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Wilkes County, North Carolina
Map of North Carolina highlighting Wilkes County
Location in the state of North Carolina
Map of the U.S. highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location in the U.S.
Seat Wilkesboro
Area
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

760 sq mi (1,968 km²)

3 sq mi (8 km²), 0.36%
Population
 - (2000)
 - Density

65,632
87/sq mi (34/km²)
Founded 1778
Reddies River Primitive Baptist Church.jpg
Reddies River Primitive Baptist Church
Website www.wilkescounty.net/

Wilkes County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of 2000, the population was 65,632; in July 2006 the U.S. Census estimated the county's population at 67,310. Its county seat is Wilkesboro[1].

Contents

History

The county was formed in 1777 from parts of Surry County and Washington District (now Washington County, Tennessee). The first session of the county court was held in John Brown's house near what is today Brown's Ford. The act creating the county became effective on February 15, 1778, and the county celebrates its anniversary as February 15. It was named for the English political radical John Wilkes, who lost his position as Lord Mayor of the City of London due to his support for the colonists during the American Revolution.

In 1799 the northern and western parts of Wilkes County became Ashe County. In 1841 parts of Wilkes County and Burke County were combined to form Caldwell County. In 1847 another part of Wilkes County was combined with parts of Caldwell County and Iredell County to become Alexander County. In 1849 additional parts of Wilkes County and Caldwell County were combined with parts of Ashe County and Yancey County to form Watauga County. Numerous boundary adjustments were made thereafter, but none resulted in new counties.

Government, Medicine, and Media

Wilkes County is governed by a group of five elected county commissioners. An elected board of education controls the county's public school system. Wilkes County is a member of the regional High Country Council of Governments. The Wilkes Regional Medical Center, founded in 1951 as Wilkes General Hospital, is the largest hospital in North Carolina's High Country region. West Park, formerly a large shopping center built in North Wilkesboro in the 1970s, was transformed into northwest North Carolina's largest medical park in 2000, complete with offices for physicians, physical therapists, pharmacies, medical specialists, and other medical-related fields.

Wilkes County has two local newspapers: the Wilkes Journal-Patriot and The Record of Wilkes. Founded in 1906, the Journal-Patriot is published three times per week. The Record is published once per week; it usually focuses on the local arts scene in Wilkes.

Wilkes County is also home to GoWilkes.com, a well-recognized internet media source that allows residents to discuss current events and local happenings in real time. GoWilkes.com was voted the 2004 Small Business of the Year by the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

The county has three radio stations: WKBC-FM, which plays adult contemporary (Hot AC) music; WKBC (AM), which plays American country music; and WWWC (AM), which plays Southern Gospel Music. In 2006, WKBC-FM was voted the best radio station in the Charlotte listening area by the music critics of Charlotte's Creative Loafing magazine.

Geography and climate

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 760 square miles (1,968 km²), of which, 757 square miles (1,961 km²) of it is land and 3 square miles (7 km²) of it (0.36%) is water. Wilkes County is located on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a part of the Appalachian Mountains chain. The county's elevation ranges from 900 feet (275 meters) in the east to over 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) in the west. The Blue Ridge Mountains run from the southwest to the northeast, and dominate the county's western and northern horizons. Thompkins Knob, the highest point in the county, rises to 4,079 feet (1243 meters). The foothills and valleys of the Blue Ridge form most of the county's midsection, with some elevations exceeding 2,000 feet (610 meters). Stone Mountain State Park, located in the foothills of northern Wilkes County, is one of the most popular state parks in North Carolina, and is noted for its excellent rock climbing and trout fishing. The Brushy Mountains, an isolated spur of the Blue Ridge, form the county's southern border. Wilkes County's terrain gradually becomes more level and less hilly as one moves to the east; the far eastern section of the county lies within the Piedmont region of North Carolina. The largest river in Wilkes is the Yadkin River, which flows through the central part of the county. The county's three other major streams, all of which flow into the Yadkin, are the Reddies River, Roaring River, and Mulberry Creek. Following the devastating floods of 1916 and 1940, the US Army's Corps of Engineers constructed the W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir on the Yadkin River four miles west of Wilkesboro. Opened in 1962, the dam created a lake with a shoreline of 55 miles. The lake is used for boating, swimming, fishing, and waterskiing; it is especially noted for its excellent bass fishing. The W. Kerr Scott lake is the largest body of water in Wilkes.

