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Yancey County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of 2010, the population is 17,818. Its county seat is Burnsville. Yancey County is one of the five dry counties in North Carolina, along with Clay, Graham, Mitchell, and Madison.

Downtown Burnsville in Yancey County of Western North Carolina
Downtown Burnsville, NC


Independent and sturdy Scottish, English, and Irish settlers of the Carolina frontier had crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains and settled the Toe River Valley by the mid-1700's. In the year 1796, one of the early land speculators, John Gray Blount, paid for 326,640 acres of land, a portion of which later became Yancey County, N.C.

In December, 1833, the General Assembly established a new western county, named Yancey, from sections of Burke and Buncombe Counties. Yancey County was named in honor of one of North Carolina's most distinguished statesmen, Bartlett Yancey, of Caswell County. As a U.S. Congressman (1813 to 17) and as speaker of the N.C. Senate (1817 to 27), he was instrumental in many accomplishments that benefited the state, including the creation of an education fund that was the beginning of the N.C. Public School System. He was an advocate of correcting the inequality in representation in the General Assembly by the creation of new western counties; but he died on August 30, 1828, over five years before the General Assembly created a new county named in his honor. In Yancey's boundaries looms Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the Eastern U.S., at 6,684 feet above sea level.

On March 6, 1834, "Yellow Jacket" John Bailey conveyed 100 acres of land for the county seat. The town was named Burnsville in honor of Captain Otway Burns, who voted for the creation of the new western county when he was serving in the General Assembly. The grateful people named their county seat for Captain Burns, a naval hero in the War of 1812. A statue of Captain Burns stands on a 40 ton, Mount Airy granite pedestal in the center of the town's public square, which was given the official name of "Bailey Square" by the Yancey County Board of Commissioners on September 1, 1930. The statue of Captain Burns was given to the county on July 5, 1909, by Walter Francis Burns, a grandson of the sea captain. The inscription reads:

Otway Burns - Born in Onslow County, North Carolina, 1777 - Died at Portsmouth, North Carolina, 1850. Sailor - Soldier - Statesman. North Carolina's Foremost Son in the War of 1812-1815 - For Him, This Town Is Named - He Guarded Well Our Seas, Let Our Mountains Honor Him.

Law and government

Yancey County is a member of the regional High Country Council of Governments.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 313 square miles, of which, 312 square miles of it is land and 1 square miles of it is water. The highest natural point in Yancey County and North Carolina is Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet, within Mount Mitchell State Park


The county is divided into eleven townships: Brush Creek, Burnsville, Cane River, Crabtree, Egypt, Green Mountain, Jacks Creek, Pensacola, Price's Creek, Ramseytown, and South Toe.

Cities & Towns

  • Burnsville

Township Locations of Yancey County of Western North Carolina


As of the census of 2010, there were 17,818 people, 7,412 households residing in the county out of which 5.4% had children under the age of 5, 20.2% had children under the age of 18 and 19.9% were over the age of 65. The average persons per household was 2.47. The population density was 57 per square mile. There were 10,694 housing units at an average density of 34 per square mile.

  • White persons - 95.2%
  • Black persons - 0.8%
  • American Indian and Alaska Native persons - 0.4%
  • Asian persons - 0.2%
  • Persons reporting two or more races - 0.9%
  • Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin - 4.6%

The median income for a household in the county was $34,148. The per capita income for the county was $17,939. About 17.8% of the population were below the poverty line.

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