Gaston County
Gaston County Courthouse
Flag of Gaston County
Official seal of Gaston County
Official logo of Gaston County
"Local Strengths. Global Success."
Map of North Carolina highlighting Gaston 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.
Coordinates: 35°17′N 81°11′W / 35.29°N 81.18°W / 35.29; -81.18
Country United States
State North Carolina
Named forWilliam Gaston
Largest communityGastonia
 • Total363.68 sq mi (941.9 km2)
 • Land355.75 sq mi (921.4 km2)
 • Water7.93 sq mi (20.5 km2)  2.18%
 • Total227,943
 • Estimate 
 • Density640.74/sq mi (247.39/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional districts10th, 14th

Gaston County is a county in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2020 census, the population was 227,943.[1] The county seat is Gastonia.[2] Dallas served as the original county seat from 1846 until 1911.

Gaston County is included in the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had an estimated population of 2,805,115 in 2023.[3] The county is located in the southern Piedmont region.

Of North Carolina's 100 counties, Gaston County ranks 74th in size, consisting of approximately 364 square miles (940 km2), and is tenth in population.[4] The county has fifteen incorporated towns.[5] In addition to fifteen incorporated towns and cities, there are several unincorporated communities such as Hardin, Lucia, Crowders Mountain, Sunnyside, Alexis, Tryon, and North Belmont.[6]


The earliest European settlers of Gaston County were principally Scots Irish, Pennsylvania Dutch, and English. In the 1750s, Dutch settler James Kuykendall with Robert Leeper, and others constructed a Fort at the Point at the junction of the Catawba and South Fork Rivers.[7][8] The fort was built because of ongoing hostilities with the Cherokee, but it was apparently never attacked. Tensions between the settlers and the Native American inhabitants (primarily of the Catawba tribe) were eased considerably when the boundary dispute between North Carolina and South Carolina was settled in 1772, after which most of the Catawba settled on a reservation near Fort Mill, South Carolina.[9]

Most early farms in the area were small, cultivated primarily by white yeoman farmers of English ancestry. North Carolina's colonial policy restricted the size of land grants, and in Gaston County they tended to be about 400 acres (1.6 km2) each. One of the earliest grants in the area was given to Captain Samuel Cobrin, commander of a local militia company, on September 29, 1750.[10]

Gaston County was founded in 1846, partitioned from Lincoln County.[11] It is named for William Gaston, a U.S. Representative from North Carolina and member of the state supreme court.[12]

Between 1845 and 1848, Gaston County experienced an industrial boom. During this three-year period, the first three cotton mills in the county were established. Some sources claim that the first one was established by Thomas R. Tate on Mountain Island, near the present site of Duke Energy's Mountain Island Dam and Hydroelectric Station. Other sources say that the first mill was established by the Linebergers and others on the South Fork River near McAdenville. Most sources agree that among the first three mills in operation in the county was the Stowesville Mill, founded by Jasper Stowe and associates in the South Point Community south of Belmont. Gaston County still leads all other counties in the country both in the number of spindles in operation and in the number of bales of cotton consumed.[9]

The county seat moved from Dallas to Gastonia in 1911.[11]


Interactive map of Gaston County

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 363.68 square miles (941.9 km2), of which 355.75 square miles (921.4 km2) is land and 7.93 square miles (20.5 km2) (2.18%) is water.[13] It belongs to the southern Piedmont physiographic province.[14]

Most of Gaston County is in the drainage basin of the Catawba River, except for small areas along the western edge of the county which are in the basin of the Broad River. Both the Catawba and Broad Rivers are in the greater Santee River basin. The Catawba forms the eastern border of the county and much of the central part of the county is in the drainage basin of its right tributary, the South Fork Catawba River.[15] The county is located in the Piedmont region of central North Carolina, which consists of gently rolling terrain frequently broken by hills, river and creek valleys, and low, isolated mountain ridges. The highest point in Gaston County is King's Pinnacle, a rocky monadnock which sharply rises over 800 feet (240 m) above the city of Gastonia. King's Pinnacle rises 1,690 feet (520 m) above sea level, and is part of Crowders Mountain State Park.[16]

