Mitchell County
County of Mitchell
Mitchell County Courthouse in Bakersville.
Official seal of Mitchell County
Map of North Carolina highlighting Mitchell 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: 36°01′N 82°10′W / 36.01°N 82.16°W / 36.01; -82.16
Country United States
State North Carolina
Named forElisha Mitchell[1]
Largest townSpruce Pine
 • Total222 sq mi (570 km2)
 • Land221 sq mi (570 km2)
 • Water0.7 sq mi (2 km2)  0.3%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density67.7/sq mi (26.1/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district5th

Mitchell County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2020 census, the population was 14,903.[2] Its county seat is Bakersville, population 439 (2022),[3] elevation 2470ft.[4]

The county is home to the "Mineral City of the World", Spruce Pine and Roan Mountain which includes the world's largest natural rhododendron garden, and the longest stretch of grassy bald in the Appalachian range. Throughout the year such festivals as North Carolina Mineral and Gem Festival and North Carolina Rhododendron Festival bring many people to the area. Mitchell County was one of the three entirely dry counties in North Carolina, along with Graham and Yancey, but in March, 2009, after much controversy, the Town of Spruce Pine approved beer, wine, and ABC stores


The county was formed in 1861 from parts of Burke County, Caldwell County, McDowell County, Watauga County, and Yancey County. It was named for Elisha Mitchell, professor of mathematics, chemistry, geology, and mineralogy at the University of North Carolina from 1818 until his death in 1857. Dr. Mitchell was the first scientist to argue that a nearby peak in the Black Mountains was the highest point east of the Mississippi River. He measured the mountain's height and climbed and explored it. In 1857 he fell to his death on a waterfall on the side of the mountain. The mountain was subsequently named Mount Mitchell in his honor.

By 1899, Mitchell County had a sundown town policy of preventing Black Americans from living or working in the county.[5] By the early 1920s, Black Americans began working and living in the county in larger numbers, especially as mine workers and as convict laborers constructing local infrastructure, including new state highways such as what is now US Highway 19E. In September 1923, a 75-year-old White woman named Alice Thomas accused John Goss, an escaped Black convict laborer, of raping her. A White mob formed in Spruce Pine, and when they could not locate the fugitive Goss, the mob (which included members of the Ku Klux Klan) forced nearly all of the Black people onto train cars heading out of the county. Governor Cameron Morrison, an ally of the infrastructure construction and mining industries, declared martial law and called in the National Guard in an attempt to stop the mob violence, but by the time the Guard units arrived two days later, the Black mine and construction laborers had already been driven from the county. The National Guard occupied Spruce Pine for nearly two weeks. Despite Morrison's declaration of martial law having little effect, it was the first time martial law was declared in response to an instance of mass racial violence in the United States. Ultimately, 86 members of the White supremacist mob were indicted for their actions, many of whom pled guilty to minor offences. Goss was arrested in Hickory four days after the alleged rape, and at the orders of the Governor, jailed in Raleigh to avert lynching. He was tried three weeks later in Mitchell County, convicted by jury after five minutes of deliberation, and executed by electrocution.[6][7]

The county took a direct hit from "The Storm of the Century", also known as the "’93 Superstorm", or "The (Great) Blizzard of 1993". This storm event was similar in nature to a hurricane. The storm occurred between March 12–13, 1993, on the East Coast of North America. Parts of Cuba, Gulf Coast States, Eastern United States and Eastern Canada were greatly impacted.

The county suffered a tragic event on the evening of Friday, May 3, 2002, when a fire broke out at the Mitchell County jail in Bakersville, North Carolina. As a result of the fire eight men lost their lives.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 222 square miles (570 km2), of which 221 square miles (570 km2) is land and 0.7 square miles (1.8 km2) (0.3%) is water.[8] It is the fourth-smallest county in North Carolina by land area and second-smallest by total area. The northwest sections of county border the State of Tennessee. Sections of both the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail are located in the county. Parts of the Pisgah National Forest and Roan Mountain State Park are located in the northern sections of the county. All over Mitchell and neighboring Avery County you will find several conservation lands within the Pisgah Forest. Little Yellow Mountain is a natural land conservation area and one day it will be turned over to the state.

