Founded in 1753, Rowan County became an important political and economic center for western North Carolina during the 1800s. Salisbury, the county seat, housed the only Confederate prison in North Carolina during the Civil War, and the Gold Hill community once served as a vital mineral source during North Carolina’s gold rush. Catawba College is located in Rowan, and many famous North Carolinians were born in the county.
Established in 1881 in the eastern Piedmont region of North Carolina, Vance County was named after the famous Civil War governor, Zebulon B. Vance. Home to the first military academy in North Carolina and Rose’s Department Stores, Vance County has since become a popular tourist attraction for water sport enthusiasts because of its large man-made Kerr Lake. The county seat of Vance is Henderson.
Annexed from Anson County in 1779, Richmond County was named in honor of the American colonist supporter, Charles Lennox, the third Duke of Richmond. The North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham was once a vital tourist attraction in the county, and the National Railroad Museum and the Hamlet Opera House continue to attract people from across the state and the nation. Notable Richmond County natives include jazz musician John Coltrane, and politicians Alfred Dockery and Camerson Morrison.
Site of first Patriot victory of the American Revolutionary War, Pender County has a unique history in North Carolina. Established in 1875, Pender’s county seat is Burgaw, and other communities include Topsail Beach, Surf City, and Rocky Point. The oldest house in North Carolina, the Sloop Point Plantation, stands in Pender County.
A place of natural beauty and allure, Macon County is an attractive destination for naturalists and gem enthusiasts. At one time, it was home to the Middle Cherokee. The towns of Cowee and Nikwasi were once important communities for Native Americans, and the Nikwasi Indian Mound remains in the county. Established in 1828, Macon County’s seat of government is Franklin, and the Nantahala National Forest remains the county’s most intricate natural resource.
Washington County was annexed from Tyrrell County in 1799, and its county seat was named after the Pilgrim colony in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The town of Plymouth was the site of a decisive Confederate victory in April 1864. A popular historical attraction is the Somerset Place, a large antebellum plantation that serves as a reunion center for descendants of slaves that worked the farm before the Civil War.
Birthplace of the inventor of the Gatling Gun, the coastal county of Hertford holds an important position in North Carolina’s history. The Meherrin called modern-day Hertford home before the arrival of early European settlers from the Virginia colony. Winton, the county seat of Hertford, was the first town destroyed by Union forces in the Civil War.
Named after Joseph Caldwell, the first president of the University of North Carolina, Caldwell County was created in 1841 and formed out of Burke and Wilkes counties by the North Carolina legislature.
A southern county located in North Carolina’s piedmont area, Cleveland County was formed in 1841, and it is named after Benjamin Cleveland, leader of the victory at the decisive Battle of King’s Mountain. Gardner-Webb University is located in the county, and the city of Shelby was once home to the political machine known as the “Shelby Dynasty.”
Home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Qualla Boundary, Swain County was formed in 1871 and rests in the mountains of North Carolina. The Eastern Band of Cherokee call the county their home, and the tribe’s cultural and historical influence is significant in Swain County. Tourism and the gaming industry (Harrah’s Casino) is the primary industry of the region.