State and local protected areas/sites

Major water bodies

Adjacent counties


Historical population
2023 (est.)237,242[1]4.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[18]
1790–1960[19] 1900–1990[20]
1990–2000[21] 2010[22] 2020[1]

2020 census

Gaston County racial composition[23]
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 153,653 67.41%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 39,762 17.44%
Native American 753 0.33%
Asian 3,509 1.54%
Pacific Islander 59 0.03%
Other/Mixed 10,139 4.45%
Hispanic or Latino 20,068 8.8%

As of the 2020 census, there were 227,943 people, 85,705 households, and 55,868 families residing in the county.

2004 census estimate

At the 2004 census estimate,[24] there were 194,459 people, 73,936 households, and 53,307 families residing in the county. The population density was 534 people per square mile (206 people/km2). There were 78,842 housing units at an average density of 221 units per square mile (85 units/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 83% White, 13.9% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 1% Asian, 0% Pacific Islander, 0.3% from other races, and 1% from two or more races. 3.00% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 92,094 males and 98,271 females in Gaston County. Of these 39,492 are under 15, 23,082 are aged 16–24, 59,096 are aged 25–44, 44,710 are aged between 45–64 and 23,985 are 65 and over. The median age is 36.89 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $39,482, and the median income for a family was $46,271. Males had a median income of $33,542 versus $23,876 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,225. About 8.30% of families and 10.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.50% of those under age 18 and 11.10% of those age 65 or over.

Law and government

Gaston County is governed by a seven-member Board of Commissioners. Two members are elected from Gaston Township and one each from the other five townships of Gaston County. They are elected on a partisan basis to four-year staggered terms. Those that file for a particular seat must live in the township. However, the vote is countywide or "at-large."[25]

The offices of Sheriff, District Attorney, Clerk of Superior Court, and Register of Deeds are also elected offices, elected on a countywide, partisan basis. Gaston County currently is divided into forty-six (46) voting precincts.[26]

The county is administered by a full-time professional County Manager. Gaston County is a member of the regional Centralina Council of Governments.[27]

County officers

Board of Commissioners

Office[28] Holder Party Term expires
County Commissioner (chairman) Chad Brown Republican 2026
County Commissioner (Vice Chair) Bob Hovis Republican 2024
County Commissioner Allen Fraley Republican 2024
County Commissioner Kim Johnson Republican 2024
County Commissioner Tom Keigher Republican 2026
County Commissioner Cathy Cloninger Republican 2026
County Commissioner Ronnie Worley Republican 2024

Soil & Water Conservation District Board Members

Holder[28] Term expires
Esther Scott (chairperson) 2022
David Freeman 2024
Roger Hurst 2024
Danon Lawson 2022
Vacant 2022

Superior court judges

Office[28] Holder Party Term expires
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge David Phillips Democratic 2026
Superior Court Judge Justin Davis Republican 2030

District court judges

Office[28] Holder Party Term expires
Chief District Court Judge John K. Greenlee Republican 2024
District Court Judge Craig Collins Republican 2022
District Court Judge Angela G. Hoyle Republican 2024
District Court Judge James A. Jackson Republican 2024
District Court Judge Michael K. Lands Republican 2022
District Court Judge Donald Rice Republican 2024
District Court Judge Pennie Thrower Republican 2024

Other offices

Office[28] Holder Party Term expires
Sheriff Chad Hawkins Republican 2026
Register of Deeds Susan Lockridge Republican 2024
District Attorney Travis G. Page Republican 2026
Clerk of Superior Court K. Roxann Rankin Republican 2022

North Carolina General Assembly

North Carolina Senate

District[28] Representative Party Term expires
43 Kathy Harrington Republican 2023
44 Ted Alexander Republican 2023

North Carolina House of Representatives

District Representative[28] Party Term expires
108 John A. Torbett Republican 2023
109 Donnie Loftis Republican 2023
110 Kelly Hastings Republican 2023

Federal offices


Senator[28] Party Term expires
Ted Budd Republican 2029
Thom Tillis Republican 2027

House of Representatives

District[28] Representative Party Term expires
10th Patrick McHenry Republican 2025
14th Jeff Jackson Democratic 2025

Courts of law

North Carolina has a unified statewide and state-operated court system, called the General Court of Justice. It consists of three divisions: appellate courts, superior courts, and district courts. In Gaston County, there is also a small claims Court.

