|Founded||April 1, 1771|
|Named for||Surrey, England|
|Largest community||Mount Airy|
|• Total||536.66 sq mi (1,389.9 km2)|
|• Land||532.65 sq mi (1,379.6 km2)|
|• Water||4.01 sq mi (10.4 km2) 0.75%|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||133.97/sq mi (51.73/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (Eastern)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
The county was formed in 1771 from Rowan County as part of the British Province of North Carolina. It was named for the county of Surrey in England, birthplace of William Tryon, Governor of North Carolina from 1765 to 1771.
In 1777 parts of Surry County and Washington District (now Washington County, Tennessee) were combined to form Wilkes County. The first permanent courthouse was established at Richmond in 1779, what is now the modern-day Old Richmond Township in Forsyth County near Donnaha. However, in 1789 the eastern half of Surry County became Stokes County, thus making the Richmond site unusable for either county. In 1790, the county seat was moved to Rockford where it remained for over half a century. In 1850 the half of the county's remaining territory south of the Yadkin River became Yadkin County. The town of Dobson was established in 1853 to be the new county seat.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 536.66 square miles (1,389.9 km2), of which 532.65 square miles (1,379.6 km2) is land and 4.01 square miles (10.4 km2) (0.75%) is water.
The whole county is generally considered part of the Piedmont Triad metropolitan area. Surry County is located in the Yadkin Valley AVA, an American Viticultural Area. Wines made from grapes grown in Surry County may carry the appellation Yadkin Valley on their label.
Surry County is located both within the Piedmont region of central North Carolina and in the Appalachian Mountains region of western North Carolina. Most of the eastern two-thirds of the county lies within the Piedmont, a region of gently rolling hills and valleys. However, the Piedmont of Surry County also contains a small portion of the Sauratown Mountains; Surry County marks the western end of the Sauratown Mountain range. The western third of the county lies within the Blue Ridge Mountains, and they dominate the county's western horizon. The mountain passes (called "gaps" locally) are notorious for their occasional high winds, which can force automobiles and even large Eighteen wheeler trucks off the highways which lead through the passes. As a result, high wind advisories issued by the National Weather Service are not uncommon. The highest point in Surry County is Fisher Peak in the Blue Ridge; it rises to 3,570 feet (1,088 m) above sea level. However, the best-known peak in Surry County is not the highest. That honor goes to Pilot Mountain, an isolated monadnock and a North Carolina landmark. Pilot Mountain sharply rises some 2,421 feet (738 m) above the surrounding countryside, and can be seen for miles.
Major water bodies
- Ararat River
- Bear Creek
- Big Creek
- Camp Creek
- Fisher River
- Flat Shoal Creek
- Grassy Creek
- Hogan Creek
- King Creek
- Little Fisher Creek
- Mill Creek
- Mitchell River
- Pauls Creek
- Pheasant Creek
- Pilot Creek
- Ramey Creek
- Stewarts Creek
- Toms Creek
- Yadkin River
While there are many creeks and streams in Surry County, there are three recognized major rivers in the county, the Ararat, the Fisher, and the Mitchell. All three flow southward and are tributaries of the Yadkin River, which forms the southern border of Surry County. The Yadkin River is the northern component of the Pee Dee River which flows to the Atlantic Ocean near Georgetown, South Carolina.
National protected areas
State and local protected areas/sites
- Horne Creek Living Historical Farm
- Mitchell River Game Land (part)
- Pilot Mountain State Park
- Raven Knob Scout Reservation (part)
- Patrick County, Virginia – northeast
- Carroll County, Virginia – north
- Grayson County, Virginia – northwest
- Stokes County – east
- Forsyth County – southeast
- Yadkin County – south
- Wilkes County – southwest
- Alleghany County – west
|U.S. Decennial Census|
1990–2000 2010 2020
|Black or African American (non-Hispanic)||2,413||3.38%|
|Hispanic or Latino||8,496||11.91%|
As of the 2020 census, there were 71,359 people, 28,408 households, and 19,539 families residing in the county.
At the 2000 census, there were 71,219 people, 28,408 households, and 20,482 families residing in the county. The population density was 133 people per square mile (51 people/km2). There were 31,033 housing units at an average density of 58 units per square mile (22 units/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 90.40% White, 4.16% Black or African American, 0.23% Native American, 0.57% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 3.45% from other races, and 1.15% from two or more races. 6.49% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 28,408 households, out of which 30.80% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.40% were married couples living together, 9.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.90% were non-families. 25.00% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.70% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 2.92.
In the county, the population was spread out, with 23.60% under the age of 18, 7.90% from 18 to 24, 29.00% from 25 to 44, 24.10% from 45 to 64, and 15.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 95.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.20 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $33,046, and the median income for a family was $38,902. Males had a median income of $27,854 versus $20,556 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,722. About 9.10% of families and 12.40% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.00% of those under age 18 and 17.40% of those age 65 or over.
Government and politics
Surry is at present a predominantly Republican county. The last Democratic presidential nominee to carry Surry County has been Jimmy Carter in 1976, and no Democrat since 1996 has reached forty percent of the county's vote. Hillary Clinton received only twenty-three percent in 2016, a proportion smaller than Hubert Humphrey obtained in the three-way 1968 race.
