes in the county).[17]

Law and government[edit]

Mitchell County is a member of the regional High Country Council of Governments.


Mitchell High School is a comprehensive four-year high school (9-12) centrally located in the community of Ledger when built in 1978. The high school has achieved many educational and athletic accomplishments throughout its history.

Spruce Pine is home to three schools: Greenlee Primary (K-2), Deyton Elementary (3–5) and Harris Middle (6–8). Bakersville is home to two schools: Gouge Primary (K-4) and Bowman Middle (5–8).

Mayland Community College also calls Mitchell County home. Founded by an act of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1971, Mayland hosts some 35 curriculum programs and provides vocational and technical training, along with college transfer opportunities to residents of the region. Mayland was recently ranked 4th best community college in the nation according to 2010 Washington Monthly College Guide.

Penland School of Crafts is a world-renowned educational facility located in the Penland Community. It is designed to educate students who will apply workable knowledge in creation of books, paper, clay, drawing, glass, iron, metals, photography, printmaking and letterpress, textiles, and wood. Furthermore, Penland School of Crafts was established in the early 1920s, it is the largest and oldest professional crafts school in the United States.

Athletic achievements[edit]

Mitchell High School is in the Western Highlands 1A conference, which is made up of 6 schools with 3 of the schools classified as 1A. They have the smallest enrollment of the schools in their conference. Three neighboring counties' schools (Avery, Yancey (Mountain Heritage), and McDowell) are some of the common rivals of the Mountaineers.

  • 1987–88 Football, 11–2 record, Final 8 in state
  • 1987–88 Wrestling, State Champions
  • 1996 Girls' Basketball, State Champions
  • 1999–2000 Boys' Basketball, 23–5 record, Final 4 in state
  • 2003 Girls' Basketball, State Champions
  • 2006–07 Wrestling, 45–3 record, Final 4 in state
  • 2010 Football, lost one game before advancing to the State Championships
  • 2011 Football, 2nd best championships record in school history
  • 2011 Men's Cross Country, finished 4th in 1A State Championship
  • 2012 Men's Cross Country, finished 5th in 1A State Championship
  • 2013 Men's Cross Country, finished 7th in 1A State Championship
  • 2015 Football, 14–2 Record, 1AA State Runners-Up


The county is served by The Mitchell News-Journal, a weekly newspaper printed by Community Newspapers, Inc. and WTOE radio, at 1470 kHz on the AM dial to cover local news.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 210.
  2. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  4. ^ "Negro Laborers Not Allowed There; Railroad Company Wants Protection". The Dayton Evening Herald. Dayton, Ohio. November 6, 1899. p. 5 – via The Ohio River & Charleston Railroad Co. will appeal to Governor Russell for protection for its gangs of negro laborers in Mitchell county. The residents of this county escorted three gangs of laborers to the border line and told them not to return under pain of death. It is the boast of the people of Mitchell county that no negroes are allowed to live or work there. Up to date the boast has been made good. The situation is serious, and blood may flow if the railroad company brings its colored laborers back.
  5. ^ Neufeld, Rob. "Visiting Our Past: Feldspar mining and racial tensions". The Asheville Citizen Times. Retrieved 2021-03-26.
  6. ^ Jaspin, Elliot (2007). Buried in the Bitter Waters: the Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America. New York: Basic Books. pp. 201–217. ISBN 9780465036363.
  7. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Archived from the original on January 12, 2015. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  8. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  9. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  10. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  11. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  12. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  13. ^ Bureau, U.S. Census. "American FactFinder - Results". Archived from the original on 2020-02-13. Retrieved 2018-03-16.
  14. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  15. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Retrieved 2018-03-16.
  16. ^ "North Carolina Primary Election Results 2016". The New York Times. 2016-09-29. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-16.
  17. ^ "North Carolina Election Results 2016". The New York Times. 2017-08-01. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-16.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°01′N 82°10′W / 36.01°N 82.16°W / 36.01; -82.16