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Rowan County, North Carolina facts for kids

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Rowan County
Rowan County courthouse
Rowan County courthouse
Official seal of Rowan County
Map of North Carolina highlighting Rowan 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 1753
Named for Matthew Rowan
Seat Salisbury
Largest city Salisbury
 • Total 524 sq mi (1,360 km2)
 • Land 511 sq mi (1,320 km2)
 • Water 12 sq mi (30 km2)  2.4%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density 278.86/sq mi (107.67/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 13th

Rowan County is a county in the U.S. state of North Carolina that was formed in 1753, as part of the British Province of North Carolina. It was originally a vast territory with unlimited western boundaries, but its size was reduced to 524 sq mi after several counties were formed from Rowan County in the 18th and 19th centuries, as population increased in the region. As of the 2010 census, its population was 138,428. Its county seat, Salisbury, is the oldest continuously populated European-American town in Western North Carolina.

Rowan County is located northeast of Charlotte, and is considered part of the Charlotte metropolitan area. Its population has increased as Charlotte has generated more industries and jobs.


The first Europeans to enter what is now Rowan County came with the Spanish expedition of Juan Pardo in 1567. They established a fort and a mission in the native village of Guatari, believed to be located near the Yadkin River and inhabited by the Wateree. At the time, the area was ruled by a female chief the Spaniards called Guatari Mico. The Spaniards called the village Salamanca in honor of the city of Salamanca in western Spain, and established a mission, headed by a secular priest named Sebastián Montero. The Spaniards abandoned the area at some point before 1572.

The county was formed in 1753 from the northern part of Anson County. It was named for Matthew Rowan, acting governor of North Carolina from 1753 to 1754. It was intended to incorporate all of the lands of the Granville District that had heretofore been included in Anson County.

Originally, Rowan County was a vast territory with an indefinite western boundary. Reductions in its extent began in 1770, when the eastern part of it was combined with the western part of Orange County to become Guilford County, North Carolina. In 1771 the northeastern part of what remained of Rowan County became Surry County. In 1777 the western part of Rowan County became Burke County. In 1788 the western part of the now much smaller Rowan County became Iredell County. In 1822 the eastern part of the still shrinking county became Davidson County. Finally, in 1836 the part of Rowan County north of the South Yadkin River became Davie County.

The "250 Fest" celebrating the 250th anniversary of Rowan County occurred in 2003.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 524 square miles (1,360 km2), of which 511 square miles (1,320 km2) is land and 12 square miles (31 km2) (2.4%) is water.

The county's eastern border is formed by the Yadkin River. North of Ellis Crossroads, the South Yadkin River meets the Yadkin. The South Yadkin forms the county's northern border, with Davie County.

The southern border is an east-west line that bisects the city of Kannapolis.

Adjacent counties

Major highways

  • I-85
  • US 29
  • US 52
  • US 70
  • US 601
  • NC 8
  • NC 49
  • NC 150
  • NC 152
  • NC 153
  • NC 801

Interstate 85 passes through the county from southwest to northeast. In the early 2000s, I-85 underwent an extensive widening in the central and northern part of the county, from exit 68, US 29 Connector north almost to the Davidson county line. A new bridge over the Yadkin River is planned.

U.S. Route 70 enters the northwestern part of Rowan county, west of Cleveland. It runs southeast into Salisbury, where it follows Jake Alexander Boulevard to the southeast and then joins US 29 North as Main Street. US 70 continues northeast as Main Street and then Salisbury Avenue in Spencer before crossing into Davidson County.

U.S. Route 29 forms Main Street in Kannapolis, China Grove, and Landis in the southern part of the county. It joins US 70 as Main Street through Salisbury, and as Salisbury Avenue in Spencer.

U.S. Route 52 is the main artery for the southeastern part of the county, serving the towns of Gold Hill, Rockwell and Granite Quarry. Just before reaching downtown Salisbury, US-52 joins Interstate 85, which it follows into Davidson county.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 15,972
1800 20,060 25.6%
1810 21,543 7.4%
1820 26,009 20.7%
1830 20,786 −20.1%
1840 12,109 −41.7%
1850 13,870 14.5%
1860 14,589 5.2%
1870 16,810 15.2%
1880 19,965 18.8%
1890 24,123 20.8%
1900 31,066 28.8%
1910 37,521 20.8%
1920 44,062 17.4%
1930 56,665 28.6%
1940 69,206 22.1%
1950 75,410 9.0%
1960 82,817 9.8%
1970 90,035 8.7%
1980 99,186 10.2%
1990 110,605 11.5%
2000 130,340 17.8%
2010 138,446 6.2%
2020 146,875 6.1%

