Mitchell County, North Carolina


Year Established

County Seat

Population (2010)




First Settled

First Settled By

Significance of County Name


Settlers from Rowan County

Dr. Elisha Mitchell

Other Significant Towns




Glen Ayre




Red Hill




Spruce Pine
Click Here - To see how Mitchell County evolved each decade - includes all the known towns and villages.

A History of Mitchell County


Old Mitchell County Court House

Click Here to go to the official website of the Mitchell County government.

Mitchell County was formed in 1861 from Yancey, Watauga, Caldwell, Burke, and McDowell counties. It was named in honor of Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a professor at the University of North Carolina. While on an exploring expedition of Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, Dr. Mitchell fell and was killed. He was buried on the top of this lofty mountain, which was named after him.

Mitchell County is in the western section of the state and is bounded by the state of Tennessee and Avery, McDowell, and Yancey counties in North Carolina. The present land area is 221.43 square miles and the 2010 population was 15,579.

The first court was ordered to be held at Eben Child's. Commissioners were named to acquire the land, establish a town by the name of Calhoun, and erect a court house in Calhoun. They maintained it was inconvenient to three-fourths of the citizens. They said the matter should, therefore, be referred to the General Assembly. In 1862, an Act was passed authorizing the people to decide by ballot for Calhoun, or for Davis as the county seat. In 1863, an Act was passed which stipulated that the county seat should be located at the geographical center of the county by actual survey and measurements.

In 1863, the justices met and unanimously agreed that Norman's Hill should be selected as the county seat. From 1861-1866, commissioners were appointed to acquire the land and lay out a town. At the regular September term of 1866, held at Davis, the commissioners reported that they had acquired twenty-nine acres of land and sold the lots. In 1868, the county seat was changed from Davis to Bakersville. Bakersville was incorporated in 1870 and has been the county seat ever since. 

Mitchell County was formed at the start of the American Civil War, and until 1911 encompassed most of present-day Avery County, North Carolina. County government is of the county manager/county commission type, with five sitting board members. There are two incorporated towns in Mitchell County. The county seat is Bakersville, in the northern section, with a population of 464 in 2010. The county's largest town is Spruce Pine, located in the southern section, which has a population of 2,175 in 2010. Both towns feature the mayor/town council form of government.

The county is well-known for its scenery. It is home to Roan Mountain, which has the largest naturally-occuring rhododendron gardens in the world. Bakersville pays homage to the blooming of those gardens each June during the North Carolina Rhododendron Festival, which is held at Bowman Middle School. The Blue Ridge Parkway skirts the southern sections of the county, with many places to stop off and admire the beautiful scenery of the area.

Mitchell County is bounded by the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, Mount Mitchell, which is located in neighboring Yancey County and by one of the oldest mountains in the world, Grandfather Mountain, located in adjoining Avery County. The North Toe River flows through the county and joins with the South Toe at Toecane to form the Nolichucky River, one of the best whitewater rafting rivers in the eastern U.S.

Mitchell County is also known for its rich trove of gems and minerals. The world-famous North Carolina Mineral and Gem Festival, one of the oldest festivals of its kind, makes Spruce Pine and Mitchell County its home each August. Rockhounds from around the world descend on the region to explore the vast treasures stored underground.

© 2013 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved