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Ashe County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of 2000, the population was 24,384. Its county seat is Jefferson.
Downtown Jefferson, NC
Historical evidence shows that Ashe county was inhabited by Native Americans, which included the Cherokee, Creek, and Shawnee tribes. Pieces of broken pottery, arrowheads, and other Native American artifacts have been found, indicating their presence. Most of these artifacts have been found in the Old Fields area of Ashe County.
The earliest Europeans to explore Ashe County were Bishop Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg - head of the Moravian church in America - and his associates, Timothy Horsefield, Joseph Mueller, Henry Antes, Johan Merck, and Herman Loesch. Bishop Spangenberg wrote about his journey in Ashe in a diary that has been preserved by the Moravian church. He was given 100,000 acres in Virginia as a place for his fellow Moravians to settle. The only one of Spangenberg's group to return and permanently settle in Ashe County was Herman Loesch. Other early settlers were David Helton, William Walling, William McLain and Daniel Boone, the famous pioneer. With the exception of Boone, these men and their families all settled in Ashe in 1771.
During the Revolutionary War one skirmish was fought in Ashe County. It is called the "Battle of the Big Glades". The battle was fought in July 1780 between a force of Americans, led by Captain Robert Love, and a force of 150 British Loyalists on their way to Charlotte to join Lord Cornwallis, the British commander in the Southern colonies. The Americans won the skirmish.
In the 1780s, Ashe County was considered a part of the "State of Franklin". It consisted of three counties - Washington, Greene, and Sullivan. Ashe was considered to be a part of Washington County. The "State of Franklin" marked the beginnings of the State of Tennessee. Ashe County did not formally become a part of North Carolina until 1785. In 1799, Ashe was finally pronounced an official county of the United States and of North Carolina. Ashe County was named after Samuel Ashe, the Governor of North Carolina from 1795 to 1798. From 1807 to 1913, Ashe went through numerous boundary changes.
In 1849, the southwestern part of Ashe County was combined with parts of Caldwell County, Wilkes County, and Yancey County to form Watauga County. In 1859, the eastern part of the remainder of Ashe County became Alleghany County.
Ashe County has produced, or been visited by, several prominent people. Among them are Monte Weaver, a famous baseball player, who pitched for the Washington Senators and pitched a World Series game in 1933. After being traded from the Senators, he pitched for the Boston Red Sox, before being called into service in World War Two. Weaver died in 1994. Helen Keller came to Ashe County in 1944 to visit Marvin Osborne, a soldier who was left blind after being wounded in World War Two. Loretta Lynn sang at the Central Food Market in West Jefferson in the 1940s. (The Central Food building now houses a locally owned auto parts store.) In 1997, then-President Bill Clinton and his Vice-President, Al Gore, held a ceremony on the banks of the scenic New River to designate it as an American Heritage River. After the ceremony, both men had lunch at the historic Glendale Springs Inn, also located in Ashe County.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 427 square miles of which 426 square miles is land and 1 square mile is water. Ashe County is located in extreme northwestern North Carolina. The county is bordered by two states: Virginia on the north; and Tennessee to the west. The county is located entirely within the Appalachian Mountains region of North Carolina. Most of the county is located atop a rolling plateau that ranges from 2,500 feet to 3,000 feet above sea level. On the county's southeastern border the land drops abruptly nearly 2,000 feet to the Piedmont region of central North Carolina. Numerous mountains and hills dot the plateau; among the highest is Mount Jefferson, which rises to 4,665 feet, and towers more than 1,600 feet above the towns of Jefferson and West Jefferson.
The county's main river is the New River, which is one of the oldest rivers in the world, and one of the few major rivers in the United States to flow north instead of south, east, or west. There are 34 recorded creeks and streams that flow into the New River in Ashe County. The river itself has been designated an "American Heritage River" by President Bill Clinton, and it is famed for its beautiful rural scenery, clear water, fly fishing, and kayaking and canoeing.
Ashe County generally is known for its mountain scenery, and the tourism industry is an important mainstay of the county's economy. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the county's southeastern border. Ashe County has historically consisted of rural farmland, with numerous cattle and poultry farms. However, cattle farming in recent decades has given way to the more profitable industry of raising Christmas trees. Many cattle farmers have switched to growing Christmas trees, and in 1997 and 2007, an Ashe County Christmas tree was selected as the official White House Christmas Tree by the National Christmas Tree Association. The tree was put on display in the Blue Room (White House).
The County is divided into 22 townships:
- Chestnut Hill
- Grassy Creek
- Horse Creek
- Laurel Springs
- North Fork
- Old Fields
- Peak Creek
- Pine Swamp
- Piney Creek
- Pond Mountain
- Walnut Hill
- West Jefferson
As of the census of 2010, there were 27,281 people, 11,339 households, with an average 2.2 persons per household residing in the county. The population density was 63.89 per square mile. There were 15,795 housing units at an average density of 36.99 per square mile.
The racial makeup of the county was:
- 95.5% White
- 0.6% Black or African American
- 0.2% Native American
- 0.4% Asian
- 0.01% Pacific Islander
- 4.8% Hispanic or Latino origin
- 1.0% from two or more races
In the county the population was spread out with 5.6% under the age of 5, 19.7% under the age of 18, 19.7% who were 65 years of age or older.
The median income for a household in the county was $34,056. The per capita income for the county was $20,706. About 18.1% of the population were below the poverty line.