Small claims court handles civil cases where a plaintiff requests assignment to a magistrate and the amount in controversy is $5,000 or less. There is no jury and usually no lawyers. A person who loses in small claims court may appeal for a trial by jury before a judge in district court. Magistrates are appointed for two-year terms by the senior resident superior court judge upon nomination of the clerk of superior court.[29]


In recent years, voters in most of the county have favored Republicans, though Democrats retain some electoral strength in the city of Gastonia.[31]

Transportation and infrastructure

Major highways

Rail service

Gaston County is served by Amtrak, with a stop in Gastonia. Freight rail service is provided by the Norfolk Southern Railway, CSX and Patriot Rail.

The Norfork Southern main line passes from west to east across the county, passing through Kings Mountain, Bessemer City, Gastonia, Ranlo, Lowell, Cramerton and Belmont. From Gastonia, a branch line leads south to Crowders.[32]

CSX rail lines pass through the northwestern and northeastern corners of Gaston County. In the northwest, a line between Lincolnton and Shelby passes through Cherryville. In the northeast, a line between Lincolnton and Charlotte passes through Stanley and Mount Holly.[33]

Progressive Rail operates state-owned trackage between Gastonia and Mount Holly with a spur extending to Belmont.[34]


Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is a major, full-service airport with passenger flights. It is across the Catawba River in Mecklenburg County in Charlotte.

The city of Gastonia owns and operates Gastonia Municipal Airport, which is a general aviation airport with a single runway, Runway 3/21, an asphalt runway that is 3,779 feet in length.[35]


Piedmont Lithium is a mining company currently in the process of proving economic mineral recovery of lithium in Gaston County. After five years of surface prospecting, the company began drilling many sample cores in 2021 across 2,300 acres (930 ha) of land it owns or has mineral rights to the county proving economic viability of mining lithium for the boom in battery demand to support electric vehicle and other uses.[36]


Public education in Gaston County is administered by the Gaston County Schools public school system. The system is governed by the nine-member Gaston County Board of Education which sets policy and establishes guidelines for school operations. Board members are elected on a nonpartisan, county wide basis, with seven representatives chosen from the six townships and two members selected at-large.[37] Gaston County Schools has 54 public schools, including 9 high schools, 11 middle schools, 32 elementary schools, one alternative school (middle and high school age), and one separate school (Webb Street School in Gastonia) serving students ages 3 to 22 with moderate to severe disabilities.

Gaston County has four charter schools: Community Public Charter School (K-7) in Stanley, Ridgeview Charter School (K–4) in Gastonia, Piedmont Community Charter School (K–12) in Gastonia, and Mountain Island Charter School (K–12) in Mount Holly.[38]

There are two colleges in Gaston County. Gaston College is a community college located in Dallas offering associate degree, Certificate, and Diploma programs. Belmont Abbey College is a Roman Catholic Liberal Arts College located in Belmont.

The Gaston County Public Library has 10 branches spread throughout the county.

Natural heritage

Gaston County's most significant natural heritage sites are distributed across the county. They range from Crowders Mountain in the southwest corner to sites east of Stanley and at the mouth of the South Fork Catawba River.

