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Johnston County, North Carolina facts for kids

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Johnston County
County of Johnston
Johnston County Courthouse
Johnston County Courthouse
Official seal of Johnston County
Map of North Carolina highlighting Johnston 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.
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Country  United States
State  North Carolina
Founded June 28, 1746
Named for Gabriel Johnston
Seat Smithfield
Largest town Clayton
 • Total 796 sq mi (2,060 km2)
 • Land 791 sq mi (2,050 km2)
 • Water 4.2 sq mi (11 km2)  0.5%%
 • Total 215,999
 • Density 229.4/sq mi (88.6/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Codes
27501, 27504, 27520, 27524, 27527, 27529, 27542, 27555, 27557, 27568, 27569, 27576, 27577, 27591, 27592, 27597, 27603, 28334, 28366
Area code 919, 984
Congressional district 7th

Johnston County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 168,878. Its county seat is Smithfield.

Johnston County is included in the Raleigh, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC Combined Statistical Area, which has a population of 1,998,808 as of U.S. Census 2012 Population Estimates.


The county was formed in 1746 from Craven County. It was named for Gabriel Johnston, Governor of North Carolina from 1734 to 1752. In 1752 parts of Johnston County, Bladen County, and Granville County were combined to form Orange County. In 1758 the eastern part of Johnston County became Dobbs County. In 1770 parts of Johnston County, Cumberland County, and Orange County were combined to form Wake County. Finally, in 1855 parts of Johnston County, Edgecombe County, Nash County, and Wayne County were combined to form Wilson County.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 796 square miles (2,060 km2), of which 791 square miles (2,050 km2) is land and 4.2 square miles (11 km2) (0.5%) is water.

Adjacent counties

Major highways

  • I-40.svg Interstate 40
  • I-95.svg Interstate 95
  • US 70.svg U.S. Highway 70
  • US 264.svg U.S. Highway 264
  • US 301.svg U.S. Highway 301
  • US 701.svg U.S. Highway 701
  • NC 27
  • NC 39
  • NC 42
  • NC 50
  • NC 55
  • NC 96
  • NC 210
  • NC 231
  • NC 222
  • NC 242


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 5,691
1800 6,301 10.7%
1810 6,867 9.0%
1820 9,607 39.9%
1830 10,938 13.9%
1840 10,599 −3.1%
1850 13,726 29.5%
1860 15,656 14.1%
1870 16,897 7.9%
1880 23,461 38.8%
1890 27,239 16.1%
1900 32,250 18.4%
1910 41,401 28.4%
1920 48,998 18.3%
1930 57,621 17.6%
1940 63,798 10.7%
1950 65,906 3.3%
1960 62,936 −4.5%
1970 61,737 −1.9%
1980 70,599 14.4%
1990 81,306 15.2%
2000 121,965 50.0%
2010 168,878 38.5%
2020 215,999 27.9%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2013

As of the census of 2000, there were 121,965 people, 46,595 households, and 33,688 families residing in the county. The population density was 154 people per square mile (59/km2). There were 50,196 housing units at an average density of 63 per square mile (24/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 78.09% White, 15.65% Black or African American, 0.41% Native American, 0.30% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 4.53% from other races, and 0.99% from two or more races. 7.74% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 46,595 households, out of which 35.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.80% were married couples living together, 10.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.70% were non-families. 23.10% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.58 and the average family size was 3.02.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 26.10% under the age of 18, 8.10% from 18 to 24, 34.20% from 25 to 44, 21.70% from 45 to 64, and 9.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 98.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.30 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $40,872, and the median income for a family was $48,599. Males had a median income of $33,008 versus $25,582 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,788. About 8.90% of families and 12.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.00% of those under age 18 and 19.40% of those age 65 or over.


Visitor attractions in Johnston County include several heritage museums and historic sites. The Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site is located in eastern Johnston County, and it is the largest Civil War Battlefield in North Carolina. The Battle of Bentonville was fought March 19–21, 1865, and was the only Confederate offensive targeted to stop General Sherman's march through the south.

The Tobacco Farm Life Museum in Kenly has been collecting artifacts and showcasing the heritage of the Eastern North Carolina farmer for over 25 years. The site includes a museum and restored farmstead, working blacksmith shop, one-room school house and the site hosts several events each year.

The Ava Gardner Museum located in Smithfield is home to an incredible collection of artifacts such as scripts, movie posters, costumes and personal belongings of screen legend, Ava Gardner, who was born and raised in Johnston County.

The Johnston County Heritage Center is in Downtown Smithfield, and houses artifacts from all over the county. The Heritage Center has become known as one of the best equipped facilities in the country for studying local history and genealogy.

The Johnston County Arts Council promotes arts in the county and its schools. Smithfield is home to an annual Ava Gardner Film Festival (AGFF), which celebrates the life of the actress. In 2008 the festival screened over 40 films in four theaters, including world, regional and state premiers. Rapper Petey Pablo mentions Johnston County in his hit song Raise Up.

The Meadow community is home to Meadow Lights, an annual display of Christmas lights.


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



  • Banner
  • Bentonville
  • Beulah
  • Boon Hill
  • Brogden
  • Clayton
  • Cleveland
  • Elevation
  • Ingrams
  • Meadow
  • Micro
  • O'Neals
  • Pine Level
  • Pleasant Grove
  • Selma
  • Smithfield
  • Wilders
  • Wilson Mills

Unincorporated communities


Higher education

Johnston County is home to Johnston Community College (JCC), a public, two-year, post-secondary college located in Smithfield, North Carolina. The college has off-campus centers throughout Johnston County.

Primary and secondary education

Public education in Johnston County is served by the Johnston County School District, which has 46 schools and serves more than 35,400 students. In addition, one charter schools and five private schools are located in the county. In 2021, the county school board banned the teaching of critical race theory.


The Johnston County Public Affiliated Library system operates six branches throughout the county. The library system keeps books, periodicals and audio books and has recently expanded the selection to include downloadable e-books. The Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library in Clayton left the Johnston County affiliated library system in 2015.

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