National protected areas

State and local protected area

Adjacent counties

Major water-bodies

Major highways


Historical population
Census Pop.
2021 (est.)14,963[9]0.4%
U.S. Decennial Census[10]
1790-1960[11] 1900-1990[12]
1990-2000[13] 2010-2013[14]


As of 2015, the largest self-reported ancestry groups in Mitchell County were:[16]

Largest ancestries (2015) Percent
American 17.3%
English 14.7%
German 12.2%
Irish 11.9%
Scots-Irish 9.8%
Scottish 5.0%
French (except Basque) 2.3%
Italian 1.9%
Swedish 1.6%
Dutch 1.5%

2020 census

Mitchell County racial composition[17]
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 13,514 90.68%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 50 0.34%
Native American 30 0.2%
Asian 52 0.35%
Pacific Islander 1 0.01%
Other/Mixed 555 3.72%
Hispanic or Latino 701 4.7%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 14,903 people, 6,344 households, and 4,031 families residing in the county.

2000 census

As of the census[18] of 2000, there were 15,687 people, 6,551 households, and 4,736 families residing in the county. The population density was 71 people per square mile (27/km2). There were 7,919 housing units at an average density of 36 per square mile (14/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 97.87% White, 0.22% Black or African American, 0.45% Native American, 0.20% Asian, 0.66% from other races, and 0.60% from two or more races. 1.98% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 6,551 households, out of which 27.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.90% were married couples living together, 8.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.70% were non-families. 25.20% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.82.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 21.20% under the age of 18, 6.80% from 18 to 24, 26.40% from 25 to 44, 27.10% from 45 to 64, and 18.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 95.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.30 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $30,508, and the median income for a family was $36,367. Males had a median income of $26,550 versus $20,905 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,933. About 10.70% of families and 13.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.20% of those under age 18 and 16.40% of those age 65 or over.


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



Unincorporated communities


Owing to its Civil War-era Unionist sympathies, along with its rural character, Mitchell has continuously been an overwhelmingly Republican county, even during the Solid South Democratic era. No Democratic presidential candidate has carried Mitchell County since Samuel J. Tilden in 1876. However, since Tilden's win, every Republican candidate has obtained at least sixty percent of the county's vote, with the solitary exception of the 1912 election when the party was divided between the two candidacies of William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt, the latter of whom carried the county.

United States presidential election results for Mitchell County, North Carolina[19]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 7,090 78.42% 1,867 20.65% 84 0.93%
2016 6,282 77.59% 1,596 19.71% 218 2.69%
2012 5,806 74.77% 1,838 23.67% 121 1.56%
2008 5,499 70.09% 2,238 28.52% 109 1.39%
2004 5,686 72.92% 2,080 26.67% 32 0.41%
2000 4,984 75.52% 1,535 23.26% 81 1.23%
1996 3,874 65.15% 1,496 25.16% 576 9.69%
1992 4,405 62.79% 1,727 24.62% 883 12.59%
1988 4,620 76.82% 1,377 22.90% 17 0.28%
1984 4,737 78.51% 1,286 21.31% 11 0.18%
1980 4,322 68.93% 1,765 28.15% 183 2.92%
1976 3,728 64.50% 2,031 35.14% 21 0.36%
1972 4,240 83.45% 800 15.74% 41 0.81%
1968 3,778 72.65% 819 15.75% 603 11.60%
1964 3,263 65.27% 1,736 34.73% 0 0.00%
1960 4,831 80.45% 1,174 19.55% 0 0.00%
1956 4,269 79.97% 1,069 20.03% 0 0.00%
1952 4,009 76.43% 1,236 23.57% 0 0.00%
1948 2,908 76.35% 818 21.48% 83 2.18%
1944 3,192 75.71% 1,024 24.29% 0 0.00%
1940 3,290 69.41% 1,450 30.59% 0 0.00%
1936 3,380 66.71% 1,687 33.29% 0 0.00%
1932 3,798 68.06% 1,773 31.77% 9 0.16%
1928 3,436 80.60% 827 19.40% 0 0.00%
1924 1,540 68.84% 689 30.80% 8 0.36%
1920 2,153 75.54% 697 24.46% 0 0.00%
1916 1,298 73.75% 462 26.25% 0 0.00%
1912 203 15.57% 385 29.52% 716 54.91%

