Rowan County
Rowan County Courthouse
Rowan County Courthouse
Flag of Rowan County
Official seal of Rowan County
Official logo of Rowan County
Motto: 
"Be an original."
Map of North Carolina highlighting Rowan 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°38′N 80°31′W / 35.64°N 80.52°W / 35.64; -80.52
Country United States
State North Carolina
FoundedApril 12, 1753
Named forMatthew Rowan
SeatSalisbury
Largest communitySalisbury
Area
 • Total523.95 sq mi (1,357.0 km2)
 • Land511.61 sq mi (1,325.1 km2)
 • Water12.34 sq mi (32.0 km2)  2.36%
Population
 (2020)
 • Total146,875
 • Estimate 
(2023)
151,661
 • Density287.08/sq mi (110.84/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district8th
Websitewww.rowancountync.gov

Rowan County (/rˈæn/ roh-AN)[1][2] is a county in the U.S. state of North Carolina that was formed in 1753, as part of the British Province of North Carolina. It was originally a vast territory with unlimited western boundaries, but its size was reduced to 524 square miles (1,360 km2) after several counties were formed from Rowan County in the 18th and 19th centuries. As of the 2020 census, its population was 146,875.[3] Its county seat, Salisbury, is the oldest continuously populated European-American town in the western half of North Carolina.[4] Rowan County is located northeast of Charlotte, and is considered part of the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC Metropolitan Statistical Area.

History

Early history

The first Europeans to enter what is now Rowan County were members of the Spanish expedition of Juan Pardo in 1567. They established a fort and a mission in the native village of Guatari, believed to be located near the Yadkin River and inhabited by the Wateree. At the time, the area was ruled by a female chief whom the Spaniards called Guatari Mico (Mico was a term common among the Muskogee and Souian speaking peoples of the south to mean "chief" or "leader"). The Spaniards called the village Salamanca in honor of the city of Salamanca in western Spain, and established a mission, headed by a secular priest named Sebastián Montero.

This fort was one of six that Pardo's expedition established before he returned separately to Spain in 1568. Small garrisons were stationed at each fort.[5] They were built into the interior, including across the mountains in what is now southeastern Tennessee. In 1568, Native Americans at each fort massacred all but one soldier in the garrisons. The Spanish never returned to this interior area in other colonizing attempts, instead concentrating their efforts in Spanish Florida.[6][7]

18th century

English colonial settlement of North Carolina came decades later, starting in the coastal areas, where settlers migrated south from Virginia. Explorers and fur traders were the first to reach the Piedmont, paving the way for eventual settlers. Rowan County was formed in 1753 from the northern part of Anson County. It was named for Matthew Rowan, acting governor of North Carolina from 1753 to 1754. It was intended to incorporate all of the lands of the Granville District that had previously been included in Anson County.[8]

A house several miles west of present-day Salisbury in "the Irish settlement" served as the first courthouse starting June 15, 1753. Daniel Boone's father Squire Boone served as one of the first magistrates. By mid-1754 a new courthouse site was selected near "the place where the Old Waggon Road (crosses) over Grant's Creek."[9]

As was typical of the time, Rowan County was originally a vast territory with an indefinite western boundary. As the population increased in the region, portions were taken to organize other counties and their seats. In 1770, the eastern portion was combined with the western part of Orange County to form Guilford County. In 1771 the northeastern portion of what was left became Surry County. In 1777 the western part of Rowan County was organized as Burke County.[10]

After the American Revolutionary War, in 1788, the western portion of the now much smaller Rowan County was organized as Iredell County.

19th century

In 1822, Davidson County was formed from an eastern section. Finally, in 1836, that part of Rowan County north of the South Yadkin River became Davie County, and Rowan County took its present form and size.[10]

Since Rowan County was developed for tobacco, cotton cultivation, and mixed farming in the antebellum period, many of the plantation owners and some farmers were dependent on enslaved labor. Cotton and tobacco continued as a commodity crop after the war and into the 20th century. The population of Rowan County was 27.1 percent slaves in 1860.[11]

During and following the Reconstruction era, the state legislature encouraged investment in railways, which had not occurred before. In addition, textile mills were built here and elsewhere in the Piedmont, bringing back cotton processing and manufacturing from centers in New York and New England. Urban populations increased.