Gaston County has twelve natural heritage sites listed as being of state or regional significance. Six of these are listed because of the presence of the bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla). This magnificent plant has the largest simple leaf of any species in the temperate world, and one of the largest flowers. Of the 34 known sites containing bigleaf magnolias in North Carolina, 29 are in Gaston County.[39]

Two sites are important because they provide habitat for the bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii). The bog turtle is the single most significant rare animal species surviving in Gaston County.[40]

Crowders Mountain State Park is the largest natural heritage site in the county. It covers over 3,000 acres (12 km2) of topographically, botanically, and zoologically diverse land. Six natural plant communities are found in the park, and the area supports a diversity of wildlife species. Some animals documented in the park have not been documented elsewhere in the county. A second natural heritage site, Pinnacle Road, has recently been incorporated into the park. This site is most significant for the occurrence of dwarf juniper (Juniperus communis) along its ridgeline.[41]

The Stagecoach Road site is the largest and best preserved granitic outcrop in the county. Its thin soils are dominated by hickory species and it is also home to several smaller species such as Talinum teretifolium (fame flower), Sedum smallii (syn. Diamorpha smallii, Small's sedum), and Hypericum gentianoides (pineweed) that are found only in this type of habitat. A farm site contains an old growth forest dominated by beech, yellow poplar, oaks, and maples - some trees with diameters of nearly 3 feet (0.91 m).[42]

Another 25 sites are listed as being of local significance. Two of these are home to extremely rare plants. Catawba Cove, near the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, supports a stand of Schweinitz's sunflower (Helianthus schweinizii), a federally endangered species. The Armstrong Ford site near Belmont is the only place in western North Carolina (and one of only two sites in the state) where magnolia vine (Schisandra glabra) has been found.[43]

Points of interest

The Hoyle Historic Homestead, with notable German-American construction features, is the oldest extant structure in Gaston County. Located on the Dallas-Stanley Highway above the South Fork Catawba River, it was built around 1760 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden covers 110 acres (0.45 km2) in the South Point area of Gaston County, on South New Hope Road.

The Gaston County Museum is located in the town of Dallas, North Carolina.[44]

The Schiele Museum of Natural History is a science museum and planetarium located in Gastonia that features both permanent and touring exhibits.[45]

Crowder's Mountain State Park is noted for its resident raptors and sheer vertical cliffs which drop 150 feet (46 m). From Crowders Mountain, the highest point in Gaston County, views stretch for more than 20 miles (32 km).

The U.S. National Whitewater Center is a recreation and training facility. Set among 1,300 acres (5.3 km2) of wooded land along the Catawba River, the multiuse facility has a climbing center, mountain-biking trails and running trails.

Christmas Town USA - McAdenville, North Carolina - Each December, hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights turn this small mill town into a spectacular holiday display. Visitors stroll down Main Street surrounded by the sights and sounds of Christmas.

Spencer Mountain, which is located in central Gaston County, is the site of the old WBTV television transmitter. It was from this site that the first commercial television signal in North Carolina was broadcast, when WBTV signed on the air in 1949. The tower remains on the mountain today, but is no longer in use as WBTV's primary transmitter. It is used by NWS for its NOAA Weather Radio transmission signal.


Map of Gaston County with municipal and township labels




Townships are administrative divisions of unincorporated county land and do not have any government function.