In the early 20th century, Surry swung from Democratic-leaning during the Third Party System, to Republican enough to be alongside Yadkin and Stokes County as the only North Carolina counties to vote with William Howard Taft during his disastrous 1912 campaign, back to Democratic enough to support Adlai Stevenson II in 1952.
Surry County is a member of the Northwest Piedmont Council of Governments. The five-member Board of County Commissioners are elected from single-member districts for four-year staggered terms, with elections in even-numbered years. The board elects a chair and vice-chair, who serve twelve-month terms.
The board appoints a county manager, who oversees county administration and implements the board's policies.
Surry County is divided into three local school systems: Surry County Schools, Mount Airy City Schools, and Elkin City Schools.
Surry County Schools
- Surry Early College High School of Design (on the Surry Community College campus.)
- East Surry High School
- North Surry High School
- Surry Central High School
- Central Middle School
- Gentry Middle School
- Meadowview Magnet Middle School
- Pilot Mountain Middle School
- Cedar Ridge Elementary School
- Copeland Elementary School
- Dobson Elementary School
- Flat Rock Elementary School
- Franklin Elementary School
- Mountain Park Elementary School
- Pilot Mountain Elementary School
- Rockford Elementary School
- Shoals Elementary School
- Westfield Elementary School
- White Plains Elementary School
Mount Airy City Schools
- Mount Airy High School
- Mount Airy Middle School
- Jones Intermediate School
- Tharington Primary School
Elkin City Schools
Colleges and universities
Surry County is home to three local newspapers, The Mount Airy News of Mount Airy, The Pilot in Pilot Mountain and The Tribune of Elkin. Additionally, the larger daily Winston-Salem Journal covers news and events in the county. One local newspaper, The Messenger in Mount Airy, ceased operation in approximately 2011.
WIFM in Elkin is a full-time FM radio station. The county has three AM stations, WYZD in Dobson, as well as WSYD and WPAQ in Mount Airy, both of which operate also on 24-hour FM repeaters that cover most of the county. There are no broadcast television stations in Surry County.
Surry County is apparently home to the fictitious community of Mayberry from "The Andy Griffith Show", which aired from 1960 through 1967. Andy Griffith reportedly used many things from his hometown in his TV town. Now guests can experience what it was like living in Mayberry by visiting the Andy Griffith Museum, stopping by Andy's homeplace, getting a trim at Floyd's barbershop, taking a ride in a replica Mayberry Squad Car, or even grabbing a bite to eat at Snappy Lunch. Every year in September the city holds the "Mayberry Days" celebration, where fans can come and enjoy the town together.
A dish, sonker, is made in Surry County and surrounding areas in North Carolina, and is thought to have originated in the county in the mid-1800s. Similar to cobbler, it is a pie made of dough with a fruit or sweet potato filling and baked. It is traditionally served with "dip", a vanilla cream sauce. Since 1980, Mount Airy has hosted an annual sonker festival, and sonkers are often made to cater to tourism. Ground steak—principally a sandwich consisting of ground beef or chuck, flour, salt, and pepper—is exclusive to the county, maintaining enduring popularity among locals since the Great Depression.
- Mount Airy (largest community)
- Ash Hill
- Blevins Store
- Boones Hill
- Cedar Hill
- Crooked Oak
- Hills Grove
- Holly Springs
- Indian Grove
- Level Cross
- Little Richmond
- Long Hill
- Mount Herman
- Mountain Park
- New Hope
- Oak Grove
- Pine Hill
- Pine Ridge
- Poplar Springs
- Red Brush
- Round Peak
- Salem Fork
- Slate Mountain
- State Road
- Stony Knoll
- Turkey Ford
- Union Cross
- Union Hill
- White Sulphur Springs
- List of counties in North Carolina
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Surry County, North Carolina
- Yadkin Valley AVA, wine region partially located in the county
- "Surry County, North Carolina". Retrieved April 28, 2012.
- "QuickFacts: Surry County, North Carolina". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 31, 2022.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
- "2020 County Gazetteer Files – North Carolina". United States Census Bureau. August 23, 2022. Retrieved September 9, 2023.
- "NCWRC Game Lands". www.ncpaws.org. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
- "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 27, 2010. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 30, 2013.
- "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 21, 2021.
- "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
- Menendez, Albert J.; The Geography of Presidential Elections in the United States, 1868-2004, pp. 265-271 ISBN 0786422173
- Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
- "Administration". Surry County, North Carolina. Retrieved October 28, 2023.
- "Schools". Elkin City Schools. Archived from the original on August 18, 2012. Retrieved April 28, 2012.
- "Mayberry « Visit Mayberry". www.visitmayberry.com. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
- Moose, Debbie (September 26, 2022). "The Sonkers of Surry County". Our State. Retrieved May 16, 2023.
- Raskin, Hanna (October 27, 2023). "Culinary Trails, To You". The Assembly. Retrieved October 27, 2023.
- McElveen, Katie (August 2, 2022). "What Is a Sonker and How Did It Get That Unusual Name?". Southern Living. Retrieved October 27, 2023.
- Johnson, Jessica (April 29, 2014). "Ground steak sandwiches: a unique local tradition". The Mount Airy News. Retrieved October 27, 2023.