20th century

At the turn of the 20th century, after losing to Republican-Populist fusionist candidates, Democrats regained power and passed laws erecting barriers to voter registration to disenfranchise most Blacks. Together with the passage of Jim Crow laws, which suppressed Blacks socially, these measures ended the progress of African Americans in the state, after Republican men had already been serving in Congress. Charles Aycock and Robert Glenn, who were elected as state governors in 1900 and 1904, respectively, ran political campaigns to appeal to Whites. Six lynchings of African Americans were recorded in Rowan County from the late 19th into the early 20th centuries. This was the second-highest total of killings in the state, a number of extrajudicial murders that two other counties also had.[12]

The racial terrorism of lynchings enforced White suppression of African Americans. In 1902, brothers James and Harrison Gillespie, aged 11 and 13, were lynched by a White mob for allegedly killing a young White woman working in a field.[13] In August 1906, six African-American men were arrested as suspects in the murder of a farm family. That evening, a White mob stormed the county jail in Salisbury, freeing all the White prisoners, interrogating the Black ones, and taking out Jack Dillingham, Nease Gillespie, and his son John. The mob hanged the three men from a tree in a field, mutilated and tortured them, and shot them numerous times.[13]

A center of textile manufacturing spanning from the late 19th to the late 20th century, the county has worked to attract new industries, after many textile manufacturing occupations moved offshore to lower wage markets during the late 20th century.

21st century

In 2003, the county held the "250 Fest", celebrating its 250th anniversary.[14]

Geography

Map
Interactive map of Rowan County

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 524 square miles (1,360 km2), of which 523.95 square miles (1,357.0 km2) is land and 12.32 square miles (31.9 km2) (2.36%) is water.[15]

The county's eastern border is formed by the Yadkin River. North of Ellis Crossroads, the South Yadkin River meets the Yadkin. The South Yadkin forms the county's northern border with Davie County. The southern border is an east–west line that bisects the city of Kannapolis.

State and local protected areas/sites

Major water bodies

Adjacent counties

Major highways

Interstate 85 passes through the county from southwest to northeast. In the early 2000s, I-85 was widened[24] in the central and northern part of the county, from exit 68, US 29 Connector, north almost to the Davidson County line. A new bridge over the Yadkin River was also built.[25]

U.S. Route 70 enters the northwestern part of Rowan County, west of Cleveland. It runs southeast into Salisbury, where it follows Jake Alexander Boulevard to the southeast and joins US 29 North as Main Street. US 70 continues northeast as Main Street; it is called Salisbury Avenue in Spencer before crossing into Davidson County.

U.S. Route 29 forms Main Street in Kannapolis, China Grove, and Landis in the southern part of the county. It joins US 70 as Main Street through Salisbury, and as Salisbury Avenue in Spencer.

U.S. Route 52 is the main artery for the southeastern part of the county, serving the towns of Gold Hill, Rockwell, and Granite Quarry. Just before reaching downtown Salisbury, US-52 joins Interstate 85, which it follows into Davidson county.

Major infrastructure

Demographics

Historical population
CensusPop.Note
179015,972
180020,06025.6%
181021,5437.4%
182026,00920.7%
183020,786−20.1%
184012,109−41.7%
185013,87014.5%
186014,5895.2%
187016,81015.2%
188019,96518.8%
189024,12320.8%
190031,06628.8%
191037,52120.8%
192044,06217.4%
193056,66528.6%
194069,20622.1%
195075,4109.0%
196082,8179.8%
197090,0358.7%
198099,18610.2%
1990110,60511.5%
2000130,34017.8%
2010138,4466.2%
2020146,8756.1%
2023 (est.)151,661[3]3.3%
U.S. Decennial Census[26]
1790–1960[27] 1900–1990[28]
1990–2000[29] 2010[30] 2020[3]

2020 census

Rowan County racial composition[31]
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 100,135 68.18%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 22,730 15.48%
Native American 444 0.3%
Asian 1,505 1.02%
Pacific Islander 71 0.05%
Other/Mixed 6,050 4.12%
Hispanic or Latino 15,940 10.85%

As of the 2020 census, there were 146,875 people, 55,241 households, and 37,900 families residing in the county.

2010 census

At the 2010 census,[32] there were 138,428 people, 53,140 households, and 37,058 families residing in the county. The population density was 270.7 people per square mile (104.5 people/km2). There were 60,211 housing units at an average density of 117.7 units per square mile (45.4 units/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 76.52% White, 16.18% Black or African American, 0.34% Native American, 1.00% Asian, 0.035% Pacific Islander, 4.33% from other races, and 1.60% from two or more races. 7.69% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Of the 53,140 households, 29.30% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.20% were married couples living together, 8.49% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.41% had a male householder with no wife and 30.26% were non-families. 25.22% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.15% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.00.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 23.80% under the age of 18, 9.00% from 18 to 24, 25.40% from 25 to 44, 27.40% from 45 to 64, and 14.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39.1 years. For every 100 females, there were 97.57 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.28 males.

According to the 2000 Census,[32] The median income for a household in the county was $37,494, and the median income for a family was $44,242. Males had a median income of $31,626 versus $23,437 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,071. About 8.10% of families and 10.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.70% of those under age 18 and 11.40% of those age 65 or over.

