Polk County
Polk County Courthouse
Flag of Polk County
Official seal of Polk County
Map of North Carolina highlighting Polk 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 82°10′W / 35.28°N 82.17°W / 35.28; -82.17
Country United States
State North Carolina
Founded1855
Named forColonel William Polk
SeatColumbus
Largest municipalityTryon
Area
 • Total238.45 sq mi (617.6 km2)
 • Land237.69 sq mi (615.6 km2)
 • Water0.76 sq mi (2.0 km2)  0.32%
Population
 (2020)
 • Total19,328
 • Estimate 
(2023)
20,060
 • Density81.32/sq mi (31.40/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district11th
Websitewww.polknc.gov

Polk County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2020 census, the population was 19,328.[1] Its county seat is Columbus.[2]

History

The county was formed in 1855 from parts of Henderson and Rutherford counties. It was named for William Polk, a colonel in the American Revolutionary War. The Tryon International Equestrian Center, close to the community of Mill Spring was the location of the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games.[3]

Geography

Map
Interactive map of Polk County

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 238.45 square miles (617.6 km2), of which 237.69 square miles (615.6 km2) is land and 0.76 square miles (2.0 km2) (0.32%) is water.[4] It is the fifth-smallest county in North Carolina by total area.

Polk County Elevation

The county's largest body of water is Lake Adger, located about 5 miles (8.0 km) north of Columbus. Lake Adger is a reservoir formed by the damming of the Green River, which flows from west to east across the county. The northern extent of the river's watershed forms the northern border of the county.

The elevation in the county ranges from just under 800 feet (240 m) near the confluence of the Green River and Broad River to over 3,200 feet (980 m) on Tryon Peak and Wildcat Spur, the highest peak in the county. Polk County is divided into two physiographic regions; the Blue Ridge Mountains in the western third of the county and Piedmont for the eastern two-thirds. Since it is in a transition zone between the two regions, Polk County is often referred to as being in the foothills.

State and local protected areas

Major water bodies

Adjacent counties

Major highways

The interchange for I-26 and the US 74 freeway is located in Columbus. Interstate 26 provides Polk County with access to Asheville and Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Polk County is also served by an additional non-freeway U.S. Highway: US 176. This was the primary highway linking Saluda and Tryon to Hendersonville and Spartanburg, SC. prior to the delayed completion of I-26 in 1976. Two North Carolina routes, NC 108 and NC 9, traverse the county as well. NC 108 begins in Rutherfordton and travels west through Columbus and ends at US 176 in Tryon. Oriented north-to-south, NC 9 connects Black Mountain and Lake Lure to Spartanburg and points southeast via Polk County. NC 108 and NC 9 intersect at the unincorporated town of Mill Spring.

Polk County and Saluda are infamous among railroad enthusiasts for the Saluda Grade, the steepest standard-gauge mainline railway grade in the United States.[6] Norfolk Southern suspended freight traffic indefinitely along this route in December 2001. The track remains in place, but are cut near Flat Rock, North Carolina and Landrum, South Carolina.

Demographics

Historical population
CensusPop.Note
18604,043
18704,3196.8%
18805,06217.2%
18905,90216.6%
19007,00418.7%
19107,6409.1%
19208,83215.6%
193010,21615.7%
194011,87416.2%
195011,627−2.1%
196011,395−2.0%
197011,7353.0%
198012,98410.6%
199014,41611.0%
200018,32427.1%
201020,51011.9%
202019,328−5.8%
2023 (est.)20,060[1]3.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[7]
1790–1960[8] 1900–1990[9]
1990–2000[10] 2010[11] 2020[1]

2020 census

Polk County racial composition[12]
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 16,716 86.49%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 689 3.56%
Native American 51 0.26%
Asian 60 0.31%
Pacific Islander 7 0.04%
Other/Mixed 779 4.03%
Hispanic or Latino 1,026 5.31%

As of the 2020 census, there were 19,328 people, 9,071 households, and 5,550 families residing in the county.

2000 census

At the 2000 census,[13] there were 18,324 people, 7,908 households, and 5,337 families residing in the county. The population density was 77 people per square mile (30 people/km2). There were 9,192 housing units at an average density of 39 units per square mile (15 units/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 92.26% White, 5.89% Black or African American, 0.19% Native American, 0.24% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.63% from other races, and 0.76% from two or more races. 3.01% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 7,908 households, out of which 23.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.30% were married couples living together, 7.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.50% were non-families. 28.90% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.28 and the average family size was 2.78.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 20.10% under the age of 18, 5.80% from 18 to 24, 24.20% from 25 to 44, 26.30% from 45 to 64, and 23.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females there were 90.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $36,259, and the median income for a family was $45,096. Males had a median income of $29,375 versus $23,070 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,804. 10.10% of the population and 6.40% of families were below the poverty line. 11.70% of those under the age of 18 and 8.80% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

