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Wilkesboro, North Carolina facts for kids

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Wilkesboro, North Carolina
Former Wilkes County Courthouse, now the Wilkes Heritage Museum
Former Wilkes County Courthouse, now the Wilkes Heritage Museum
Location of Wilkesboro, North Carolina
Location of Wilkesboro, North Carolina
County Wilkes
State North Carolina
Country United States
Named for John Wilkes
 • Total 5.5 sq mi (14.3 km2)
 • Land 5.5 sq mi (14.3 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
1,047 ft (319 m)
 • Total 3,413
 • Density 620.5/sq mi (238.7/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 336
FIPS code 37-74020
GNIS feature ID 0997336

Wilkesboro is a town in and the county seat of Wilkes County, North Carolina. The population was 3,413 at the 2010 census. The town is located along the south bank of the Yadkin River, directly opposite the town of North Wilkesboro. Wilkesboro is the home of the annual MerleFest festival.


Wilkesboro was founded in 1800 and quickly designated as the county seat. The town is built atop a low, broad ridge which runs for over a mile along the south bank of the Yadkin River. For many decades a popular historic spot in Wilkesboro was the "Tory Oak", a large oak tree from which Colonel Benjamin Cleveland, a well-known Wilkes County patriot during the American Revolutionary War, hung Loyalist militia leaders who supported the British King and opposed American independence from Britain. The oak was located behind the old Wilkes County courthouse. During the American Civil War many of Wilkesboro's residents remained loyal to the Union and opposed the Confederacy. In March 1865 General George Stoneman, a Union cavalry leader, led a raid through the town. Shortly after the war ended, Tom Dula (Dooley), a Confederate veteran, was tried and hanged for the murder of his fiancee, Laura Foster. Many people were convinced that one of Dula's jealous ex-girlfriends murdered Foster, and that Dula was innocent of the crime. Dula's story was turned into a top-selling ballad in 1958 by the Kingston Trio, the song was entitled "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley". The story was subsequently turned into a 1959 movie starring Michael Landon as Dula, and each summer the Wilkes Playmakers present a popular play based on the story.

The Robert Cleveland Log House, Downtown Wilkesboro Historic District, Federal Building, J. T. Ferguson Store, Thomas B. Finley Law Office, J. L. Hemphill House, Johnson-Hubbard House, Old Wilkes County Jail, St. Paul's Episcopal Church and Cemetery, Wilkes County Courthouse, Wilkesboro Presbyterian Church, and Wilkesboro-Smithey Hotel are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 200
1890 336 68.0%
1900 634 88.7%
1910 799 26.0%
1920 814 1.9%
1930 1,042 28.0%
1940 1,309 25.6%
1950 1,370 4.7%
1960 1,568 14.5%
1970 2,038 30.0%
1980 2,335 14.6%
1990 2,573 10.2%
2000 3,159 22.8%
2010 3,413 8.0%
Est. 2015 3,531 3.5%
U.S. Decennial Census


Politics and religion

Like most of Wilkes County, Wilkesboro has long been a bastion of the Republican Party. Wilkesboro's largest religious group are the Southern Baptists, but the town does contain substantial numbers of Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Episcopalians. The first two churches to be established in Wilkes County were built in Wilkesboro; they were missionary churches for the Episcopal and Presbyterian denominations. The town also contains Wilkes County's only Roman Catholic church.

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