Law, government, and politics

The primary governing body of Rowan County is a council–manager government. The five-member board of commissioners are elected from single-member districts. As a group, they hire the county manager, who is responsible for operations. The current County Manager is Aaron Church. The current Commissioners are Greg Edds (chairman), Jim Greene (Vice-chairman), Judy Klusman, Mike Caskey, and Craig Pierce. Commissioners are elected to four-year terms, with three being elected during midterm national elections, and two being elected during presidential election years.[33] The commission passes the Code of Ordinances for the county.[34]

Rowan County is a member of the regional Centralina Council of Governments.[35]

County commission prayer

In 2013 the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of three Rowan county residents against the county commission's practice of starting their meeting with sectarian prayers by the commissioners, who instructed attendees to stand and join in. A federal district court issued an injunction forbidding the county commissioners from praying at their meetings.[36][37] After a divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found that the prayers did not violate the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, the full court sitting en banc disagreed and affirmed the injunction.[38][39] The Supreme Court of the United States declined to review, over the written dissent of two justices.[40][41] In 2019, the county was forced to pay $285,000 to the ACLU for the plaintiffs' legal fees because it had lost the lawsuit.[42]

Law enforcement and judicial system

Rowan County lies within the bounds of North Carolina's 27th Prosecutorial District, the 19C Superior Court District, and the 19C District Court District.[43] The Rowan County Sheriff's Office was founded in 1753 when Rowan County was created from Anson County. Its duties include courthouse security, civil process, operation of detention facility, investigations and community patrol. It has over 200 employees, most of which are sworn deputies.[44] The current Sheriff of Rowan County is Kevin L. Auten, who was appointed after the retirement of George Wilhelm in 2009. Auten won election to a full term in his own right in 2010.[45]

The Rowan County Sheriff's Office won the J. Stannard Baker Award, a national award for outstanding achievement in highway safety, in 2003.[46][47]

