The History of the Settlement of the High Country


REALLY Early Settlement

Clovis-type fluted spearpoints have been found in the High Country dating as far back as 13,500 years before the present. During Colonial Days, the Cherokee, Creekand Shawnee tribes appeared to be residents, using the high mountains in the summer for hunting.

Revolutionary War

Before the Revolution, settlement in much of the High Country was
prohibited under the 1770 Treaty of Lochaber, between the British Government and the Cherokee. Settlers, however, continued to pour into the area. In 1780, the British militia leader, Major Patrick Ferguson, directed the illegal settlers to lay down their arms lest he “march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay waste the country with fire and sword." The frontiersmen in the various “overmountain” settlements took strong exception to this threat, organized the force that would become known as the “Overmountain Men”
and marched to meet Ferguson’s force at King’s Mountain, on the NC – SC state line. At the battle on October 7, 1780, the Patriot militia decisively defeated the 1,000 Loyalists and either killed or captured the bulk of the force with fewer than 100 casualties. This defeat caused Lord Cornwallis to abandon his invasion of North Carolina and set the stage for the January 17, 1781
Battle of Cowpens, which began the strategic attrition of the British regular force in America by Generals Robert Morgan and Nathaniel Greene, finally ending with the surrender at Yorktown on October 19, 1781. After the war, many veterans received land grants in the High Country where their descendants remain to this day.

Settlement Days

After the Revolution, settlers continued to flood into the High Country due
to the availability of cheap land, plentiful game, numerous natural resources, and favorable summer climate. The economy revolved around the sale of hides, timber, some mining, and subsistence farming. Commerce was primarily with the bordering States of Tennessee and Virginia. Consequently, the High Country became known as the “Lost Provinces” of North Carolina due to the difficulty of travel from the East.

Daniel Boone (1734 – 1820), the famous American frontiersman, was born in a Quaker settlement in Pennsylvania. His family moved to the Yadkin Valley area of what is now Davie County, NC, near Mocksville, in 1750. Boone became a “long hunter,” and frequented the High Country on his hunting expeditions through the 1750’s until his first trip to the Kentucky area in 1767. An area north of Boone is called “Meat Camp” after his hunting camp. His wife and children continued to live in NC until their permanent move to Boone’s Station, KY in 1779. His extended family continued to live in NC and left many descendants in the High Country area.

How the High Country Counties got their Name

Banner Elk/Linville, Avery County, pop. 17,797,(county seat Newland, pop. 698), the last to be created in NC, was formed in 1911 from parts of Mitchell, Caldwell, and Watauga Counties. It is named for Waightstill Avery, a colonel during the Revolution and first Attorney General of NC.

Boone & Blowing Rock, Watauga County, pop. 51,079, (county seat Boone, pop. 17,122) was formed in 1849 out of the southwest part of Ashe County and parts of Wilkes, Caldwell, and Yancey Counties. It was named for the Watauga River, an Indian name usually interpreted as “beautiful water.”

Sparta, Alleghany County, pop. 11,155, (county seat Sparta, pop. 1,817) was formed from eastern Ashe County in 1859, and was named for the Alleghany Mountains.

Wilkesboro, Wilkes County, pop. 69,340, (county seat Wilkesboro, pop. 3,044) was formed in 1777 from parts of Surry County NC and what was then Washington District (now Washington County, TN). It was named for English political radical John Wilkes, who supported the Colonies during the Revolution.

West Jefferson, Ashe County, pop. 27,281(county seat Jefferson, pop. 1,422) was originally considered a part of the “State of Franklin,” and became a part of NC in 1785 and an official county in 1799, named for Governor (1795-1798) Samuel Ashe.

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