Unincorporated communities

See also


  1. ^ a b c "QuickFacts: Gaston County, North Carolina". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on October 22, 2020. Retrieved March 21, 2024.
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  3. ^ "Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Population Totals: 2020-2023". United States Census Bureau, Population Division. March 14, 2024. Retrieved March 15, 2024.
  4. ^ "North Carolina Counties by Population". Retrieved August 9, 2022.
  5. ^ "About Gaston County". Archived from the original on September 15, 2019. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
  6. ^ "About Gaston County". Archived from the original on September 15, 2019. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
  7. ^ Piper Peters Aheron. Images of America: Gastonia and Gaston County North Carolina. Arcadia Publishing, 2001 (ISBN 0738506737)
  8. ^ Minnie Stowe Pruit. History of Gaston County. The Observer Printing House, Inc, 1939 (ISBN 028245554X, 9780282455545)
  9. ^ a b County Profile - "Gaston County Profile". Archived from the original on February 29, 2008. Retrieved July 5, 2008.. Gaston County government official website. Retrieved on July 2, 2008.
  10. ^ Robert F. Cope and Hanley Wade Wellman, The County of Gaston: Two Centuries of a North Carolina Region (Gaston County Historical Society, 1961), 13, cited in Peter Hoyle House National Register Application[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ a b "Gaston County | NCpedia".
  12. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. pp. 135.
  13. ^ "2020 County Gazetteer Files – North Carolina". United States Census Bureau. August 23, 2022. Retrieved September 9, 2023.
  14. ^ "Our State Geography in a Snap: The Piedmont Region | NCpedia". Archived from the original on June 1, 2022. Retrieved June 1, 2022.
  15. ^ Gaston County Watersheds Archived September 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Piedmont North Carolina Trip Reports (GCounty High Pointers Assn., 2010), cited in [1] Archived June 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "GO Gaston! Trail offers reasons to take it slow". Gaston Gazette. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  18. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on April 26, 2015. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  19. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Archived from the original on August 11, 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  20. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on March 3, 2015. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  21. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Archived (PDF) from the original on December 18, 2014. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  22. ^ "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
  23. ^ "Explore Census Data". Archived from the original on December 20, 2021. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  24. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 9, 2021. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  25. ^ "Elected Officials: Board of Commissioners". County of Gaston. Archived from the original on March 18, 2013. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
  26. ^ "Polling Places". Board of Elections. County of Gaston. Archived from the original on March 30, 2012. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
  27. ^ "About Centralina COG". CCOG. Archived from the original on January 26, 2018. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Public Officials Directory 2023". Gaston County Board of Elections.
  29. ^ "Welcome to Gaston County - District 27A". Archived from the original on August 8, 2008. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  30. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Archived from the original on March 23, 2018. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  31. ^ McCorkle & Salzberg 2022, pp. 15, 37.
  32. ^ "System Maps, Directories & Schedules". Norfolk Southern. Archived from the original on November 25, 2020. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  33. ^ " - CSX System Map". Archived from the original on September 11, 2021. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  34. ^ Barrett, Michael. "P&N Railway between Gastonia and Mount Holly under new management". Gaston Gazette. Archived from the original on June 23, 2022. Retrieved April 11, 2022.
  35. ^ "Airport Master Record, Gastonia Municipal Airport, Federal Aviation Administration" (PDF). WayBack Machine. October 9, 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 9, 2012. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  36. ^ Patterson, Scott; Ramkumar, Amrith (March 9, 2021). "America's Battery-Powered Car Hopes Ride on Lithium. One Producer Paves the Way". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on March 12, 2021. Retrieved March 13, 2021.
  37. ^ "About the Board". Gaston County Schools. Archived from the original on May 31, 2012. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
  38. ^ "Gaston County". Office of Charter Schools. NC Dept. of Public Instruction. Archived from the original on October 26, 2008. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
  39. ^ May, Alan (December 2000). Natural heritage inventory of Gaston County, N.C. Raleigh, N.C.: N.C. Natural Heritage Program, Division of Parks and Recreation, Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources. pp. Whole Book.
  40. ^ "Catawba Lands Conservancy to Protect More of a Region's Rare Habitat". Catawba Lands Conservancy. April 19, 2018. Archived from the original on March 7, 2021. Retrieved June 1, 2022.
  41. ^ "Ecology | NC State Parks". Archived from the original on May 16, 2022. Retrieved June 1, 2022.
  42. ^ "Gaston County: 2003 Environmental Report Card". Archived from the original (DOC) on March 3, 2016. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  43. ^ "The Natural Heritage of Gaston County" (PDF). WayBack Machine. May 25, 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 25, 2006. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  44. ^ "Home". Gaston County Museum. Archived from the original on December 31, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2022.
  45. ^ "Home". Schiele Museum. Archived from the original on August 22, 2009. Retrieved February 18, 2022.

Works cited