2020 census

Rowan County racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 100,135 68.18%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 22,730 15.48%
Native American 444 0.3%
Asian 1,505 1.02%
Pacific Islander 71 0.05%
Other/Mixed 6,050 4.12%
Hispanic or Latino 15,940 10.85%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 146,875 people, 55,241 households, and 37,900 families residing in the county.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 138,428 people, 53,140 households, and 37,058 families residing in the county. The population density was 270.7 people per square mile (98/km2). There were 60,211 housing units at an average density of 117.7 per square mile (41/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 76.52% White, 16.18% Black or African American, 0.34% Native American, 1.00% Asian, 0.035% Pacific Islander, 4.33% from other races, and 1.60% from two or more races. 7.69% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Of the 53,140 households, 29.30% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.20% were married couples living together, 8.49% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.41% had a male householder with no wife and 30.26% were non-families. 25.22% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.15% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.00.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 23.80% under the age of 18, 9.00% from 18 to 24, 25.40% from 25 to 44, 27.40% from 45 to 64, and 14.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39.1 years. For every 100 females, there were 97.57 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.28 males.

According to the 2000 Census, The median income for a household in the county was $37,494, and the median income for a family was $44,242. Males had a median income of $31,626 versus $23,437 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,071. About 8.10% of families and 10.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.70% of those under age 18 and 11.40% of those age 65 or over.


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



Census-designated place

Unincorporated communities


  • Atwell
  • China Grove
  • Cleveland
  • Franklin
  • Gold Hill
  • Litaker
  • Locke
  • Morgan
  • Mount Ulla
  • Providence
  • Salisbury
  • Scotch Irish
  • Steele
  • Unity



  • Catawba College, founded in 1851
  • Livingstone College, founded in 1879
  • Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. (Otherwise known as RCCC), founded in 1963
  • Hood Theological Seminary, founded in 1885, became independent in 2001
  • Campbell University, teaching hospital at Novant Health, Rowan Medical Center, started in 2014

Rowan–Salisbury School System

The Rowan–Salisbury School System is a PK-12 graded school district covering nearly all of Rowan County. The 35 schools in the district serve 20,887 students as of 2009–2010. It was formed in 1989 with the merger of Rowan County Schools and Salisbury City Schools.

Kannapolis City Schools

Students living in the portion of Kannapolis located in Rowan County (the city is mostly in Cabarrus County) attend Kannapolis city schools. Their public school system operates independently of the countywide school systems.

Private schools

  • North Hills Christian School - (pre-school through high school)
  • Rockwell Christian School (pre-school through high school)
  • Sacred Heart Catholic School - (elementary through middle school)
  • Salisbury Academy - (pre-kindergarten through middle school)
  • Salisbury Adventist School


  • Rowan Public Library
    • Headquarters (Salisbury)
    • East Branch (Rockwell)
    • Frank T. Tadlock South Rowan Regional Library (China Grove)
    • West Branch (Cleveland)

Notable people

County-wide notables include the following:

  • Tommy Barnhardt (1963– ), NFL player, played at UNC
  • William Lee Davidson (1746–1781), Revolutionary War Colonel
  • Joseph Dickson (1745–1825), Revolutionary War Colonel and Congressman
  • Governor of North Carolina John W. Ellis (1820–1861), born in what was then eastern Rowan County and practiced law in Salisbury.
  • Jackie Fargo (1930–2013), professional wrestler
  • Former North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture James Allen Graham was born and raised in Cleveland.
  • Phil Kirk, former chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Education, is a Rowan native.
  • Francis Locke (1722–1796), plantation owner in Rowan, noted for his victory at the Battle of Ramseur's Mill during the American Revolutionary War
  • Congressman Francis Locke, Jr. (1766–1823), born in Rowan County
  • Matthew Locke (1730–1801), Congressman and Brigadier General in the American Revolution
  • W. Eugene McCombs (1925–2004), North Carolina assemblyman and Rowan County Commissioner
  • U.S. Senator Lee Slater Overman (1854–1930)
  • Joseph Pearson (1776–1834), Congressman
  • Griffith Rutherford (1721–1805), military officer and Revolutionary War general, commander of the Salisbury District Brigade

For a full list of notables from Rowan County and places within the county, see Category:People from Rowan County, North Carolina.

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