2016 presidential primaries

In the 2016 Republican Primary in Mitchell County, Donald Trump received 1,775 votes (or 46.8 percent of the total votes) followed by Ted Cruz who came in second with 1,188 votes (or 31.3% of the total votes). In the 2016 Democratic Primary, Bernie Sanders received 450 votes (57.9% of the total) whereas Hillary Clinton only won 314 votes (40.4% of the total).[20] In the general election Donald Trump received 6,282 votes (or 77.6% of the total vote) whereas Hillary Clinton only received 1,596 votes (19.7% of the vote) and Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson received 138 votes (1.7% of total votes in the county).[21]

Law and government

Mitchell County is a member of the regional High Country Council of Governments.


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Mitchell High School is a comprehensive four-year high school (9-12) centrally located in the community of Ledger when built in 1978. The high school has achieved many educational and athletic accomplishments throughout its history.

Spruce Pine is home to three schools: Greenlee Primary (K-2), Deyton Elementary (3–5) and Harris Middle (6–8). Bakersville is home to two schools: Gouge Primary (K-4) and Bowman Middle (5–8).

Mayland Community College also calls Mitchell County home. Founded by an act of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1971, Mayland hosts some 35 curriculum programs and provides vocational and technical training, along with college transfer opportunities to residents of the region. Mayland was recently ranked 4th best community college in the nation according to 2010 Washington Monthly College Guide.

Penland School of Crafts is a world-renowned educational facility located in the Penland Community. It is designed to educate students who will apply workable knowledge in creation of books, paper, clay, drawing, glass, iron, metals, photography, printmaking and letterpress, textiles, and wood. Furthermore, Penland School of Crafts was established in the early 1920s, it is the largest and oldest professional crafts school in the United States.

Athletic achievements

Mitchell High School is in the Western Highlands 1A conference, which is made up of 6 schools with 3 of the schools classified as 1A. They have the smallest enrollment of the schools in their conference. Three neighboring counties' schools (Avery, Yancey (Mountain Heritage), and McDowell) are some of the common rivals of the Mountaineers.


The county is served by The Mitchell News-Journal, a weekly newspaper printed by Community Newspapers, Inc. and WTOE radio, at 1470 kHz on the AM dial to cover local news.

See also


  1. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 210.
  2. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Mitchell County, North Carolina". Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  3. ^ "Bakersville, North Carolina Population 2022 (Demographics, Maps, Graphs)". Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  5. ^ "Negro Laborers Not Allowed There; Railroad Company Wants Protection". The Dayton Evening Herald. Dayton, Ohio. November 6, 1899. p. 5 – via The Ohio River & Charleston Railroad Co. will appeal to Governor Russell for protection for its gangs of negro laborers in Mitchell county. The residents of this county escorted three gangs of laborers to the border line and told them not to return under pain of death. It is the boast of the people of Mitchell county that no negroes are allowed to live or work there. Up to date the boast has been made good. The situation is serious, and blood may flow if the railroad company brings its colored laborers back.
  6. ^ Neufeld, Rob. "Visiting Our Past: Feldspar mining and racial tensions". The Asheville Citizen Times. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  7. ^ Jaspin, Elliot (2007). Buried in the Bitter Waters: the Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America. New York: Basic Books. pp. 201–217. ISBN 9780465036363.
  8. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Archived from the original on January 12, 2015. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  9. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Mitchell County, North Carolina". Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  10. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  11. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  12. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  13. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  14. ^ "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  15. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Mitchell County, North Carolina". Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  16. ^ Bureau, U.S. Census. "American FactFinder - Results". Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  17. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  18. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  19. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  20. ^ "North Carolina Primary Election Results 2016". The New York Times. September 29, 2016. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  21. ^ "North Carolina Election Results 2016". The New York Times. August 1, 2017. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 16, 2018.

Coordinates: 36°01′N 82°10′W / 36.01°N 82.16°W / 36.01; -82.16