A History of Jefferson, North Carolina

Ashe County Courthouse - Jefferson, North Carolina

Ashe County was created from Wilkes County in 1799. It was named in honor of Samuel Ashe, a Revolutionary Patriot, a Superior Court Judge, and Governor of North Carolina. In 1803, the town of Jefferson was laid out and the public buildings constructed, and it has been the county seat ever since.

Seeking a “proper and convenient” place to be Ashe County’s seat, the North Carolina General Assembly appointed a special commission in 1799. In the first of many displays of exorbitant spending, the commissioners purchased fifty acres of land for $100. With this expenditure, the town of Jefferson (for a short time called Jeffersonton) was born, being the first town in the nation to bear the name of Thomas Jefferson, who happened to be the Vice President of the United States at the time. Other incorporated towns within Ashe County include Lansing and West Jefferson, undoubtedly the county’s retail and service hub, offering a wonderful traditional-style walkable downtown.

The early 1900s saw much activity in the dairy industry, with cheese making factories in Grassy Creek and Beaver Creek, Sturgills, Crumpler and Ashland. Eventually, the Kraft-Phoenix Creamery established a plant in West Jefferson in the 1930s. Having had several owners, the plant is now the Ashe County Cheese Plant, for many years, the only such facility in North Carolina.

Another early industry to establish and thrive in Ashe County has been the Phoenix Chair Manufacturing Company, started around 1935 as a byproduct of chairs being produced in a small saw milling operation. Some of the Phoenix Company’s contemporaries include the Knox Knitting Company of Creston, an Oak Flooring Company established by W. E. Vannoy in 1935 and the Peerless Hosiery Company, beginning in 1953. Other, larger industrial operations to locate in Ashe County have been the Sprague Electric Company, the P. H. Hanes Knitting Company, the Gates Rubber Company, producing belts and hoses, as well as Southern Devices, Leviton Manufacturing, and Jefferson Apparel, producing textile goods.

Jeffersonton - aka Ashe Court House - was granted a U.S. Post Office on January 1, 1803, and its first Postmaster was David Earnest. Most records show the name changed to Jefferson in 1818, but not the U.S. Post Office. They retained the name of Jeffersonton until 1834. The Post Office has been in continuous operation ever since inception.

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