Avery County, North Carolina

Year Established

County Seat

Significance of County Name

Population (2010)



Waightstill Avery


Legislative Act Creating County

First Settled / By

County Evolution by Decade

Official County Website

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1770s / Scots-Irish

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Historical Post Offices

American Revolution

American Civil War

Significant Education Events

Alphabetical / Date Started


Coming Later

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Airports in Avery County

Maps of Avery County

Books About Avery County

Genealogy Sources

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A History of Avery County

Avery County Court House - Newland, North Carolina

Avery County was formed in 1911 from Mitchell, Watauga, and Caldwell counties. It was named in honor of Colonel Waightstill Avery, an officer of the American Revolution and Attorney General of North Carolina. It is in the northwestern section of the state and is bounded by the state of Tennessee and the counties of Watauga, Caldwell, Burke, McDowell, and Mitchell in North Carolina. The present land area is 247.00 square miles and the 2010 population was 17,797. Commissioners were named in the Act establishing the county who were to select two or more sites for the county seat after which the county would vote on the sites. Newland has been the county seat ever since inception.
Avery County is the 100th and last county formed in North Carolina in 1911, from portions of Mitchell, Watauga, and Caldwell counties. It is named for Waightstill Avery (1741-1819) who was a Colonel over the Jones County Regiment of Militia during the Revolutionary War from 1779 to 1780. In late 1780 or early 1781, he moved to Morgantown in Burke County and was commissioned a Captain in the Burke County Regiment of Militia. He was also a member of the North Carolina Fifth Provincial Congress in 1776, a member of the state House of Commons 1782-83, 1793-94, North Carolina State Attorney General, 1777-79; and a member of the state Senate in 1796.

Avery County is characterized by rugged mountains including Grandfather Mountain, home to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games & Gathering of Scottish Clans. It has the highest average elevation of any county in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, reaching that of 5,964 ft. above sealevel. Approximately half of the county lies within the Pisgah National Forest. There are many wild trout streams and ski resorts located within its boundaries. The population in 2010 was 17,797. The county seat is Newland.

Avery County was named after Colonel Waightstill Avery of Morganton, NC. Colonel Avery served in the Revolutionary War from 1779 until 1781. He became the first Attorney General of North Carolina after the Declaration of Independence was signed. Newland, at 3,589 feet in elevation, is the highest county seat in eastern America. It's original name was "Old Fields of Toe," because it is located in a broad flat valley and is at the headwaters of the Toe River.  
Avery County has the distinction of being the 100th and last county to be formed in the state of North Carolina and was named for Colonel Waighstill Avery of Morganton, North Carolina. Probably the best history of the county comes from "Western North Carolina - A History (1730-1913)" by John Preston Arthur.

Avery County. This was created in 1911, out of portions of Watauga and Mitchell counties, principally. At an election held August 1, 1911, Old Fields of Toe was selected as the county seat. It so happened that this land had been granted to Colonel Waightstill Avery on November 9, 1783. It was in his honor that this, the 100th county, was named, while the county seat was called Newland, in honor of Hon. W. C. Newland, of Lenoir, then the lieutenant governor of the state. The jail and court house were completed sufficiently to allow court to be held in April of 1913, Judge Daniels presiding.

There are two legends concerning the reason this tract was called the Old Fields of Toe. L. D. Lowe, Esq., in the Watauga Democrat of June 19, 1913, states that one legend relates that Estatoe, the daughter of one of two rival chieftains, fell in love with the son of the other; but her father refused his consent, which caused a bloody war between the two factions. But Estatoe caused a pipe of peace to be made with two stems of titi so that two could smoke it at once. The two rival chiefs assembled their respective followers on the bank of the river, and smoked till peace was concluded and Estatoe married her lover. The other legend is that found in The Balsam Groves of the Grandfather Mountain, and in it Estatoe is made to drown herself because she could not wed her Indian lover because of her father's implacable opposition.

Avery County's Long Pedigree. "It was a part of Clarendon in 1729; of New Hanover in 1729; of Bladen in 1734; of Anson in 1750; of Rowan in 1753; of Surry in 1770; of Burke in 1777; of Wilkes in 1777; of Ashe in 1799; of Yancey in 1833; of Caldwell in 1841; of Watauga in 1849; of Mitchell in 1861; so that that portion taken from Caldwell and attached to Avery in 1911 represents the eighth subdivision; and that from Watauga the tenth; which is a record probably unsurpassed."

The principal reason for the formation of this new county was the inaccessibility of Bakersville to most of the inhabitants of Mitchell, it being in the northeastern part of that county and only two and a half miles from the Yancey line. Linville City, two miles from Montezuma and Pinola, is "the cleanest town in the North Carolina mountains east of Asheville, and the only place of the kind where guests have a large, ideal zone for golf." The same author speaks of the Yonahlossee road, running from Linville City to Blowing Rock, as the Appian Way which ran from Rome via Naples, to Brundesium, and claims that the latter was not more interesting than the former. The world will one day admit that the fine scenery of North Carolina has its culmination in Avery County.

[Website Author's note - Clarendon County was NOT in existence in 1729, it was abolished in 1667.]


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