Macon County, North Carolina

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Macon County administrative offices are located at 5 West Main Street, Franklin, NC 28734; phone: 828-349-2000.

Beginnings [1]

Macon County lies in the Blue Ridge chain of the Southern Appalachians in southwestern North Carolina. The Cowee Mountains form its eastern border, the Nantahala Mountains mark the county's western line, and the Blue Ridge extends along its southeastern edge. Clay and Cherokee counties border to the west of Macon; Graham to the northwest; Swain to the north; Jackson to the east; and Rabun County, Georgia to the south.

When Macon County was formed from Haywood in the 1828-1829 session of the General Assembly, it embraced all of what is now Cherokee, Graham, Swain, and Clay Counties and portions of present Jackson County. State officials named the county for Nathaniel Macon,"an old time American patriot and gentleman" from Warren County who served as the speaker of the House of Representatives, a United States senator, and later the president of the Constitutional Convention of 1835. The county seat of Franklin lies nearly at the center of the county where the Little Tennessee and Cullasaja Rivers intersect. The only other incorporated town, Highlands, occupies a mountain plateau at 3,835 feet above sea level in the southeast corner of the county. The current population is approximately 30,055, with the majority of residents living in the numerous unincorporated communities scattered throughout the county.

Mountains lush with hemlocks and hardwoods surround the fertile valleys of Macon County, North Carolina. The tallest peaks stand over five thousand feet creating an impressive horizon from the river basins near the county's center. This diversity in landscape and topography resonates so clearly that it creates a similar divergence among the county's people and their ways of life. While there remain families who continue to use outhouses and live in isolated hollows, others count their home in Macon County only one of among the many vacation dwellings they own. Old men in overalls gather on Main Street in Franklin to talk about politics or the weather as tourists pass by on their way to downtown boutiques. The result is a place of immeasurable beauty where age-old traditions persist amid rapid growth and change which shows no signs of slowing.

At the same time that population growth improves the lives and livelihoods of many, this expansion challenges the preservation of a rural or small town way of life. The annual explosion of the seasonal population and the strain it creates for local water and sewage systems currently threatens the scenic Cullasaja River, a river which for decades congregations have used for their baptisms. While environmental groups like Save the Cullasaja fight to preserve the river, other changes threaten the landscape as well as traditional ways. U.S. 441/23, the major road leading to the county from Georgia recently underwent widening. This latest project comes at the end of a long line of expansions of the "Georgia Road" as it is known. Once a narrow route curving through the rolling hills from Franklin south to the Georgia state line, it has now become a major highway along which tremendous growth will undoubtedly occur over the next decade.

  1. Jennifer Marinn, Historic and Architectural Resources of Macon County, North Carolina, ca. AD 600-1945, nomination document, undated, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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