Avery County, North Carolina

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The Avery County Courthouse is located at 200 Montezuma Street, Newland, NC 28657; phone: 828-737-6700.

Beginnings [1]

In the early nineteenth century, nearly a hundred years before Avery County was created, settlers were drawn to the rolling mountains with their vast hardwood forests, abundant fresh water, and fertile valleys. These early settlers erected one and two room log houses. The hardwood forests provided more than enough timber for building, and by the late nineteenth century, as sawmills were established, log houses gave way to larger and more stylish wooden frame dwellings.

With the influx of families wishing to settle in the region, the introduction of small businesses and industry supported more permanent communities. In 1882, the railroad was extended from Elizabethton, Tennessee to the iron mine in Cranberry, seven miles northwest of the present town of Newland. The railroad opened even more opportunities and the area saw an increase in development in the 1880s. Lumber companies from the north were lured to the area by the vast stands of hardwood and the transportation system that facilitated the exportation of the timber. The timber companies acquired large areas of forest land and began building small company communities to support their operations. The growth of industry drew more commercial interest into the small towns and communities dispersed throughout the mountain valleys. Churches, small stores, hotels, and schools began to appear in ever increasing numbers. Those living in the area of then northernmost Mitchell County began to complain of the hazardous and arduous trip to the courthouse to attend to legal business. The roads were long, narrow, and most of all poorly constructed. The Mitchell County Courthouse was located as a permanent seat of justice in 1862 at Calhoun, near present day Kalmia, but following the Civil War was changed to Bakersville. The inhabitants of northeastern most Mitchell County again protested, claiming that they were not being represented equally in the state legislature. Thus, it was decided that a new county would be formed and named for Colonel Waightsill Avery of Morganton, hero of the American Revolution. The new county seat, when chosen, would carry the name of Lieutenant Governor W. C. Newland, who had aided in the passage of the bill to form Avery County.

On February 23, 1911, portions of Caldwell, Mitchell, and Watauga Counties were combined to create Avery County, the last of North Carolina's one hundred counties to be formed. With the creation of the new county came the need for a central meeting place for its governing body, and the settlement of Old Fields of Toe (present Newland) was chosen as the county seat.

  1. Helen Quillan Cain, Museum Consultant, Former Avery County Jail, Avery County, NC, nomination document, 1999, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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