McDowell County, North Carolina


Year Established

County Seat

Population (2010)




First Settled

First Settled By

Significance of County Name


From Burke and Rutherford Counties

Colonel Joseph McDowell

Other Significant Towns





Little Switzerland

North Cove

Old Fort

Pleasant Gardens



Sugar Hill

Click Here - To see how McDowell County evolved each decade - includes all the known towns and villages.
Click Here - To view the significant Education events for McDowell County since the county was formed.

A History of McDowell County


Linville Caverns - McDowell County, North Carolina

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

Click Here to learn more about the known airports in McDowell County.
McDowell County was formed in 1842 from Rutherford and Burke counties. It was named in honor of Colonel Joseph McDowell, a North Carolina Militia officer in the American Revolution. It is in the west central section of the state and is bounded by Burke, Rutherford, Henderson, Buncombe, Yancey, Mitchell, and Avery counties. The present land area is 441.68 square miles and the 2010 population was 44,996. The court was ordered to be held at the home of Jonathan L. Carson until the county seat could be established. The act also named commissioners to select a site as near the center of the county as possible, acquire land, lay out a town by the name of Marion, and erect a court house. Marion is the county seat. 
Native Americans discovered this area over 6,000 years ago. In the 1700s, Scots-Irish pioneers from Pennsyvania and Virginia settled here. Those early residents formed a close community protected by a series of forts that remained active until the early 1800s. This was the western-most outpost prior to the American Revolution. During the Revolutionary War, men on the Over Mountain Victory Trail marched through what is present-day McDowell County. Portions of that trail are accessible to this day.

Between 1804 and 1827, the area contributed to North Carolina's gold legacy as the nation's leader in gold production. McDowell County was formally organized in 1843 at the home of Colonel John Carson. His home serves as a museum today in the Pleasant Gardens community. The county was named for Joseph McDowell, a prominent leader during the Revolutionary War.

McDowell County was organized in 1843 in Carson House (listed in National Register of Historic Places), a stagecoach inn whose famous visitors included Davy Crockett, Andrew Jackson, and Sam Houston.
Click Here to view / download eight road maps of McDowell County.

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