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Mitchell County

Mitchell County, NC


COUNTY SEAT: Bakersville

FORMED: 1861
FORMED FROM: Yancey, Watauga, Caldwell, Burke, McDowell

LAND AREA: 221.43 square miles

White: 96.0%
Black/African American: 0.8%
American Indian: 0.9%    
Asian: 0.7%    
Pacific Islander: 0.2%
Two or more races: 1.4%
Hispanic/Latino: 6.2% (of any race)

From State & County QuickFacts, US Census Bureau, 2020.


Mitchell County

Mountain region


REGION: Mountain
RIVER BASIN: French Broad, Map

Mitchell County, NC

See also: North Carolina Counties (to access links to NCpedia articles for all 100 counties)

by Jay Mazzocchi, 2006

Mitchell County, located in the Mountain region of western North Carolina, was formed in 1861 from Yancey, Watauga, Caldwell, Burke, and McDowell Counties; it was named for University of North Carolina professor Elisha Mitchell, who died exploring the famous mountain peak in western North Carolina that now bears his name (Mount Mitchell, Yancey County). Mitchell County partially borders the state of Tennessee. Early inhabitants of the area included the Cherokee Indians, followed by German and Scotch-Irish settlers. The county seat, Bakersville, was incorporated in 1868, although it had been established for more than 10 years prior to that time. The town was named for David Baker, who received a land grant and settled in the area in 1797. Other Mitchell County communities include Spruce Pine, Bandana, Red Hill, Penland, and Poplar. The acreage of Mitchell County comprises a large section of the Pisgah National Forest. Notable physical features include the North Toe River, Big Yellow Mountain, Chalk Mountain, and Roan Mountain.

Mitchell County's Penland School of Crafts, established in 1929, is one of America's oldest and most successful handicraft schools. Other historic places include the English Inn, dating from the early nineteenth century, and the Lunday footbridge, constructed in the midtwentieth century. Mitchell County cultural institutions include the North Carolina Mineral Museum and Twisted Laurel Gallery. Popular annual events held in the county include the Rhododendron Festival, Fall Festival of the Arts, Music in the Mountains Folk Festival, and North Carolina Mineral and Gem Festival at Spruce Pine.

Mitchell County has one of the richest mineral deposits in the United States. Fifty-seven different minerals are mined there, including mica, emerald, aquamarine, quartz, garnet, sapphire, kaolin, and feldspar. The county's agricultural products include burley tobacco, horticultural crops, Christmas trees, and beef cattle, and its leading manufacture is furniture. Mitchell County's estimated population was 16,000 in 2004.

Annotated history of Mitchell County's formation:

For an annotated history of the county's formation, with the laws affecting the county, boundary lines and changes, and other origin information, visit these references in The Formation of the North Carolina Counties (Corbitt, 2000), available online at North Carolina Digital Collections (note, there may be additional items of interest for the county not listed here):

County formation history:

Index entry for the county:

Additional resources:

Corbitt, David Leroy. The Formation of the North Carolina Counties, 1663-1943. Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1987. (accessed June 20, 2017).

Mitchell County Government. "Welcome to Mitchell County." (accessed February 15, 2019).

Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce. "Welcome to Mitchel County Chamber of Commerce." (accessed February 15, 2019).

DigitalNC. "Mitchell County." NC Digital Heritage Center. (accessed February 15, 2019).

North Carolina Digital Collections. "Explore by ... [place, time period, format]." North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. (accessed February 15, 2019).

Image credits:

Rudersdorf, Amy. "NC County Maps." Raleigh: Government & Heritage Library, State Library of North Carolina, 2010.

Origin - location: 


This article says the Penland School of Crafts was established in the late nineteenth century but when you click on the link for the school it says it was established in the 1920s. I was just wondering if a school was there before it was officially named or what would account for the discrepancy.

Im not completely certain but according to my family history, at one point it was used by Robert Penland as a bed and breakfast? There are two stories about Penland, NC. One says it was named after Robert and one says it was named after Milton? I do know that Milton owned the land its sitting on when Penland was named? Milton was a Representative from Yancey County when North Carolina left the union. According to records I have Robert was a member of the survey party that drew the boundary line between TN and NC? This is things Ive picked up over the years about our family?

Dear Mr. Penland,

Thank you for you comment and for sharing this information! I did look in the North Carolina Gazetteer, a dictionary of North Carolina place names, and it looks like Penland, NC was indeed named after Milton P. Penland: You can also read more about the Penland School of Crafts here: 

Those are some interesting points you bring up! If you are searching for more in formation about those claims or need some assistance in your family history research, please feel free to reply to this comment or contact us here: Thank you!

Taylor Thompson, Government & Heritage Library

Dear Ms. Harpe,

Penland's page lists 1929 as the founding of the school as 1929:

Thank you for bringing this discrepancy to our attention.

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library

I need info on educated and non educated persentages of people thank you

Amazing how my family and all mountain families back to 1700's knew how to make a living & care for their community, survive. Today's families could not endure those struggles. No matter how 'educated' they are.

Good afternoon,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia.  We would be glad to try to help you.

If you are looking for demographic information about North Carolina, you may want to visit this government website that provides access to census information about the state:

If you are looking for something different or need additional help, please post back here.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library

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