A History of Asheboro, North Carolina

Randolph County Court House - Asheboro, North Carolina

The town of Asheborough received its original charter from the State Legislature on Christmas Day, 1796 - a time when the topic of the day was President George Washington's "Farewell Address" as published in The Philadelphia American Advertiser only a few weeks earlier. The village itself dates to 1780 when citizens demanded that the county seat be relocated from Johnstonville to a place more convenient for citizens of the almost square 801 square miles of Randolph County. Asheborough, named for Samuel Ashe, governor from 1795 to 1798, came into being on land owned by Jesse Henley and the first session of court was held here on June 12, 1793.

The town of Asheborough began to take form on a fifty-acre tract with the focal point the court house square on Main Street. In 1805, a large two-story frame building housed the court house and gradually lawyers and court officials took up residence here. For almost the first century of the town's existence, court-related business was the primary business of town. The sleepy village came to life when court was in session, turning the square into a carnival of activity that ranged from horse swapping to the selling and imbibing of grog. The whooping and yelling often caused the presiding judge to order the high sheriff to halt the ruckus.

In November 1824, Jonathan Worth, a 22-year-old lawyer, took up residence in Asheboro and became the town's most prominent citizen. After serving six terms in the State Legislature and two terms as state treasurer, he served two terms as governor, from 1865 to 1868. There was no formal town government until 1829. The town petitioned the legislature to re-incorporate and appoint new commissioners so that improvements could be made.

From 1836 to 1844, Benjamin Swain, a lawyer and editor, published the town's first newspaper, Southern Citizen, a weekly. In one of his editions, Swaim called Asheboro an "uncommonly healthy and pleasant" village of about 100 inhabitants. In 1850-51, the Fayetteville and Western Plank Road section through Asheboro was completed. At this time Asheboro had 32 households totaling 154 people, including 11 free blacks.

The first church in Asheboro, the Methodist Episcopal Church, was built in 1834. The Presbyterian Church was organized in 1850 and a sanctuary built in 1852. By this time much of the wealth of the town resulted from gold mining operations nearby.

A period of stagnation followed the American Civil War. In 1876, Asheboro's population had grown to about 200. Asheboro still had only two churches and two academies, one for males and one for females. Two hundred bales of cotton were sold at the Asheboro market that year.

The High Point, Randleman, Asheboro and Southern Railroad arrived in Asheboro in July of 1889, marking the beginning of a period of prosperity and growth. Competition came in 1896 with the arrival of the Asheboro & Montgomery Railroad, from Star to Asheboro. The railroad depots and a disastrous fire caused the center of town to shift from Main Street to Sunset Avenue.

The second century of Asheboro was marked by the establishment of its first bank, The Bank of Randolph, and Asheboro Telephone Company, both established in 1897.

The arrival of the railroads caused a population explosion. The population nearly doubled every ten years: 1890 - 510; 1900 - 992; 1910 - 1,865; 1920 - 2,559; and 1930 - 5,021. By 1912, there already were about thirty stores in Asheboro plus two roller mills, two chair manufacturers, a lumber plant, hosiery mill, wheelbarrow factory, and foundry.

The present county court house was completed in July 1909, at a cost of $34,000, and the next ten years resulted in unparalleled growth. Electricity arrived, along with a water system fed by wells. The fire department was organized, a new public school built, and the first hospital organized. The industrial base expanded from wood products and blacksmith shops to textiles. The first of today's base of hosiery mills came with the chartering of Acme Hosiery Mills on December 19, 1908. The original product was cotton stockings.

Without warning, on January 10, 1923, the US Post Office Department changed the spelling of the town's name to "Ashboro." A compromise spelling of "Asheboro" resulted after a loud protest from citizens and Congressman William Cicero Hammer of Asheboro.

The business tempo of the 1920s was smothered by the Great Depression and World War II, but the aftermath of World War II resulted in a flurry in industrial plants to augment the cluster of hosiery plants here. Stedman Manufacturing Co. expanded its handkerchief manufacturing during the war to make T-shirts for the navy. Klopman Mills was organized with its first plant in Asheboro. Eveready Battery Co., with two plants in Asheboro, was the first infusion of a mix of industries, followed by B.B. Walker Shoe Co., Black & Decker, Georgia Pacific, Klaussner Furniture Industries, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. wire plant, Knorr Best Foods, Kayser-Roth Hosiery, and others.

In this Bicentennial Year, Asheboro has a population of 17,559, a land area of 14.81 square miles, a total property valuation of more than $992 million and a tax rate of 52-cents per $100 valuation. The city of Asheboro furnishes water and sewer service for the 1,371 acre site of the North Carolina Zoological Park and Gardens near Asheboro, the world's largest natural habitat zoo, and to a number of outlying homes, industries and communities.

In recent years, the city of Asheboro has concentrated on building a solid base of services with the creation of a series of lakes for water supply, fresh water and waste water treatment plants, city streets, and utilities. The present emphasis is on territorial expansion and planned development.

During the early part of the eighteenth century, the section which is now Asheboro was occupied by the Catawba Indians. The first Europeans came from Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century. They included Scots-Irish, Germans, and English Quakers. There are many traces of the Indians still found, such as arrow-points, tomahawks, pottery, and other relics.

The present town of Asheboro is near the center of Randolph County, and is near the center of the state. Asheboro is situated on a beautiful ridge of large hills or mountains, as they are called locally, with gentle rolling plains. The highest of these mountains, overlooking Asheboro from the northwest, is Caraway. There are two river systems, Uwharrie and Deep, in the county, with the third rising near Asheboro, which is called Little River.

In the year 1793, the county paid ten shillings for two acres of land for the construction of public buildings, and on this land the present town of Asheboro was built in 1796. "Asheborough" as it was spelled then, was named in honor of Samuel Ashe, who was a distinguished soldier and statesman during the American Revolution, and afterwards became governor of the state. Popular opinion played a major part in Asheboro's location when residents of the southern part of the county objected to traveling so far to do business at the court house. They wanted a county seat in the center of the county.

Around the court house, stores sprang up as the population increased, creating demand for goods and services. The Male and Female Academies prospered, as did the new churches. The village was a trading center for the gold mining interests in the count and would soon become a toll house stop on the Plank Road.

Asheboro followed the county's lead with similar views toward secession prior to the American Civil War. During this time, Jonathan Worth emerged as the major force in Asheboro's business, political and educational matters. Elected to the state General Assembly four times representing Randolph County, Worth served as State Treasurer during the Civil War and was the North Carolina Governor from 1865 until 1868.

Asheboro grew industrially with the arrival of the railroad in 1889. Textiles and furniture ruled the economic picture in Asheboro, until the mid-1950s. 1960s and early 1970s with the arrival of diversified industries such as Goodyear, Arrow International, Eveready Battery, Klaussner Furniture Industries, and Georgia Pacific.

As Asheboro entered the twentieth century, it began receiving notice that it was a transportation center, primarily because of the excellent road system and its central location in North Carolina.

Asheboro is famous for the North Carolina Zoological Park, the Seagrove Area Potteries, the Richard Petty Museum, and the American Classic Motorcycle Museum.

Asheboro was granted a US Post Office on January 1, 1819, and its first Postmaster was Mr. B. Elliott. It has been in continuous operation ever since.

© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved