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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
Official seal of Wilkesboro, North Carolina
Where the Mountains Begin
Location of Wilkesboro, North Carolina
Location of Wilkesboro, North Carolina
County Wilkes
State North Carolina
Country United States
Named for John Wilkes
 • Type municipal
 • Total 6.32 sq mi (16.36 km2)
 • Land 6.32 sq mi (16.36 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
1,047 ft (319 m)
 • Total 3,687
 • Density 546.71/sq mi (211.10/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, North Carolina seal
Town Seal for Town of Wilkesboro

Wilkesboro is a town in and the county seat of Wilkes County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 3,687 at the 2020 census. The town is located along the south bank of the Yadkin River, directly opposite the town of North Wilkesboro. Wilkesboro is a Small Town Main Street community and has recently revitalized its historic downtown to include the Carolina West Wireless Community Commons, Wilkes Communications Pavilion, Heritage Square and Splash Pad. Cub Creek Park is adjacent to the downtown and contains many amenities, which include baseball, walking trails, mountain biking trails, trout fishing, dog park, basketball, tennis, and pickleball courts, picnic shelters, etc. Wilkesboro is also the home of the annual MerleFest, Carolina in the Fall, and Brushy Mountain Peach & Heritage festivals.


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.


2020 census

Wilkesboro racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 2,725 73.91%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 327 8.87%
Native American 6 0.16%
Asian 122 3.31%
Other/Mixed 165 4.48%
Hispanic or Latino 342 9.28%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 3,687 people, 1,386 households, and 808 families residing in the town.

2010 census

As of the 2010 census, there were 3,413 people living in Wilkesboro. The population density was 622.5 people per square mile (14.2/km2). The racial makeup of Wilkesboro was 81.5% White, 8.9% African American, 3.0% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 4.0% from other races, and 2.3% from two or more races.

The population of Wilkesboro was spread out, with 21.7% being under the age of 20, 6.1% from 20-24, 21.9% from 25-44, 25.6% from 45-64, and 24.5% being 65 and over. The median age was 45.2 years old, more specifically 40.8 for males and 49.5 for females.

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%
2019 (est.) 3,453 1.2%
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.


Wilkesboro's largest industry is the Tyson Foods poultry processing plant; it is one of the largest poultry plants east of the Mississippi River.

Local communication companies, Wilkes Communications and Carolina West Wireless are based in Wilkesboro.

Lowe's has a call center and satellite corporate office in Wilkesboro. The company employs approximately 2,000 people at its campus in Wilkesboro.


Wilkesboro is served by the Wilkes County Schools system. Most of Wilkesboro's high school students attend Wilkes Central High School; it is located in the adjacent community of Moravian Falls. Wilkes Early College, based at Wilkes Community College, and one charter school, Bridges Charter School in State Road, North Carolina, offer other high-school options to Wilkesboro's students. Middle school students in Wilkesboro attend Central Wilkes Middle School, located in Moravian Falls, while the elementary schools that serve the town are Wilkesboro Elementary, Moravian Falls Elementary, and CC Wright Elementary.

Wilkesboro is the home of Wilkes Community College, a public, coed, two-year college within the North Carolina Community College System. The college's enrollment is typically around 3,500 students.


Public transportation

WTA, Wilkes Transportation Authority, is a local shuttle service based in Wilkesboro that utilizes vans and buses to serve Wilkes County. Fares range from $2-$24, but are typically around $4. There is scheduled shuttle service that runs every hour roughly and unscheduled service that allows for riders to request a van pick up in any part of the county.

Intercity Bus

Daily bus service is available on Greyhound. Sunway buses are advertised as Greyhound Express buses and the bus stop is in front of the Former Federal Building located at 207 West Main Street, Wilkesboro. Bus service goes to Boone, NC and Greensboro, NC, known as the Mountaineer East/West line with prices as low as $4. Passengers can connect to Greyhound services throughout the East Coast via the J. Douglas Galyon Depot where the line ends.

Major Highways

  • US 421 (BUS)
  • NC 16
  • NC 18
  • NC 268

Notable people

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