Canton, North Carolina
"Where the mountains kiss the sky"
Location of Canton, North Carolina
Coordinates: 35°32′5″N 82°50′15″W / 35.53472°N 82.83750°W / 35.53472; -82.83750Coordinates: 35°32′5″N 82°50′15″W / 35.53472°N 82.83750°W / 35.53472; -82.83750
CountryUnited States
StateNorth Carolina
 • Total3.72 sq mi (9.64 km2)
 • Land3.72 sq mi (9.64 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
2,615 ft (797 m)
 • Total4,227
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,168.23/sq mi (451.10/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)828
FIPS code37-10240[3]
GNIS feature ID1019518[4]

Canton is the second largest town in Haywood County, North Carolina, United States. It is located about 17 miles (27 km) west of Asheville and is part of that city's metropolitan area. The town is named after the city of Canton, Ohio. The population was 4,227 at the 2010 census.[5]


This area was long settled by succeeding indigenous cultures. What is known as the archeological Garden Creek site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is located on the south side of the Pigeon River about 7 miles west of Canton. It was inhabited since 8000 BCE by successive cultures of indigenous peoples. Villages were developed in the Middle Woodland (200-600 CE) and The Southeast Appalachian Mississippian culture ((1000 to 1450/1500 CE) periods. [6][7] The historic Cherokee people were the most recent Native Americans to occupy this area, which was part of their homelands in the western Carolinas, southeastern Tennessee, and northeastern Georgia.

The prehistoric peoples built a total of four earthwork mounds at the site. Three have been excavated, the last two platform mounds in the 1960s prior to residential development.[8]

European Americans did not begin to settle here until the late 1780s, following the American Revolutionary War, United States independence, and gaining cessions of land to the US by the Cherokee. By 1790 Jonathan McPeters was farming the banks of the Pigeon River at the site where Canton developed.[9] Around 1815 the first church was built in what was to become Canton; it was called the Locust Old Field Baptist Church. "Old Field: is a common term referring to areas cultivated or occupied by the Cherokee people, as this was known to be part of their traditional homelands.[10]

Canton was founded in 1889 as "Buford". Later that same year the name was changed to "Vinson". The name was changed to "Pigeon Ford" in 1891, and to "Canton" in 1893. The town was named for Canton, Ohio, the source of the steel for the bridge that was built across the Pigeon River.

Canton's river location enabled the development of industry that used water power.

Champion factory in 1937
Champion factory in 1937

Peter G. Thomson had built Champion Coated Paper Company of Hamilton, Ohio into one of largest manufacturers of paper in the United States.[11] He visited Western North Carolina in 1905 looking for a location for a pulp mill to supply his company. The area had large forests that would supply timber. Leaders of communities farther to the west tried to convince Thomson to choose their areas. While the timber supplies were greater to the west, Thomson wanted areas with more spruce and settled on Canton, which had the type trees Thomson wanted, enough land for a mill, and the Pigeon River to move logs to the mill. Thomson later realized the river did not have nough of a slope, so railroads were used to move logs instead. Construction on the mill began in 1906. Many of the workers also had farms that they had to return to, so iimmigrants were hired to do much of the work.[12]

Canton had 350 people when work began.[12] When the Champion Fibre Company mill opened in 1908,[11] it had about 1000 employees and resulted in other related jobs being created, including construction of neighborhoods such as Fibreville, with 60 homes for employees. Thomson had great respect for the workers, believing those who had wealth should provide jobs for those who needed them, and began an annual Labor Day celebration in 1906, which continued a hundred years later.[12]

When Champion owners decided to close the plant in 1997 because of environmental issues, the employees purchased the plant and formed Blue Ridge Paper Company.[13] Under an ESOP, the employees owned a 45% stake in the new company. It has since been sold. The plant is now owned by Evergreen Packaging. The Blue Ridge Southern Railroad serves the plant and has a small railyard next to it.

The Canton Main Street Historic District and Colonial Theater are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[14]


Canton is in east-central Haywood County, on both sides of the Pigeon River. U.S. Routes 19 and 23 pass through the center of town as Park Street and Main Street. The highways lead east 17 miles (27 km) to Asheville and west 7 miles (11 km) to Lake Junaluska. Interstate 40 passes through the northernmost part of Canton, with access from Exits 31 and 33. I-40 leads east to Asheville and northwest through the Pigeon River Gorge into Tennessee.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the town of Canton has a total area of 3.8 square miles (9.8 km2), all of it recorded as land.[5]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)4,347[2]2.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[15]

2020 census

Canton racial composition[16]
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 3,872 87.56%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 90 2.04%
Native American 25 0.57%
Asian 12 0.27%
Other/Mixed 168 3.8%
Hispanic or Latino 255 5.77%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 4,422 people, 1,775 households, and 1,072 families residing in the town.

2000 census

As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 4,029 people, 1,819 households, and 1,118 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,054.6 people per square mile (407.2/km2). There were 2,003 housing units at an average density of 524.3 per square mile (202.5/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 96.13% White, 1.59% African American, 0.57% Native American, 0.10% Asian, 0.94% from other races, and 0.67% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.41% of the population.

There were 1,819 households, out of which 22.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.7% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.5% were non-families. 35.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 20.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.17 and the average family size was 2.78.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 19.6% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 26.0% from 25 to 44, 24.1% from 45 to 64, and 23.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females, there were 85.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.7 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $28,775, and the median income for a family was $38,191. Males had a median income of $28,792 versus $22,143 for females. The per capita income for the town was $17,995. About 9.5% of families and 13.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.6% of those under age 18 and 5.9% of those age 65 or over.




  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  4. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  5. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Census Summary File 1 (G001): Canton town, North Carolina". American Factfinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
  6. ^ "The Woodland and Mississippian Periods in North Carolina: The South Appalachian Mississippian Tradition: Pisgah Phase (1000 - 1450 CE)". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  7. ^ Rodning, Christopher B.; Moore, David G. South Appalachian and Protohistoric Mortuary Practices in Southwestern North Carolina (PDF). pp. 89–90.
  8. ^ Sullivan, Lynne P; Susan C. Prezzano (2001). Archaeology of the Appalachian Highlands. University of Tennessee Press. pp. 241–242. ISBN 978-1-57233-142-6.
  9. ^ Blackmun, Ora (1977). Western North Carolina: Its Mountains and Its People to 1880. Boone, North Carolina: Appalachian Consortium Press. p. 161. OCLC 2646301.
  10. ^ (Blackmun 1977, p. 181)
  11. ^ a b Jones, Carroll C. (August 20, 2018). "Thomson's Pulp Mill: 'Turning the Past into a History'". The Mountaineer. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  12. ^ a b c Willis, Patrick (August 2, 2006). "The birth of a Haywood County institution: Negotiations for the Champion Fibre Mill and Peter G. Thomson's Labor Day Legacy". Smoky Mountain News. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  13. ^ "Olmsted: the successful venture". ((cite web)): Missing or empty |url= (help)
  14. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  15. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  16. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved 2021-12-19.