Stanly County (1841)

Written By Jonathan Martin

Stanly County was formed in 1841, and is named in honor of John Stanly, a New Bern resident and representative in the N.C. House of Commons (1798-9, 1812-1815, 1818, 1819, 1823-1825, and 1826). The county seat is Albemarle, named in honor of George Monck, Duke of Albemarle, who was one of the first Lord Proprietors of North Carolina. Albemarle was established in 1857. There are several other communities within Stanly County, and those include Locust, Misenheimer, Richfield, Badin, New London, Lambert, and Stanfield.

John Stanly was involved in one of North Carolina’s most famous duels in the early nineteenth century. In 1801, he took Richard Dobbs Spaight’s House seat, while Spaight joined the North Carolina Senate. As senator, Spaight missed many votes and usually blamed his poor health for his absences. Stanly repeatedly accused Spaight of malingering. After months of antagonism, the two men agreed to a duel, which was held on September 5, 1802. On the fourth fire, Stanly hit Spaight, who died the following day.

The people and economy of Stanly County has changed as a result of the shift in North Carolina’s history. Several tribes originally inhabited the area including the Tuscarora, Cheraw, and Keyauwee. The first European settlers to the region were just as diverse. As in many other Piedmont counties, German, Scotch-Irish, Dutch, and English immigrants settled present-day Stanly in the early 1700s. 

In 1825, Mathias Barringer discovered gold on his property, near present-day Pfeiffer University. A few years later, the Barringer Mine opened, and it was the first mine to use vein or subsurface mining in the state of North Carolina. New London’s Cotton Patch Mine was part of the gold rush in the 1800s, and even today people visit to pan the surrounding creeks in search of the illusive mineral. 

Stanly County has a mixed economy, a university, and several historic sites. Farms within the area produce wheat, cotton, corn, and livestock while manufactured goods include aircraft tires, yarn, draperies, popcorn, and circuit breakers. In 1885, Pfeiffer University was founded in Stanly. Some historic landmarks include the City of Albemarle’s Antique Fire Engine (1922), the Albemarle Town Cemetery (1844), and the Hall House (1912).