Rutherford County
Rutherford County Courthouse
Official seal of Rutherford County
Official logo of Rutherford County
Motto: 
"Vibrant Communities – New Possibilities"
Map of North Carolina highlighting Rutherford 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°24′N 81°55′W / 35.40°N 81.92°W / 35.40; -81.92
Country United States
State North Carolina
FoundedApril 14, 1779
Named forGriffith Rutherford
SeatRutherfordton
Largest communityForest City
Government
 • County ManagerSteve Garrison
Area
 • Total567.25 sq mi (1,469.2 km2)
 • Land565.44 sq mi (1,464.5 km2)
 • Water1.81 sq mi (4.7 km2)  0.32%
Population
 (2020)
 • Total64,444
 • Estimate 
(2022)
64,963
 • Density113.97/sq mi (44.00/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional districts10th, 11th
Websiterutherfordcountync.gov

Rutherford County is a county in the southwestern area of the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2020 census, the population was 64,444.[1] Its county seat is Rutherfordton.[2] Rutherford County comprises the Forest City, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area.

History

In the region's earliest history, it was inhabited by the Cherokee. It was a part of Mecklenburg County before being incorporated into Tryon County in 1768. Tryon County was divided into Rutherford County and Lincoln County in 1779.[3] The first county seat was Gilbert Town. Rutherford Town (now Rutherfordton) was founded in 1787 to be the new county seat.[4] The county and town are named for Griffith Rutherford, leader of an expedition against the Cherokee in 1776 and a general in the American Revolutionary War.[5]

In 1791 parts of Rutherford County and Burke County were combined to form Buncombe County.[6] In 1841 parts of Rutherford and Lincoln counties were combined to form Cleveland County.[7] In 1842, additional parts of Rutherford and Burke counties were combined to form McDowell County.[8] Finally, in 1855, parts of Rutherford and Henderson counties were combined to form Polk County.[9]

In 1790, the county had 7,775 residents, including 164 families and 611 enslaved people. Many areas of the county were agriculturally productive or lay on important crossroads. The number of unincorporated communities in the county steadily increased, and the population reached had nearly doubled by 1810.[3] The most important crops in the county during the 1800s were corn, wheat, oats, rye, cotton, wool and tobacco.[5]

The county existed at the crossroads of stagecoach routes that connected places like Asheville, Salisbury and Charlotte. The Hickory Nut Turnpike was completed in 1847 to help make the route even safer and more appealing to travelers.[10]

Rutherford County was the most important gold-producing region in America from 1790 until the California gold rush of the 1840s. The town of Rutherfordton was at the center of this. German goldsmith Christopher Bechtler and his sons set up a mint just north of Rutherfordton, where they produced millions of dollars worth of US coins. The Bechtlers produced the first gold dollars in the United States.[11]

The county has a strong militia tradition, stretching back to the 18th century when it had the most well organized militia in North Carolina. Its militiamen served in the Battle of Kings Mountain and Battle of Cowpens. During the Civil War, Rutherfordton and Burnt Chimney (now Forest City) competed to raise militias to serve in the Confederate States Army.[3]

After the Civil War ended, many farmers in the region were forced to tenant farming, as they owned no land of their own. This meant that many Rutherford County residents were trapped in debt by predatory crop liens and other economic imbalances. The Rutherford Farmer's Alliance was established by D.N. Caviness in June 1888 to fight for farmer's rights, and had 300 members by 1891. The Alliance's first president was Colonel John L. McDowell.[12] The underlying economic and racial tensions led to events like the Forest City lynching.[12]

During this period of upheaval, when family and political feuds had been recently inflamed by the Civil War, Rutherford County experienced a rash of violence wreaked by the KKK, but local investigations in Rutherford County led to the prosecution of over 300 hundred Klan members and by 1872, the KKK had begun to "disappear".[13]

The construction of railroads and cotton mills in Rutherford County during the 1880s and 1890s invigorated the county's communities, none more so than Forest City. The Rutherford Railway Construction Company built a line from Rutherfordton to South Carolina, and Southern Railway and Seaboard Air Line Railroad also ran through the county.[12]

A disproportionate number of Rutherford County natives served during WWII, with about 12% participating in the war effort in some capacity. 149 Rutherford County natives died in the war, proportionately 3.5 times as many losses as other counties. The first soldier from Rutherford County to die in the war was SFC Mark Alexander Rhodes, who died aboard the USS Arizona during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.[14]

In May 1989, Rutherford County was hit by an EF4 tornado from a storm that came out of South Carolina. This tornado was part of the May 1989 tornado outbreak, that hit the states of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.[15]

Geography

Map
Interactive map of Rutherford County
Rutherford County Elevation

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 567.25 square miles (1,469.2 km2), of which 565.44 square miles (1,464.5 km2) is land and 1.81 square miles (4.7 km2) (0.32%) is water.[16]

In addition to gold and platinum, minerals like rock crystal, garnet, tourmaline, slate, wolframite, and the rare-earth element samarskite have been mined in Rutherford County.[17] Diamonds have also been found there, including one mined at the JD Twitty Gold Placer Mine in 1845.[18]