Ancestry/ethnicity

As of the 2000 census,[13] the largest self-reported ancestry/ethnicity groups in Polk County were:[14]

Ancestry/ethnicity Percent
(2000)
English England 17%
German Germany 13%
Irish Republic of Ireland 13%
Scotch-Irish Ulster 7.0%
African American United States 5.89%
Scottish Scotland 4.0%
Italian Italy 3.0%

Law and government

Polk County is a member of the Isothermal Planning and Development Commission regional council of governments. Sheila Whitmire is the current (as of 2012) Registrar of Deeds[15] and Patrick McCool serves as the current mayor of Columbus, the county seat.[16]

Government and politics

United States presidential election results for Polk County, North Carolina[17]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 7,689 62.22% 4,518 36.56% 151 1.22%
2016 6,768 61.90% 3,735 34.16% 431 3.94%
2012 6,236 60.03% 4,013 38.63% 140 1.35%
2008 5,990 56.71% 4,396 41.62% 176 1.67%
2004 5,140 56.98% 3,787 41.98% 94 1.04%
2000 5,074 61.11% 3,114 37.50% 115 1.39%
1996 3,516 52.04% 2,704 40.02% 536 7.93%
1992 3,448 45.77% 2,939 39.02% 1,146 15.21%
1988 3,874 60.31% 2,534 39.45% 15 0.23%
1984 4,046 64.73% 2,169 34.70% 36 0.58%
1980 3,021 53.86% 2,375 42.34% 213 3.80%
1976 2,605 44.82% 3,155 54.28% 52 0.89%
1972 3,121 67.31% 1,416 30.54% 100 2.16%
1968 2,550 45.89% 1,523 27.41% 1,484 26.71%
1964 2,765 47.82% 3,017 52.18% 0 0.00%
1960 2,856 50.84% 2,762 49.16% 0 0.00%
1956 2,823 52.77% 2,527 47.23% 0 0.00%
1952 2,561 48.30% 2,741 51.70% 0 0.00%
1948 1,636 40.99% 2,078 52.07% 277 6.94%
1944 1,678 41.76% 2,340 58.24% 0 0.00%
1940 1,528 38.37% 2,454 61.63% 0 0.00%
1936 1,794 41.58% 2,521 58.42% 0 0.00%
1932 1,421 36.98% 2,401 62.48% 21 0.55%
1928 1,873 53.68% 1,616 46.32% 0 0.00%
1924 1,445 47.05% 1,613 52.52% 13 0.42%
1920 1,326 49.35% 1,361 50.65% 0 0.00%
1916 750 52.45% 679 47.48% 1 0.07%
1912 153 11.50% 675 50.75% 502 37.74%

Polk County is notable as one of only two counties in the country that voted for Charles Even Hughes in 1916 and for James M. Cox in 1920 the other one is Manistee County, Michigan.

2016 elections

In the 2016 Republican Primary in Polk County, Donald Trump received 1,624 votes (or 46.2% of the total votes) followed by Ted Cruz who came in second with 1,135 votes (or 32.3% of the total votes). In the 2016 Democratic Primary, Bernie Sanders received 1,123 votes (48.7% of the total) whereas Hillary Clinton won 1,099 votes (47.7% of the total).[18] In the general election Donald Trump received 6,768 votes (or 61.9% of the total vote) whereas Hillary Clinton received 3,735 votes (34.2% of the vote) and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received 272 votes (2.5% of total votes in the county).[19]

Communities

Map of Polk County with municipal and township labels

City

Towns

Townships

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c "QuickFacts: Polk County, North Carolina". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 22, 2024.
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  3. ^ "North Carolina to Host 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games". TheHorse.com. November 3, 2016. Retrieved November 3, 2016.
  4. ^ "2020 County Gazetteer Files – North Carolina". United States Census Bureau. August 23, 2022. Retrieved September 9, 2023.
  5. ^ "NCWRC Game Lands". www.ncpaws.org. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  6. ^ Saluda Grade - North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program Archived November 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  8. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  9. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  10. ^ "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 March 27, 2010. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  11. ^ "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on January 22, 2016. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  12. ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  13. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  14. ^ "Polk County, NC - Polk County, North Carolina - Ancestry & family history - ePodunk". www.epodunk.com. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  15. ^ "ASSUMED BUSINESS NAME UPDATE". www.polknc.org. Retrieved February 28, 2021.
  16. ^ "Meet Our Mayor and Council". www.columbusnc.com. Retrieved February 28, 2021.
  17. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  18. ^ "North Carolina Primary Election Results 2016". The New York Times. September 29, 2016. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  19. ^ "North Carolina Election Results 2016". The New York Times. August 1, 2017. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 17, 2018.