Due to its wide range of elevation, Wilkes County's climate varies considerably. In the winter, it is not unusual for it to be sunny with the temperature in the forties in the county's eastern section, while at the same time it is snowing or sleeting with the temperature in the low thirties or even twenties in the county's mountainous south, west, and north. Generally speaking, Wilkes receives ample amounts of precipitation, with frequent thunderstorms in the spring and summer months; and rain, snow, sleet, and freezing rain all occur at times during the winter, with the frequency increasing with the altitude. Severe weather is not common in Wilkes but does occur. Tornadoes are extremely rare, but severe thunderstorms can bring strong winds which can down trees and power lines, as well as cause hail. Wilkes County is far enough inland that hurricanes rarely cause problems, but a strong hurricane which moves inland quickly enough may cause damage, as with Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Due to the numerous creeks and streams which run through its valleys, Wilkes is especially prone to devastating flash floods. The two most memorable floods occurred in 1916 and 1940, killing a number of residents and causing millions of dollars in damages. Since the opening of the W. Kerr Scott Dam in 1962, the Yadkin River has not flooded in the county. Although Wilkes County has never had a severe earthquake, an ancient fault line runs through the Brushy Mountains, and mild earth tremors are not uncommon. On August 31, 1861 an earthquake estimated at 5.0 on the Richter Scale hit the southern part of the county and caused minor damage.

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National protected area

Transportation

Wilkes County is served by a number of highways. However, the only multilane expressway which goes through the county is US 421. Other major highways include NC 16, NC 18, NC 268, and NC 115. The Wilkes County Airport provides air transport into and out of the county. The Blue Ridge Parkway, America's most-traveled scenic highway, winds along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the northern and western borders of the county.

Religion

Since colonial times Wilkes County has been overwhelmingly Protestant Christian. The two earliest churches to be established in Wilkes were the Episcopalian and Presbyterian. However, by the 1850s the Southern Baptists had eclipsed them, and the Baptists have remained the dominant church in Wilkes. The county also contains substantial numbers of Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, and Church of the Brethren. Historically, few Roman Catholics lived in Wilkes, but recent immigration from other U.S. States and especially by people of Hispanic descent has increased their numbers. A large Catholic church, built in 1988, is located in North Wilkesboro. By contrast, relatively few Jews or members of other non-Christian faiths have settled in the county.

Townships

The county is divided into twenty-two townships: Antioch, Beaver Creek, Boomer, Brushy Mountains, Edwards, Elk Creek, Hays, Jobs Cabin, Lewis Fork, Lovelace, Moravian Falls, Mulberry, New Castle, North Wilkesboro, Rock Creek, Somers, Stanton, Traphill, Union, Walnut Grove, Millers Creek and Wilkesboro.

Adjacent counties

Education

There are four public high schools in the county: East Wilkes, North Wilkes, West Wilkes, and Wilkes Central. There are also four public middle schools and thirteen public elementary schools. The county also has several private schools; most of them are associated with one of the larger Protestant churches in the county. The only college in Wilkes is Wilkes Community College (WCC), a public two-year college within the North Carolina Community College System. WCC is the home of the popular bluegrass and folk music festival MerleFest.

Wine region

Wilkes County is part of the Yadkin Valley AVA, an American Viticultural Area. Wines made from grapes grown Wilkes County may use the appellation Yadkin Valley on their labels. With the decline of tobacco farming, some Wilkes County farmers have switched to wine-making, and have hired experts from Europe and California for assistance. As a result, wine-making is growing in popularity in both Wilkes and surrounding counties.

