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Ashe County, North Carolina facts for kids

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Ashe County
Ashe County Courthouse in Jefferson
Ashe County Courthouse in Jefferson
Official seal of Ashe County
Map of North Carolina highlighting Ashe County
Location within the U.S. state of North Carolina
Map of the United States highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  North Carolina
Founded 1799
Named for Samuel Ashe
Seat Jefferson
Largest town Jefferson
 • Total 429 sq mi (1,110 km2)
 • Land 426 sq mi (1,100 km2)
 • Water 3.1 sq mi (8 km2)  0.7%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density 64/sq mi (25/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 5th

Ashe County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 27,281. Its county seat is Jefferson.

History of Ashe

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 (400 km2) 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 late 1799 composed of 977 square miles, Ashe was finally pronounced an official county of the United States and of North Carolina. Many family surnames noted in the 1800 Ashe County Census, Blevins, Hart, Bare, Barker, Stamper, Miller, Burkett, Gambill, Baldwin, and Ballou as a sample, are still present today. Ashe County was named in honor of Samuel Ashe, a Revolutionary patriot, a superior court judge, and the Governor of North Carolina from 1795 to 1798.

From 1807 to 1913, the county went through numerous boundary changes. In 1849, to form Watauga County, the southwestern part of Ashe County was combined with parts of Caldwell County, Wilkes County, and Yancey County. Ten years later in 1859, the eastern part of the remainder of Ashe County became Alleghany County.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 429 square miles (1,110 km2), of which 426 square miles (1,100 km2) is land and 3.1 square miles (8.0 km2) (0.7%) 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 (760 m) to 3,000 feet (910 m) above sea level. On the county's southeastern border the land drops to about 2,300 feet (700 m) toward the Foothills region of North Carolina in neighboring Wilkes County, North Carolina. Numerous mountains and hills dot the plateau. The highest being The Peak at 5,195 feet. In total five mountains tower 5,000 feet plus. Among the highest peak is Mount Jefferson, which is a State Natural Area and rises to 4,665 feet (1,422 m), and towers more than 1,600 feet (490 m) 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 southeastern United States to flow primarily north instead of south, east, or west. There are 34 recorded creeks and streams that flow into the New River in Ashe County. In 1998 the river was 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 industry of raising Christmas trees. Many cattle farmers have switched to growing Christmas trees, and in 1997, 2007, 2008, and 2012, 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). As of 2014 Ashe County grows more Christmas Trees than any other County in the Eastern United States.


Ashe County, North Carolina has a considerably different climate than most of the Southeastern United States. Summers typically average around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures rarely exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but temperatures such as they did in 2012 can reach the mid-90s. 100+ has never been observed. Summer nights are cool, and temperatures often dip to near 60 Fahrenheit even in July. In winter there is snow, averaging about 30 inches for the towns of Jefferson & West Jefferson during the past 30 years. Considerably more snow falls on the peaks and the western slopes of the Appalachian Mountains. During the 2009–2010 snow season Jefferson received some 60+ inches of snow. For the past three seasons (2013–2014 & 2014–2015 & 2015-2016) West Jefferson has averaged 24.7 inches of snow (as reported by a CoCoRaHS Observer 1 mile ESE of West Jefferson). Snow has been observed as early as around October 1 and as late as around May 1. Ashe County is also a very windy location especially in winter when several times per year the Jefferson Airport sees the wind gusting 60 to 85 MPH. In addition it does get very cold in Ashe County. In 2015 the temperature dipped below zero Fahrenheit on four occasions, the coldest being negative eight Fahrenheit. The average winter high is in the 40s with an average low near 20 Fahrenheit. Often feeling more like the northeastern United States when wind chill factors are also observed.

National protected areas

Major highways

  • US 221 (BUS)
  • NC 16
  • NC 88
  • NC 163
  • NC 194

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
1800 2,783
1810 3,694 32.7%
1820 4,335 17.4%
1830 6,987 61.2%
1840 7,467 6.9%
1850 8,777 17.5%
1860 7,956 −9.4%
1870 9,573 20.3%
1880 14,437 50.8%
1890 15,628 8.2%
1900 19,581 25.3%
1910 19,074 −2.6%
1920 21,001 10.1%
1930 21,019 0.1%
1940 22,664 7.8%
1950 21,878 −3.5%
1960 19,768 −9.6%
1970 19,571 −1.0%
1980 22,325 14.1%
1990 22,209 −0.5%
2000 24,384 9.8%
2010 27,281 11.9%
2020 26,577 −2.6%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2014

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 27,281 people, 11,755 households, and 8,030 families residing in the county. The population density was 60 people per square mile (23/km2). There were 17,342 total housing units at an average density of 37 per square mile (12/km2). Of the total 11,755 housing units were occupied.

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
  • 2.2% from other races
  • 1.0% from two or more races.

4.8% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 11,755 households, out of which 23.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.5% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.7% were non-families. 27.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.75.

In the county, the age distribution of the population shows 10.5% under 10, 10.9% from 10 to 19, 9.9% from 20 to 29, 11.6% from 30 to 39, 13.8% from 40 to 49, 15.2% from 50 to 59, 14% from 60 to 69, 8.7% from 70 to 79, and 5.1% who were 80 years of age or older. The median age was 45.5 years. For every 100 females, there were 97.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.39 males.

The per capita income was $20,706 and the median household income was $34,056. 18.1% of the population was below the poverty level.

2020 census

Ashe County racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 24,028 90.41%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 125 0.47%
Native American 48 0.18%
Asian 102 0.38%
Pacific Islander 12 0.05%
Other/Mixed 743 2.8%
Hispanic or Latino 1,519 5.72%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 26,577 people, 11,938 households, and 7,894 families residing in the county.


Map of Ashe County North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels
Map of Ashe County, North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels



  • Chestnut Hill
  • Clifton
  • Creston
  • Elk
  • Grassy Creek
  • Helton
  • Horse Creek
  • Hurricane
  • Jefferson
  • Laurel
  • North Fork
  • Obids
  • Old Fields
  • Peak Creek
  • Pine Swamp
  • Piney Creek
  • Pond Mountain
  • Walnut Hill
  • West Jefferson

Unincorporated communities

Population ranking

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of Ashe County.

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2010 Census)
1 Jefferson Town 1,611
2 West Jefferson Town 1,299
3 Lansing Town 158

Notable people

Ashe County has been home to, produced, or been visited by, several prominent people. It is the hometown of Monte Weaver from Helton 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 II. Weaver died in 1994. Albert Hash a well-known and beloved fiddler and instrument maker at one time resided in Lansing. Helen Keller visited an Ashe County native, Marvin Osborne, in 1944 when he was wounded in France in World War II. Loretta Lynn sang at the Central Food Market in West Jefferson in the late 1960s (the Central Food building formally housed a locally owned auto parts store and is now the location of a local restaurant). Roni Stoneman was a visitor to Ashe Park in the 1980s. In 1998, 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. Fiddle player G. B. Grayson was born in Ashe County in 1887. Daniel Boone spent some time in the eastern part of Ashe County which is now Obids.

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