Yadkin County (1850)

Written By Jonathan Martin

The early Native Americans of the Yadkin Region were the Tutelo and Saponi. These tribes were relatively peaceful, and they devoted their energies to agriculture, hunting, and fishing. Numerous artifacts have been discovered, particularly arrowheads and hunting tools along the lower part of the present county. In 1957, as the Department of Transportation constructed U.S. Highway 421, a burial mound was uncovered, and several skeletons were unearthed by Stanley South, an archeologist of the North Carolina Department of Archives and History. South dated the bones, and found that they were buried between 1550 and 1600.

Morgan Byran and George Forbush were the first known white men to inhabit present-day Yadkin County in 1748. Both men brought their families and settled on the banks of the Deep Creek. In the 1750s, Squire Boone brought his family to the Yadkin valley region, and one of his sons, Daniel Boone, although born in Pennsylvania, resided in Yadkin periodically throughout his adult life. Throughout the rest of the eighteenth century many others established farms, and a hundred years later, the region’s population exceeded 8,000 residents.

Located on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Yadkin was established from Surry County in the middle of the nineteenth century. The county and its seat of government, Yadkinville, which was incorporated in 1857, were both named after the Yadkin River. In 1673, Abraham Wood, a trader from Virginia, sponsored a journey into the North Carolina colony. One of the explorers, Gabriel Arthur, reported that the party had made their way into Yattken Town on June 18, 1673. This was the first time a white man had referred to the area as “Yattken” and it later evolved into the modern term of Yadkin. “Yattken” emerged from the Siouan Indian language, and although the true root is unknown to modern linguists, some speculate that the word may mean “big trees” or “place of big trees.”

The Yadkin River is not the only tributary within the county; several smaller creeks—-Cobb, Beaverdam, Deep, Froeman, Fall, Cranberry, and Lineberry—meander through Yadkin County. Two other notable physical features of the county include the Brushy Mountains and Fox Knob, and the communities of Boonville, Courtney, Center Brooks, Arlington, Forbush, Smithtown, East Bend, Lone Hickory, and Marler comprise the remaining area of Yadkin County.

Yadkin hosts several cultural events, and other historic buildings and landmarks exist in the county. Richmond Hill is the most famous historic structure in the county. Once the residence of Supreme Court Chief Justice Richmond Pearson, Richmond Hill remains a historic park. In addition to the Richmond Hill, the Tulbert House, the Deep Creek Friends Meeting Cemetery, and the Bourman Mill Dam are all eighteenth century edifices that still stand in the county. The Yadkin Arts Council and the Charles Bruce Davis Museum of Art, History, and Science are the county’s vital cultural institutions. Yadkin’s festivals include the Boonville Heritage Days Festival, the annual Yadkin Magic Show, the Yadkinville Harvest Festival, and a popular musical event known as the Yadkinville Bluegrass Contest and Fiddler’s Convention.

Thomas L. Clingman and Richmond Pearson, two historic figures of North Carolina, were native sons of Yadkin County. Richmond Pearson was born in present-day Davie County, but his well-established Richmond Hill law school was located in Yadkin. After studying philosophy at the University of North Carolina and reading law under Judge Leonard Henderson, Pearson began a law practice in 1826 in Rowan County only to be elected as a circuit court judge in 1835. Pearson was appointed to the Supreme Court upon the death of Justice Joseph J. Daniel, and he later became the chief justice of the court after Frederick Nash passed away in 1857. He established his law school at Richmond Hill in 1846, and after several years and many students later, Pearson boasted that he had taught “more than a thousand law students.” Many of his law pupils later became associates or judges on the North Carolina Supreme Court, governors of the state, and U.S. Congressmen. Thomas L. Clingman, born in Huntsville within present-day Yadkin, served as a United States Senator in the late 1850s. Clingman, though a supporter of state sovereignty, was the last Southerner to withdraw from the Senate. During the Civil War, the senator was appointed a Confederate General, but Clingman’s military career was uneventful. Clingman became an advocate for populating the western section of North Carolina, and he did much to bring North Carolinians to admire and understand the beauty of the Appalachian mountains. Due to his endorsements of the mountains of the state, Arnold Guyot named the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains in honor of the Yadkin County native, Clingman’s Point.