State and local protected areas

Major water bodies

Adjacent counties

Major highways

Major infrastructure

Demographics

Historical population
CensusPop.Note
17907,808
180010,75337.7%
181013,20222.8%
182015,35116.3%
183017,55714.4%
184019,2029.4%
185013,550−29.4%
186011,573−14.6%
187013,12113.4%
188015,19815.8%
189018,77023.5%
190025,10133.7%
191028,38513.1%
192031,42610.7%
193040,45228.7%
194045,57712.7%
195046,3561.7%
196045,091−2.7%
197047,3375.0%
198053,78713.6%
199056,9185.8%
200062,89910.5%
201067,8107.8%
202064,444−5.0%
2022 (est.)64,963[1]0.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[20]
1790–1960[21] 1900–1990[22]
1990–2000[23] 2010[24] 2020[1]

2020 census

Rutherford County racial composition[25]
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 52,026 80.73%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 5,836 9.06%
Native American 152 0.24%
Asian 343 0.53%
Pacific Islander 23 0.04%
Other/Mixed 2,778 4.31%
Hispanic or Latino 3,286 5.1%

As of the 2020 census, there were 64,444 people, 27,970 households, and 18,874 families residing in the county.

2000 census

At the 2000 census,[26] the county had 62,899 people, 25,191 households, and 17,935 families. The population density was 112 people per square mile (43 people/km2). There were 29,535 housing units at an average density of 52 units per square mile (20 units/km2). The county's racial makeup was 86.79% White, 11.23% Black or African American, 0.20% Native American, 0.22% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.67% from other races, and 0.74% from two or more races. 1.81% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 25,191 households, out of which 30.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.40% were married couples living together, 11.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.80% were non-families. 25.50% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.90.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 23.80% under the age of 18, 8.00% from 18 to 24, 27.90% from 25 to 44, 24.30% from 45 to 64, and 16.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 93.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.60 males.

The county's median household income was $31,122, and the median family income was $37,787. Males had a median income of $28,890 versus $21,489 for females. The county's per capita income was $16,270. About 10.40% of families and 13.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.30% of those under age 18 and 13.80% of those age 65 or over.

Ancestry

As of 1983, the largest ancestry groups in Rutherford County were:[27]

Ancestry Percent
(1983)
English England 44%
African American United States 11%
Irish Republic of Ireland 9%
German Germany 5%
Scotch-Irish Ulster 4%
Scottish Scotland 3%
Dutch Netherlands 2%
Italian Italy 1%
French or French Canadian (except Basque) France 1%
Mexican Mexico 1%
Polish Poland 1%

Government and politics

Rutherford is currently a powerfully Republican county. No Democratic presidential candidate has carried Rutherford County since Jimmy Carter did so in 1976. Before 1928 when Herbert Hoover won it, however, the county was a clear-cut part of the Democratic "Solid South".

Rutherford County is governed by a board of commissioners. The County Board of Commissioners[28] includes: Chairman Bryan King, Com. Greg Lovelace, Com. David Hunt, Com. Michael Benfield, and Com. Alan Toney. The Board of Commissioners appoints a county manager to serve as the chief administrator. The current county manager is Steve Garrison who has been serving since March 16, 2015.[29]

Rutherford County is a member of the Isothermal Planning and Development Commission regional council of governments.

The county is policed by the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office. The current sheriff is Aaron Ellenburg.[30]

United States presidential election results for Rutherford County, North Carolina[31]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 24,891 72.30% 9,135 26.53% 403 1.17%
2016 21,871 72.16% 7,512 24.79% 924 3.05%
2012 18,954 66.04% 9,374 32.66% 374 1.30%
2008 18,769 65.35% 9,641 33.57% 310 1.08%
2004 16,343 66.28% 8,184 33.19% 131 0.53%
2000 13,755 63.34% 7,697 35.44% 264 1.22%
1996 9,792 52.73% 7,162 38.57% 1,617 8.71%
1992 9,748 47.95% 7,855 38.64% 2,726 13.41%
1988 10,337 59.73% 6,926 40.02% 43 0.25%
1984 11,369 62.23% 6,862 37.56% 37 0.20%
1980 8,363 49.29% 8,315 49.01% 288 1.70%
1976 6,718 39.24% 10,361 60.52% 42 0.25%
1972 9,506 68.80% 4,140 29.97% 170 1.23%
1968 7,785 46.11% 4,622 27.38% 4,476 26.51%
1964 7,115 42.72% 9,541 57.28% 0 0.00%
1960 8,993 51.25% 8,554 48.75% 0 0.00%
1956 8,200 53.22% 7,208 46.78% 0 0.00%
1952 8,387 51.96% 7,755 48.04% 0 0.00%
1948 4,342 36.95% 5,992 51.00% 1,416 12.05%
1944 4,698 38.90% 7,379 61.10% 0 0.00%
1940 4,204 32.16% 8,869 67.84% 0 0.00%
1936 4,830 32.77% 9,911 67.23% 0 0.00%
1932 4,448 34.65% 8,336 64.93% 54 0.42%
1928 5,762 58.16% 4,146 41.84% 0 0.00%
1924 3,897 43.17% 5,101 56.51% 29 0.32%
1920 4,015 44.04% 5,101 55.96% 0 0.00%
1916 1,871 43.35% 2,445 56.65% 0 0.00%
1912 82 2.14% 2,180 56.93% 1,567 40.92%