In May of each year, Wilkes county celebrates the new wine industry with the Shine to Wine Festival, held in downtown North Wilkesboro.

Famous Natives & Residents

Points of interest

Moonshine and the Birth of NASCAR

Wilkes County was once known as the "Moonshine Capital of the World", and was a leading producer of illegal homemade liquor. From the 1920s to the 1950s some young Wilkes County males made their living by delivering moonshine to North Carolina's larger towns and cities. Wilkes County natives also used bootleg liquor as a means for barter far beyond the borders of North Carolina. Many Wilkes County distillers ran white liquor as far as Detroit, New Jersey and South Florida. Since this often involved outrunning local police and federal agents in auto chases, the county became one of the birthplaces of the sport of stock-car racing. The North Wilkesboro Speedway was the first NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing) track; it held its first race on May 18, 1947[2] and the first NASCAR sanctioned race on October 16, 1949.[3] As noted above, Wilkes County native and resident Junior Johnson was one of the early superstars of NASCAR, as well as a legendary moonshiner. Johnson was turned into a national celebrity by the writer Tom Wolfe in a classic 1965 article for Esquire magazine. Wolfe's article was later turned into the 1973 movie The Last American Hero, starring Jeff Bridges and Valerie Perrine. Benny Parsons and Jimmy Pardue were two other well-known NASCAR drivers from Wilkes. Unfortunately, the North Wilkesboro Speedway was closed following the 1996 NASCAR season after two new owners, Bob Bahre and Bruton Smith, moved North Wilkesboro's NASCAR races to their tracks in Texas and New Hampshire. In September 2007 a real-estate developer, Worth Mitchell, announced his intention to buy the North Wilkesboro Speedway and reopen it for auto racing. However Worth Mitchell estimates his odds are 50-50 of pulling off the deal. Speedway Motorsports officials had no comment on the negotiations.[4]

Events and Festivals

Wilkes County has strong musical roots, and those roots are displayed at the annual Battle of the Bands. Held in downtown North Wilkesboro in September, this rock festival features 20 professional and amateur bands from across the region, performing original music and competing for cash awards and, in some cases, record labels.

It also hosts the annual Shine to Wine Festival, also in downtown North Wilkesboro. Held on the first Saturday of May, the Shine to Wine festival pays tribute to the county's heritage of growing from the Moonshine Capital of the World to what is now recognized as a strong viticultural industry.

Wilkes County is also home to the annual Brushy Mountain Apple Festival, which is held in downtown North Wilkesboro the first weekend in October. The festival, which attracts over 160,000 visitors each year, is one of the largest single-day arts and crafts fairs in the Southern United States.

MerleFest

In 1988 legendary folk music guitarist Doc Watson and singer Bill Young started the MerleFest music festival in Wilkesboro, the county seat. Held on the campus of Wilkes Community College, and named in honor of Doc's late son Merle Watson, MerleFest has grown into the largest folk and bluegrass music festival in the United States, drawing over 85,000 music fans each year.

Tom Dooley

As noted above, another well-known Wilkes native was Tom Dula (Dooley), a Confederate veteran of the American Civil War who was tried and hanged shortly after the war for the murder of his fiancée, Laura Foster. To this day many people believe that one of Dula's jealous ex-girlfriends murdered Laura Foster, that Dula was innocent of the crime, and that he accepted blame only to protect his former lover. The case was given nationwide publicity by newspapers such as The New York Times, and thus became a folk legend in the rural South. Dula's legend was popularized in 1958 by the top-selling Kingston Trio song "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley." Dula's story was also turned into a 1959 movie starring Michael Landon as Dula, and each summer the Wilkes Playmakers present a popular play based on the story. In 2001, Tom Dula was acquitted of all charges after a petition was sent around Wilkes County and to the county seat.

