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Mitchell County
Mitchell County Courthouse in Bakersville.
Mitchell County Courthouse in Bakersville.
Official seal of Mitchell County
Seal
Map of North Carolina highlighting Mitchell 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 1861
Named for Elisha Mitchell
Seat Bakersville
Largest town Spruce Pine
Area
 • Total 222 sq mi (570 km2)
 • Land 221 sq mi (570 km2)
 • Water 0.7 sq mi (2 km2)  0.3%%
Population
 • Estimate 
(2018)
15,000
 • Density 70/sq mi (30/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 11th

Mitchell County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 15,579. Its county seat is Bakersville, population 454 (2010), elevation 2470 ft.

The county is home to the "Mineral City of the World", Spruce Pine and Roan Mountain which includes the world's largest natural rhododendron garden, and the longest stretch of grassy bald in the Appalachian range. Throughout the year such festivals as North Carolina Mineral and Gem Festival and North Carolina Rhododendron Festival bring many people to the area. Mitchell County was one of the three entirely dry counties in North Carolina, along with Graham and Yancey, but in March, 2009, after much controversy, the Town of Spruce Pine approved beer, wine, and ABC store sales. However, alcohol sales are still illegal in the areas of the county outside the town of Spruce Pine, except areas within 1.5 air miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

History

The county was formed in 1861 from parts of Burke County, Caldwell County, McDowell County, Watauga County, and Yancey County. It was named for Elisha Mitchell, professor of mathematics, chemistry, geology, and mineralogy at the University of North Carolina from 1818 until his death in 1857. Dr. Mitchell was the first scientist to argue that a nearby peak in the Black Mountains was the highest point east of the Mississippi River. He measured the mountain's height and climbed and explored it. In 1857 he fell to his death on a waterfall on the side of the mountain. The mountain was subsequently named Mount Mitchell in his honor.

The county took a direct hit from "The Storm of the Century", also known as the "’93 Superstorm", or "The (Great) Blizzard of 1993". This storm event was similar in nature to a hurricane. The storm occurred between March 12–13, 1993, on the East Coast of North America. Parts of Cuba, Gulf Coast States, Eastern United States and Eastern Canada were greatly impacted.

The county suffered a tragic event on the evening of Friday, May 3, 2002 when a fire broke out at the Mitchell County jail in Bakersville, North Carolina. As a result of the fire eight men lost their lives.

Geography

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 222 square miles (570 km2), of which 221 square miles (570 km2) is land and 0.7 square miles (1.8 km2) (0.3%) is water. It is the fourth-smallest county in North Carolina by land area and second-smallest by total area. The northwest sections of county border the State of Tennessee. Sections of both the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail are located in the county. Parts of the Pisgah National Forest and Roan Mountain State Park are located in the northern sections of the county.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

Major highways

  • US 19E
  • NC 80
  • NC 197
  • NC 226
  • NC 226A
  • NC 261

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 4,705
1880 9,435 100.5%
1890 12,807 35.7%
1900 15,221 18.8%
1910 17,245 13.3%
1920 11,278 −34.6%
1930 13,962 23.8%
1940 15,980 14.5%
1950 15,143 −5.2%
1960 13,906 −8.2%
1970 13,447 −3.3%
1980 14,428 7.3%
1990 14,433 0.0%
2000 15,687 8.7%
2010 15,579 −0.7%
2020 14,903 −4.3%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2013

Ancestry

As of 2015, the largest self-reported ancestry groups in Mitchell County were:

Largest ancestries (2015) Percent
American 17.3%
English 14.7%
German 12.2%
Irish 11.9%
Scots-Irish 9.8%
Scottish 5.0%
French (except Basque) 2.3%
Italian 1.9%
Swedish 1.6%
Dutch 1.5%

2020 census

Mitchell County racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 13,514 90.68%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 50 0.34%
Native American 30 0.2%
Asian 52 0.35%
Pacific Islander 1 0.01%
Other/Mixed 555 3.72%
Hispanic or Latino 701 4.7%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 14,903 people, 6,344 households, and 4,031 families residing in the county.

Communities

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

Towns

Townships

  • Bakersville
  • Bradshaw
  • Cane Creek
  • Fork Mountain-Little Rock Creek
  • Grassy Creek
  • Harrell
  • Poplar
  • Red Hill
  • Snow Creek
  • Spruce Pine

Unincorporated communities


Education

Mitchell High School is a comprehensive four-year high school (9-12) centrally located in the community of Ledger when built in 1978. The high school has achieved many educational and athletic accomplishments throughout its history.

Spruce Pine is home to three schools: Greenlee Primary (K-2), Deyton Elementary (3–5) and Harris Middle (6–8). Bakersville is home to two schools: Gouge Primary (K-4) and Bowman Middle (5–8).

Mayland Community College also calls Mitchell County home. Founded by an act of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1971, Mayland hosts some 35 curriculum programs and provides vocational and technical training, along with college transfer opportunities to residents of the region. Mayland was recently ranked 4th best community college in the nation according to 2010 Washington Monthly College Guide.

Penland School of Crafts is a world-renowned educational facility located in the Penland Community. It is designed to educate students who will apply workable knowledge in creation of books, paper, clay, drawing, glass, iron, metals, photography, printmaking and letterpress, textiles, and wood. Furthermore, Penland School of Crafts was established in the early 1920s, it is the largest and oldest professional crafts school in the United States.

Athletic achievements

Mitchell High School is in the Western Highlands 1A conference, which is made up of 6 schools with 3 of the schools classified as 1A. They have the smallest enrollment of the schools in their conference. Three neighboring counties' schools (Avery, Yancey (Mountain Heritage), and McDowell) are some of the common rivals of the Mountaineers.

  • 1987–88 Football, 11–2 record, Final 8 in state
  • 1987–88 Wrestling, State Champions
  • 1996 Girls' Basketball, State Champions
  • 1999–2000 Boys' Basketball, 23–5 record, Final 4 in state
  • 2003 Girls' Basketball, State Champions
  • 2006–07 Wrestling, 45–3 record, Final 4 in state
  • 2010 Football, lost one game before advancing to the State Championships
  • 2011 Football, 2nd best championships record in school history
  • 2011 Men's Cross Country, finished 4th in 1A State Championship
  • 2012 Men's Cross Country, finished 5th in 1A State Championship
  • 2013 Men's Cross Country, finished 7th in 1A State Championship
  • 2015 Football, 14–2 Record, 1AA State Runners-Up
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