List of past sheriffs
  • 1753–1754 Unknown
  • 1754–1758 David Jones[48][49][50]
  • 1758–1759 Edward Hughes[48][49][50]
  • 1759–1763 Benjamin Miller (Milner)[48][50]
  • 1763–1764 William Nassery[50][48]
  • 1764–1767 Francis Locke[51][49][50]
  • 1767–1768 Griffith Rutherford[51][49][50]
  • 1768–1769 Andrew Allison[49][50]
  • 1769–1769 Adam Allison (August 11 – November 16)[49]
  • 1770–1770 No Sheriff[50]
  • 1771–1771 William Temple Coles[49][50]
  • 1771–1772 James McKay
  • 1772–1774 Daniel Little, Esq.
  • 1774–1777 James Kerr
  • 1777–1779 Galbraith Falls
  • 1779–1779 George Henry Berger (February 2, 1779–May 5, 1779)[52]
  • 1779–1779 Samuel Hughey (May 6 – November 3)
  • 1779–1780 Josiah Rounsevall, Esq. (November 3 – May 3)
  • 1780–1780 Moses Winslow, Esq. (May 3 – August 9)
  • 1780–1781 William Brandon, Esq. (August 9 – May 9)
  • 1781–1781 Peter Faust (May 9 – August 7)
  • 1781–1782 James Craige
  • 1782–1785 John Brevard Jr.[53]
  • 1785–1786 John Brevard Sr.
  • 1786–1787 Hugh Terrence (Torrence, Torrance, Tarrants)[54][53]
  • 1787–1790 Lewis Beard
  • 1790–1792 Isaac Jones
  • 1792–1794 John Braly (Brawley) Jr.
  • 1794–1808 John Troy
  • 1808–1813 Edward Chambers
  • 1813–1814 John Smith, Esq.
  • 1814–1818 Alexander Frohock
  • 1818–1820 John Beard, Esq.
  • 1820–1824 Samuel Jones
  • 1824–1826 Charles Fisher
  • 1826–1828 Isaac D. Jones
  • 1828–1837 Fielding Slater
  • 1837–1841 John H. Hardie
  • 1841–1849 Richard W. Long
  • 1849–1858 Caleb Kluttz[47]
  • 1858–1865 W. A. Walton
  • 1865–1866 Solomon Kluttz
  • 1867–1872 W. A. Walton
  • 1872–1880 C. F. Waggoner
  • 1880–1890 Charles C. Krider
  • 1890–1900 J. M. Monroe
  • 1900–1906 D. R. Julian
  • 1906–1908 Hodge Krider (father of J. H. Krider)
  • 1908–1914 J. H. McKenzie
  • 1914–1928 J. H. Krider
  • 1928–1930 R. P. Lyerly
  • 1930–1931 W. Locke McKenzie[55]
  • 1931–1932 Cal Miller
  • 1932–1950 J. H. Krider
  • 1950–1966 Arthur J. Shuping
  • 1966–1986 John Stirewalt[56]
  • 1986–1986 Junius L. Bost (February – December)
  • 1986–1998 Robert G. Martin
  • 1998–2009 George A. Wilhelm[57][58]
  • 2010–pres. Kevin L. Auten (served as acting head while chief deputy from the time former sheriff Wilhelm resigned until Auten was appointed as sheriff in 2010)[59][58]
United States presidential election results for Rowan County, North Carolina[60][61]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 49,297 67.15% 23,114 31.49% 997 1.36%
2016 42,810 66.51% 19,400 30.14% 2,159 3.35%
2012 38,775 62.23% 22,650 36.35% 887 1.42%
2008 37,451 60.84% 23,391 38.00% 718 1.17%
2004 34,915 67.32% 16,735 32.27% 217 0.42%
2000 28,922 65.53% 14,891 33.74% 320 0.73%
1996 22,754 57.94% 13,461 34.28% 3,058 7.79%
1992 21,297 49.84% 14,308 33.48% 7,127 16.68%
1988 23,192 65.48% 12,127 34.24% 97 0.27%
1984 25,207 70.20% 10,643 29.64% 57 0.16%
1980 18,566 59.68% 11,671 37.52% 872 2.80%
1976 14,644 48.44% 15,363 50.82% 222 0.73%
1972 20,735 73.34% 6,834 24.17% 705 2.49%
1968 15,207 46.79% 8,074 24.84% 9,220 28.37%
1964 14,804 49.78% 14,934 50.22% 0 0.00%
1960 17,726 57.84% 12,919 42.16% 0 0.00%
1956 17,562 64.28% 9,761 35.72% 0 0.00%
1952 17,535 60.82% 11,296 39.18% 0 0.00%
1948 5,722 36.44% 6,799 43.30% 3,181 20.26%
1944 5,862 37.62% 9,721 62.38% 0 0.00%
1940 4,059 23.76% 13,023 76.24% 0 0.00%
1936 4,306 25.16% 12,808 74.84% 0 0.00%
1932 4,464 30.94% 9,782 67.81% 180 1.25%
1928 7,957 62.46% 4,783 37.54% 0 0.00%
1924 3,560 39.06% 4,816 52.84% 738 8.10%
1920 4,888 43.22% 6,421 56.78% 0 0.00%
1916 2,320 43.18% 3,053 56.82% 0 0.00%
1912 280 6.06% 2,748 59.43% 1,596 34.52%
1908 2,009 45.02% 2,392 53.61% 61 1.37%
1904 1,215 33.21% 2,424 66.25% 20 0.55%
1900 1,555 36.25% 2,460 57.34% 275 6.41%
1896 1,468 31.91% 3,095 67.28% 37 0.80%
1892 876 21.84% 2,303 57.42% 832 20.74%
1888 1,274 31.35% 2,732 67.22% 58 1.43%
1884 1,372 34.18% 2,642 65.82% 0 0.00%
1880 1,377 40.36% 2,035 59.64% 0 0.00%

Education

Colleges

Rowan–Salisbury School System

Main article: Rowan–Salisbury School System

The Rowan–Salisbury School System is a PK-12 graded school district covering nearly all of Rowan County. The 35 schools in the district serve 20,887 students as of 2009–2010.[65] It was formed in 1989 with the merger of Rowan County Schools and Salisbury City Schools.[66]

Kannapolis City Schools

Main article: Kannapolis City Schools

Students living in the portion of Kannapolis located in Rowan County (the city is mostly in Cabarrus County) attend Kannapolis city schools. Their public school system operates independently of the countywide school systems.

Private schools

Libraries

Media

The Salisbury Post, founded in 1905, is a local newspaper that is published several days a week.

Communities

Map of Rowan County with municipal and township labels

Cities

Towns

Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Townships

By the requirements of the North Carolina Constitution of 1868, the county was divided into townships. Previous to that time, the subdivisions were Captain's Districts. While the Captain's Districts referred primarily to the militia, it served also for the election precinct, the tax listing and tax collecting district.[96] The following townships in Rowan County were created in 1868:

Notable people

See also: Category:People from Rowan County, North Carolina

See also

References

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  2. ^ Talk Like a Tarheel Archived June 22, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, from the North Carolina Collection website at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved August 16, 2023.
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  14. ^ The Dispatch (April 12, 2003). "Congrats Rowan County on 250 Years and a Happy Birthday to Davidson as Well".
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  34. ^ Rowan County Code of Ordinances.
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Further reading