Political Loyalty

A curious political fact about Wilkes County is that it is one of the few counties in the Southern United States which has never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate. The county's strong affiliation with the Republican Party dates from the American Civil War, when most of the county's residents opposed secession and the Confederacy, and viewed the Democratic Party as being the "pro-secession" party. During the Civil War people in neighboring counties often called Wilkes County "The Old United States", in reference to the county's pro-Union sentiment. Although the county is heavily Republican, and African-Americans make up less than 5% of the county's population, in 2002 the county's voters elected Luther Parks as a county commissioner. Parks, a Democrat, is the first African-American to hold a county office. He received more votes than any other candidate. In 2006 Parks was re-elected, and again he received the largest number of votes.

Industry

Despite its rural character and small population, Wilkes County has been the birthplace of numerous large industries. Lowe's, the second-largest chain of home-improvement stores in the nation (after The Home Depot) was started in Wilkes County in 1946. Until recently Lowe's had its corporate headquarters in Wilkes County, but the company has since relocated its headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina, a fast-growing suburb of Charlotte. However, Lowe's still maintains a large number of corporate offices in the county. Other industries which started in Wilkes County are Lowes Foods (now headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina) and The Northwestern Bank, which was once North Carolina's fourth-largest banking chain until it was merged with the Wachovia Bank in 1986. The Carolina Mirror Company in North Wilkesboro was for many years the largest mirror factory in the United States. Although the company no longer exists, the former Carolina Mirror factory continues to produce mirrors through the Gardner Mirror Company. Holly Farms, in Wilkesboro, was the largest poultry producer in the Southeastern United States until it was bought by Tyson Foods in 1989. Wilkes County remains one of the largest producers of poultry in the Eastern United States, and many of the county's farmers are poultry farmers for Tyson Foods. Like many places in North Carolina, Wilkes County has suffered in the last quarter-century from the closing of many of its textile and furniture factories, which have moved to low-wage locations in Latin America and Asia, especially China and Vietnam.

Demographics

As of the census[5] of 2000, there were 65,632 people, 26,650 households, and 19,321 families residing in the county. The population density was 87 people per square mile (33/km²). There were 29,261 housing units at an average density of 39 per square mile (15/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 92.95% White, 4.16% Black or African American, 0.14% Native American, 0.32% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.71% from other races, and 0.66% from two or more races. 3.45% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 26,650 households out of which 30.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.10% were married couples living together, 9.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.50% were non-families. 24.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 2.87.

In the county the population was spread out with 22.60% under the age of 18, 7.90% from 18 to 24, 29.70% from 25 to 44, 25.70% from 45 to 64, and 14.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 97.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.70 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $34,258, and the median income for a family was $40,607. Males had a median income of $27,346 versus $21,089 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,516. About 8.80% of families and 11.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.20% of those under age 18 and 17.20% of those age 65 or over.

Cities and towns

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

Unincorporated CDPs

Wilkes County Chambers of Commerce

References

  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. http://www.naco.org/Template.cfm?Section=Find_a_County&Template=/cffiles/counties/usamap.cfm. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  2. ^ First Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway
  3. ^ October 16, 1949 - Wilkes 200
  4. ^ Jayski's Silly Season Site - MISC Track News/Rumors
  5. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  

External links

Coordinates: 36°12′N 81°10′W / 36.20°N 81.17°W / 36.20; -81.17


Genealogy

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Wilkes County, North Carolina
Map
File:Map of North Carolina highlighting Wilkes County.png
Location in the state of North Carolina
Map of the USA highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location in the USA
Statistics
Founded 1778
Seat Wilkesboro
Area
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

 sq mikm²)
 sq mi ( km²)
 sq mi ( km²), 0.36%
wikipedia:Population
 - (2000)
 - Density

65632
Website: www.wilkescounty.net/

Wilkes County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of 2000, the population was 65,632; in July 2006 the U.S. Census estimated the county's population at 67,310. Its county seat is Wilkesboro6.

Contents

History

The county was formed in 1777 from parts of Surry County and Washington District (now Washington County), the first meeting of the court met in John Brown's house near Brown's Ford. The act became effective February 15, 1778, and this is when the county celebrates its anniversary. It was named for the English political radical John Wilkes, who lost his position as Lord Mayor of London due to his support for the colonists during the American Revolution.

