Stanly County, North Carolina

Year Established

County Seat

Significance of County Name

Population (2020)



John Stanly


Legislative Act Creating County

First Settled / By

County Evolution by Decade

Official County Website

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1746 / Settlers of Montgomery County. Germans in 1750s.

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Historical Post Offices

American Revolution

American Civil War

Significant Education Events

Alphabetical / Date Started

Battles & Skirmishes


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Airports in Stanly County

Maps of Stanly County

Books About Stanly County

Genealogy Sources

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A History of Stanly County

Morrow Mountain State Park - Stanly County, North Carolina

Stanly County was formed in 1841 from Montgomery County. It was named in honor of John Stanly who for many years was a member of the state Legislature, several times Speaker of the House of Commons, and elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. It is in the central section of the state and is bounded by Montgomery, Richmond, Anson, Union, Cabarrus, and Rowan counties. The present land area is 395.06 square miles and the 2010 population was 60,585. Albemarle is the county seat. 
On January 11, 1841, a new county was founded in North Carolina’s piedmont region – Stanly County. Created out of the western portion of Montgomery County, Stanly County’s eastern borders were determined by the Yadkin and Pee Dee Rivers. The names of Stanly County’s first Justices of the Peace remain prominent among Stanly County citizens today –William Swaringen, chairman, Edmund Lilly, Eldridge Parker, Henry Davis, Joshua Hearne, Jacob Austin, Richmond Snuggs, James Allen, John Stone, Francis Kron, John Miller, Daniel Palmer, Thomas Rowland, Mathias Moose, and John Furr. The county court elected D. Hearne, Clerk of Court; S.P. Morton, Register of Deeds; and Eben Hearne, High Sheriff. The Hearne family donated fifty-one acres of land to establish Albemarle, the new county seat. The County Commissioners accepted the deeded property, and a section of what had been the great Hearne Plantation became the heart of the new town.

As strange as it sounds, the new county was titled after a man who never stepped foot on the soil that bears his name. John Stanly was a notorious and popular personage in nineteenth-century North Carolina. Born in New Bern, Stanly served in the House of Commons, the State Legislature, and the 7th and 11th session of the U.S. Congress. John Stanly was known as a well-informed theorist, brilliant orator, and cantankerous politician. Stanly was involved in a political dispute with Richard Dobbs Spaight, Sr., the first native-born governor of North Carolina. Living up to his reputation as a colorful and quick-tempered individual, Stanly challenged Spaight to a duel. Stanly shot and killed Governor Spaight in North Carolina’s last legalized duel; he was pardoned by the succeeding governor eight days later. Despite Stanly’s controversial past, the county was named after John Stanly in order to gain preference and recognition from powerful officials in the eastern region of the state where Stanly was favored.

The area now known as Stanly County has a history that reaches back over 10,000 years, when small tribes of hunter-gatherers migrated with herds into the piedmont. As far as we know, these people did not farm or establish permanent villages, but rather subsisted by hunting game and gathering naturally growing vegetation. Archaeologists named these early Native Americans after the areas they inhabited; for example, there are the Stanly people, Pee Dee people, Morrow Mountain people, and Badin people.

Other important factors contributed to the identity and establishment of Stanly County, such as the Montgomery County court house fire of 1835. The General Assembly of 1841 settled a dispute between officials as to where the new court house should stand by dividing Montgomery County in two, thereby creating Stanly County. Each party built a court house where they chose. Other notable buildings in Stanly County are the John Randall House, the county’s oldest surviving residence; the Isaiah W. Snuggs House; and the Freeman-Marks House, built by one of Albemarle’s founding merchants, Daniel Freeman. Incidentally, Albemarle, NC has the only post office in the world that bears the name “Albemarle,” and refers back to the first county established in North Carolina, Albemarle County, which was abolished in 1739.

Stanly County men participated in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Stanly County sent six companies to battle during the Civil War, and the first to leave was the 14th Regiment, Company H, in 1861. One of Stanly County’s most memorable sheriffs, Isaiah W. Snuggs, was a Confederate veteran who lost his leg at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. “Buck” Snuggs was the county’s ninth sheriff; Snuggs’s antebellum home still stands on Third Street across from the fire station.

Stanly County’s seat, Albemarle, was incorporated in 1857. The county ranks 64th in area (399 square miles) in the state. The eastern border of Stanly County abuts Badin Lake and Lake Tillery, both manmade bodies of water created by the damming of the Yadkin River and the Pee Dee River. Lake Tillery is a 5,000-acre lake with 104 miles of shoreline, whose key contribution to the county is a source for hydroelectric power.

Stanly County’s western perimeter is ten miles from North Carolina’s largest county, Mecklenburg County, and is twenty miles from the largest city in the state, Charlotte. Albemarle, Stanly County’s seat, is forty-two miles northeast of Charlotte.

Written by Angela Vanore, Edited by Christine Dwyer. [with minor edits by this Author]

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