Economy

Rutherfordton County has a large timber industry, as well as textile and construction materials manufacturing. The agricultural industry in Rutherfordton produces soybeans, wheat, corn, cotton, and livestock.[32]

In 2010, Rutherford County was selected as the location for a new $450 million data center for Facebook.[33][34]

Horsehead Corporation announced the construction of its new, state-of-the-art zinc and diversified metals production facility in Rutherford County, NC, near the municipality of Forest City.[35]

Camp Bud Scheile A Boy Scout camp run by the Piedmont Council BSA is located North of Forest City. It can accommodate as many as 1800 campers every summer.

Culture

Rutherford County has a tourism industry which includes areas like Lake Lure and Chimney Rock.[36]

Several films have been shot in Rutherford County, including Firestarter (1984), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), and Dirty Dancing (1987).[32]

Communities

Map of Rutherford County with municipal and township labels

Towns

Village

Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Former community

Townships

Notable people

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c "QuickFacts: Rutherford County, North Carolina". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Davis, Anita Price; Walker, James M. (2006). Forest City. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 7–8. ISBN 978-0-7385-4218-8.
  4. ^ "Town History". Rutherfordton, NC. Retrieved March 2, 2024.
  5. ^ a b Wheeler, John Hill (1851). Historical Sketches of North Carolina from 1584 to 1851: Compiled from Original Records, Official Documents, and Traditional Statements : with Biographical Sketches of Her Distinguished Statesmen, Jurists, Lawyers, Soldiers, Divines, Etc. Lippincott, Grambo and Company. p. 399.
  6. ^ "History of the County | Burke County, NC". www.burkenc.org. Retrieved March 3, 2024.
  7. ^ "Cleveland County". NCpedia. Retrieved March 3, 2024.
  8. ^ "McDowell County". NCpedia. Retrieved March 3, 2024.
  9. ^ "Polk County, North Carolina". www.carolana.com. Retrieved March 3, 2024.
  10. ^ Proctor, Jim (2013). Lake Lure. Arcadia Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-7385-9843-7.
  11. ^ Davis, Anita Price (2013). Legendary Locals of Rutherford County. Arcadia Publishing. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-4671-0064-9.
  12. ^ a b c Cole, J. Timothy (April 5, 2016). The Forest City Lynching of 1900: Populism, Racism, and White Supremacy in Rutherford County, North Carolina. McFarland. pp. 29–34. ISBN 978-0-7864-8040-1.
  13. ^ Proctor, Bradley David (May 2009). The reconstruction of white supremacy: the Ku Klux Klan in piedmont North Carolina, 1868 to 1872 (Thesis). doi:10.17615/esp3-kp96. OCLC 1105807085.[page needed]
  14. ^ Davis, Anita Price; Walker, James M. (2004). Rutherford County in World War II. Arcadia Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-7385-1646-2.
  15. ^ US Department of Commerce, NOAA. "A Look Back at the Western Carolina Violent Tornado Outbreak of 5 May 1989". www.weather.gov. Retrieved March 2, 2024.
  16. ^ "2020 County Gazetteer Files – North Carolina". United States Census Bureau. August 23, 2022. Retrieved September 9, 2023.
  17. ^ Genth, Frederick Augustus (1891). The Minerals of North Carolina. U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. 11, 12, 40, 48, 58, 73, 80.
  18. ^ Pratt, Joseph Hyde. "Gems And Gem Minerals Of North Carolina" (PDF).
  19. ^ "NCWRC Game Lands". www.ncpaws.org. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  20. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
  21. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
  22. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
  23. ^ "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 19, 2015.
  24. ^ "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  25. ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  26. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  27. ^ Census, United States Bureau of the (1983). 1980 Census of Population and Housing: Census tracts. U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census.
  28. ^ "County Commissioners". Rutherford County, NC. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  29. ^ Keller, Deborah (February 26, 2015). "Rutherford County Appoints Garrison To County Manager". Rutherford Weekly. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  30. ^ Starnes, Ritchie (November 9, 2022). "Voters choose Ellenburg in 3 candidate race". The Daily Courier. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
  31. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  32. ^ a b "Rutherford County". NCpedia. Retrieved March 2, 2024.
  33. ^ "Rutherford Data Center". Facebook. Archived from the original on November 15, 2010. Retrieved January 14, 2022.
  34. ^ "Rutherford County 12/07/10 - Facebook's Data Center Project Hires Locally". Archived from the original on July 3, 2013. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
  35. ^ "Horsehead Corporation". Archived from the original on May 7, 2012. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  36. ^ Proctor, Jim (2013). Lake Lure. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 9–10. ISBN 978-0-7385-9843-7.