In 1799 the northern and western parts of Wilkes County became Ashe County. In 1841 parts of Wilkes County and Burke County were combined to form Caldwell County. In 1847 another part of Wilkes County was combined with parts of Caldwell County and Iredell County to become Alexander County. In 1849 additional parts of Wilkes County and Caldwell County were combined with parts of Ashe County and Yancey County to form Watauga County. Numerous boundary adjustments were made thereafter, but none resulted in new counties.

Government, Media, and Medicine

Wilkes County is governed by a group of elected county commissioners. An elected Board of Education controls the county's public school system. Wilkes County is a member of the regional High Country Council of Governments. The Wilkes Regional Medical Center, founded in 1951 as Wilkes General Hospital, is the largest hospital in northwestern North Carolina. Wilkes County has two local newspapers: the Wilkes Journal-Patriot and the Wilkes Record. The Journal-Patriot is published three times per week and the Record is published once every week. The county has three radio stations: WKBC-FM (FM 97.3), which plays Adult Contemporary music; WKBC-AM (AM 800), which plays American Country music; and WWWC (3WC) (AM 1240), which plays Gospel Music. In 2006 WKBC-FM was voted the best radio station in the Charlotte listening area by the music critics of Charlotte's Creative Loafing magazine.

Geography and Climate

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,968 km² (760 sq mi). 1,961 km² (757 sq mi) of it is land and 7 km² (3 sq mi) of it (0.36%) is water. Wilkes County is located on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a part of the Appalachian Mountains chain. The county's elevation ranges from 900 feet in the east to over 4,000 feet in the west. The Blue Ridge Mountains run from the southwest to the northeast, and dominate the county's western and northern horizons. Thompkins Knob, the highest point in the county, rises to 4,121 feet (1256 meters). The foothills and valleys of the Blue Ridge form most of the county's midsection, with some elevations exceeding 2,000 feet. Stone Mountain State Park, located in the foothills of northern Wilkes County, is one of the most visited state parks in North Carolina. The Brushy Mountains, an isolated spur of the Blue Ridge, form the county's southern border. Wilkes County's terrain gradually becomes more level and less hilly as one moves to the east and south; the far eastern section of the county lies within the Piedmont region of North Carolina. The largest river in Wilkes is the Yadkin, which flows through the central part of the county. The county's three other major streams, all of which flow into the Yadkin, are the Reddies River, Roaring River, and Mulberry Creek. Following the devastating floods of 1916 and 1940, the US Army's Corps of Engineers constructed the W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir on the Yadkin River four miles west of Wilkesboro. Opened in 1962, the dam created a lake with a shoreline of 55 miles. The lake is used for boating, swimming, fishing, and waterskiing; it is especially noted for its excellent bass fishing. The W. Kerr Scott lake is the largest body of water in Wilkes.

Due to its wide range of elevation, Wilkes County's climate varies considerably. In the winter, it is not unusual for it to be sunny with the temperature in the forties in the county's eastern section, while at the same time it is snowing or sleeting with the temperature in the low thirties or even twenties in the county's mountainous west and north. Generally speaking, Wilkes receives ample amounts of precipitation, with frequent thunderstorms in the spring and summer months; and snow, sleet, and freezing rain all occur at times during the winter, with the frequency increasing with the altitude. Severe weather is not common in Wilkes but does occur. Tornadoes are extremely rare, but severe thunderstorms can bring strong winds which can down trees and power lines, as well as cause hail. Wilkes County is far enough inland that hurricanes rarely cause problems, but the rare hurricane which moves inland quickly enough may cause damage, as with Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Due to the numerous creeks and streams which run through its valleys, Wilkes is especially prone to devastating flash floods. The two most memorable floods occurred in 1916 and 1940, killing a number of residents and causing millions of dollars in damages. Since the opening of the W. Kerr Scott Dam in 1962, the Yadkin River has not flooded in the county.

