Ashe County :: Ashe County, Jefferson, and West Jefferson, NC
Ashe County is located in North Carolina. The 2000 U.S. Census listed the county's population at 24,384; the 2010 U.S. Census listed the population as 27,281. Its county seat is Jefferson.
Historical evidence shows that Ashe county was inhabited by Native Americans, which included the Cherokee, Creek, and Shawnee tribes. Pieces of broken pottery, arrowheads, and other Native American artifacts have been found, indicating their presence. Most of these artifacts have been found in the Old Fields area of Ashe County.
The earliest Europeans to explore Ashe County were Bishop Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg - head of the Moravian Church in America - and his associates, Timothy Horsefield, Joseph Mueller, Henry Antes, Johan Merck, and Herman Loesch. Bishop Spangenberg wrote about his journey in Ashe in a diary that has been preserved by the Moravian church. He was given 100,000 acres (400 km2) in Virginia as a place for his fellow Moravians to settle. The only one of Spangenberg's group to return and permanently settle in Ashe County was Herman Loesch. Other early settlers were David Helton, William Walling, William McLain and Daniel Boone, the famous pioneer. With the exception of Boone, these men and their families all settled in Ashe in 1771.
During the Revolutionary War, one skirmish was fought in Ashe County. It is called the Battle of the Big Glades. The battle was fought in July 1780 between a force of Americans, led by Captain Robert Love, and a force of 150 British Loyalists on their way to Charlotte to join Lord Cornwallis, the British commander in the Southern colonies. The Americans won the skirmish.
In the 1780s, Ashe County was considered a part of the State of Franklin. It consisted of three counties - Washington, Greene, and Sullivan. Ashe was considered to be a part of Washington County. The "State of Franklin" marked the beginnings of the State of Tennessee. Ashe County did not formally become a part of North Carolina until 1785. In 1799, Ashe was finally pronounced an official county of the United States and of North Carolina. Ashe County was named after Samuel Ashe, the Governor of North Carolina from 1795 to 1798. From 1807 to 1913, Ashe went through numerous boundary changes.
In 1849, the southwestern part of Ashe County was combined with parts of Caldwell County, Wilkes County, and Yancey County to form Watauga County. In 1859, the eastern part of the remainder of Ashe County became Alleghany County.
Ashe County has produced, or been visited by, several prominent people. Among them are Monte Weaver, a famous baseball player, who pitched for the Washington Senators and pitched a World Series game in 1933. After being traded from the Senators, he pitched for the Boston Red Sox, before being called into service in World War Two. Weaver died in 1994. Helen Keller visited an Ashe County native, Marvin Osborne, in 1944 when he was wounded in France in World War Two. Loretta Lynn sang at the Central Food Market in West Jefferson in the 1940s. (The Central Food building formally housed a locally owned auto parts store, but is now vacant.) In 1998, then-President Bill Clinton and his Vice-President, Al Gore, held a ceremony on the banks of the scenic New River to designate it as an American Heritage River. After the ceremony, both men had lunch at the historic Glendale Springs Inn, also located in Ashe County. Fiddle player G. B. Grayson was born in Ashe County in 1887.
Jefferson is one of nineteen townships in Ashe County. The township has a population of 4,107 according to the 2000 census, and is the largest township in Ashe County by population.
Geographically, Jefferson Township occupies 29.84 square miles (77.3 km2) in central Ashe County. The incorporated municipalities within Jefferson Township are the Town of Jefferson, the county seat of Ashe County, and parts of the town of West Jefferson.
West Jefferson was incorporated as a city in 1909, and it is the second-oldest incorporated town in Ashe County. West Jefferson has the distinction of having the only cheese factory in the south-eastern United States.
For many decades, West Jefferson was served by the Norfolk and Western Railroad, better known as the Virginia Creeper. The railroad was the primary reason for the creation of West Jefferson, as the town became a major stop on the railway.
With the decline of the railroad and the loss of textile factory jobs to foreign markets, West Jefferson's economy is increasingly devoted to the tourism industry. The town's location in the Appalachian Mountains has led to a large number of tourists visiting the area each year, and many out-of-state tourists have begun to build cabins and housing developments around the town.
The population was 1,081 at the 2000 census
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