History of Avery County
Avery County was formed in 1911 from neighboring Mitchell, Watauga, and Caldwell Counties and was named after Colonel Waightstill Avery of Morganton, North Carolina. Colonel Avery served in the Revolutionary War from 1779 until 1781. He was also the first attorney general of North Carolina following the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The county seat, Newland, which is the highest in elevation (3,700 feet) east of the Mississippi River was originally called Old Fields of Toe because it is situated in a broad flat valley at the headwaters of the Toe River. In 1911 the county seat was renamed after North Carolina Lt. Governor William C. Newland who served in the 1700’s.
Avery County residents are proud of their long reputation as Independent mountain people. During the Civil War most mountaineers would have preferred not to take sides, not believing in either cause. As a matter of fact, North Carolina’s Civil War governor, Zebulon Vance, was the last to secede his state from the Union, after all the states surrounding North Carolina had already seceded.
One story illustrating the isolation of the mountain people is that of the great deception of Deliah Baird. As an 18 year old young woman, Deliah lived in Valle Crucis (in Watauga County) with her family until she was talked into eloping to “Kentucky” with Johnny Holtzclaw. Three years later, while gathering ginseng plants Deliah saw her father’s cattle. After following them home, she discovered that she had moved to the opposite side of Beech Mountain on the Elk River, only 8 miles away. Deliah went back to her husband and “Old Kentucky home” where she died at 83 years of age. Today, the Jack Nicklaus designed Elk River Golf Club in situated on the old Deliah Baird Estate.
Located in Avery County, Grandfather Mountain, at an elevation of 5,964 feet, is the highest peak in the Blue Ridge section of the Appalachian Mountains. The town of Beech Mountain is the highest incorporated town (elevation 5,506 ft.) east of the Mississippi River.
Avery County has long been known as the Christmas Tree Capital of the World. Due to yearly climate conditions, Avery County is perfect for growing Fraser Firs and other ornamental shrubbery. Avery County boasts extraordinary natural beauty and that is one of many reasons tourism is the number one industry. With its distinct 4 seasons, Avery County is host to the best skiing in the southeast US in the Winter, heat relief in the Summer, spectacular foliage in the Fall, and beautiful wildflowers in the Spring. Avery County is the perfect destination for hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting, tennis, and golf. Avery County has easy access to the popular Blue Ridge Parkway National Park.
The year round population of Avery County is around 18,000-19,000.