Transportation

Wilkes County is served by a number of major highways. However, the only multilane expressway which goes through the county is US 421. Other major highways include NC 16, NC 18, NC 268, and NC 115. The Wilkes County Airport provides air transport into and out of the county.

Religion

Since colonial times Wilkes County has been overwhelmingly Protestant Christian. The two earliest churches to be established in Wilkes were the Episcopalian and Presbyterian. However, by the 1840's the Southern Baptists had eclipsed them, and the Baptists have remained the dominant church in Wilkes. The county also contains substantial numbers of Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, and Church of the Brethren. Historically, few Roman Catholics lived in Wilkes, but the recent immigration of Hispanics and Northerners has increased their numbers; and a large Catholic church is now located in North Wilkesboro. By contrast, relatively few Jews or members of other non-Christian faiths have settled in the county.

Townships

The county is divided into twenty-one townships: Antioch, Beaver Creek, Boomer, Brushy Mountains, Edwards, Elk, Hays, Jobs Cabin, Lewis Fork, Lovelace, Moravian Falls, Mulberry, New Castle, North Wilkesboro, Rock Creek, Somers, Stanton, Trap Hill, Union, Walnut Grove, and Wilkesboro.

Adjacent Counties

Education

There are four public high schools in the county: Wilkes Central, East Wilkes, North Wilkes, and West Wilkes. There are also four public middle schools and thirteen public elementary schools. The county also has several private schools; most of them are associated with one of the larger Protestant churches in the county. The only college in Wilkes is Wilkes Community College (WCC), a public two-year college within the North Carolina Community College System. WCC is the home of the popular bluegrass and folk music festival "MerleFest," .

Wine region

Wilkes County is part of the Yadkin Valley AVA, an American Viticultural Area. Wines made from grapes grown Wilkes County may use the appellation Yadkin Valley on their labels. With the decline of tobacco farming, some Wilkes County farmers have switched to wine-making, and have hired experts from Europe and California for assistance. As a result, wine-making is growing in popularity in both Wilkes and surrounding counties.

Famous Natives

Trivia

Wilkes County was once known as the "Moonshine Capital of the World", and was a leading producer of illegal homemade liquor. From the 1920s to the 1950s some young Wilkes County males made their living by delivering moonshine to North Carolina's larger towns and cities. Since this often involved outrunning local police and federal agents in auto chases, the county became one of the birthplaces of the sport of stock car racing. The North Wilkesboro Speedway, held it's first race May 5, 1947, was the first NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing) track. As noted above, Wilkes County native and resident Junior Johnson was one of the early superstars of NASCAR, as well as a legendary moonshiner. Johnson was turned into a national celebrity by the writer Tom Wolfe in a classic 1965 article for Esquire magazine. Wolfe's article was later turned into the 1973 movie The Last American Hero, starring Jeff Bridges and Valerie Perrine. Benny Parsons and Jimmy Pardue were two other well-known NASCAR drivers from Wilkes. Unfortunately, the North Wilkesboro Speedway was closed following the 1996 NASCAR season after two new owners Bob Bahre and O. Bruton Smith moved North Wilkesboro's races to their tracks in Texas and New Hampshire. Since 2005 a group called Save The Speedway[1] has been working to revive the track. However, in September 2007 a real-estate developer, Worth Mitchell, announced his intention to buy the speedway and reopen it for auto racing; his goal is to reopen the track by early 2010.

As noted above, another well-known Wilkes native was Tom Dula (Dooley), a Confederate veteran of the American Civil War who was tried and hanged shortly after the war for the murder of his fiancée, Laura Foster. To this day many people believe that one of Dula's jealous ex-girlfriends murdered Laura Foster, and that Dula was innocent of the crime. The case was given nationwide publicity by newspapers such as The New York Times, and thus became a folk legend in the rural South. Dula's legend was popularized in 1958 by the top-selling Kingston Trio song "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley." Dula's story was also turned into a 1959 movie starring Michael Landon as Dula, and each summer the Wilkes Playmakers present a popular play based on the story. In 2001, Tom Dula was acquitted of all charges after a petition was sent around Wilkes County and to the county seat.

In 1988 legendary folk music guitarist Doc Watson and singer Bill Young started the Merlefest music festival in Wilkesboro, the county seat. Held on the campus of Wilkes Community College, and named in honor of Doc's late son Merle Watson, Merlefest has grown into the largest folk and bluegrass music festival in the United States, drawing over 85,000 music fans each year. Wilkes County is also home to the annual Brushy Mountain Apple Festival, which is held in downtown North Wilkesboro in October. The festival, which attracts over 160,000 visitors each year, is one of the largest single-day arts and crafts fairs in the Southern United States.

A curious political fact about Wilkes County is that it is one of the few counties in the Southern United States which has never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate. The county's strong affiliation with the Republican Party dates from the American Civil War, when most of the county's residents opposed secession and the Confederacy, and viewed the Democratic Party as being the "pro-secession" party. During the Civil War people in neighboring counties often called Wilkes County "The Old United States", in reference to the county's pro-Union sentiment. Although the county is heavily Republican, and African-Americans make up less than 5% of the county's population, in 2002 the county's voters elected Luther Parks as a county commissioner. Parks, a Democrat, is the first African-American to hold a county office. He received more votes than any other candidate. In 2006 Parks was re-elected, and again he received the largest number of votes.

Despite its rural character and small population, Wilkes County has been the birthplace of numerous large industries. Lowe's, the second-largest chain of home-improvement stores in the nation (after The Home Depot) was started in Wilkes County in 1946. Until recently Lowe's had its corporate headquarters in Wilkes County, but the company has since relocated its headquarters in Mooresville, a fast-growing suburb of Charlotte. However, Lowe's still maintains a large number of corporate offices in the county. Other industries which started in Wilkes County are Lowes Foods (now headquartered in Winston-Salem) and The Northwestern Bank, which was once North Carolina's fourth-largest banking chain until it was merged with the Wachovia Bank in Charlotte. The Carolina Mirror Company, still in North Wilkesboro, was for many years the largest mirror factory in the United States. Holly Farms, in Wilkesboro, was the largest poultry producer in the Southeastern United States until it was bought by Tyson Foods. Wilkes County remains one of the largest producers of poultry in the Eastern United States, and many of the county's farmers are poultry farmers for Tyson Foods. Like many places in North Carolina, Wilkes County has suffered in the last quarter-century from the closing of many of its textile and furniture factories, which have moved to low-wage locations in Latin America and Asia.

Demographics

As of the census² of 2000, there were 65,632 people, 26,650 households, and 19,321 families residing in the county. The population density was 33/km² (87/sq mi). There were 29,261 housing units at an average density of 15/km² (39/sq mi). The racial makeup of the county was 92.95% White, 4.16% Black or African American, 0.14% Native American, 0.32% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.71% from other races, and 0.66% from two or more races. 3.45% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 26,650 households out of which 30.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.10% were married couples living together, 9.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.50% were non-families. 24.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 2.87.

In the county the population was spread out with 22.60% under the age of 18, 7.90% from 18 to 24, 29.70% from 25 to 44, 25.70% from 45 to 64, and 14.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 97.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.70 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $34,258, and the median income for a family was $40,607. Males had a median income of $27,346 versus $21,089 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,516. About 8.80% of families and 11.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.20% of those under age 18 and 17.20% of those age 65 or over.

Cities and towns

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

Unincorporated CDPs

Wilkes County Chambers of Commerce

External Links

Coordinates: 36°12′N 81°10′W / 36.20, -81.17

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Wilkes County, North Carolina. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.
Facts about Wilkes County, North CarolinaRDF feed
County names Wilkes County, North Carolina  +
County of country United States  +
County of subdivision1 North Carolina  +
Short name Wilkes County  +

This article uses material from the "Wilkes County, North Carolina" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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