Burke County's roots go back to the
days of the earliest settlers in the Catawba Valley Basin.
In November 1776, the fifth and final Provincial Congress
of North Carolina convened and adopted a North Carolina
In conformity with the new constitution,
the first General Assembly convened in 1777. An act was
passed, dividing Rowan County and establishing a new county
as of June 1, 1777, named in honor of Thomas Burke, then
a representative in the Continental Congress and later to
be the third governor of the state. Governor Burke was born
in Ireland and later migrated to Orange County.
The new county of Burke comprised
such a large territory that it later became the mother of
all or part of 16 counties including Buncombe, Catawba,
Mitchell, Madison, Yancey, Caldwell, McDowell and Alexander.
In 1834, Burke County was reduced to its present size of
514 square miles.
Burke County's first courthouse was
built of logs in 1785 about eight years after the county
was formed. A second and more substantial building was constructed
in 1791 and served as the county Courthouse until 1833 when
a two-story building was authorized by the General Assembly.
During the last year of the Civil
War, Federal raiders under General George Stoneman allegedly
threw many court records out on the courthouse square and
burned them. In 1901, a complete remodeling was done. Until
vacated for the new courthouse in 1976, the Old Burke County
Courthouse was the oldest public structure still being used
for its originally designated purpose in western North Carolina.
Burke County Today
Burke County with Morganton as its
seat, is situated in the section of North Carolina where
the rolling hills of the Piedmont blend with the Blue Ridge
Mountains. On the south side of Burke County are the South
Mountains. To the west are the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Burke County has about 514 square
miles, or 329,469 acres, and has a population of 89,148
(census 2000). The largest landowners in Burke County, are
the U.S. Government, Crescent Resources (Duke Energy Co.),
and the State of North Carolina.
The County also has the third largest
concentration of state employment in the state through the
North Carolina Department of Transportation, Department
of Correction, School for the Deaf, Western Carolina Center,
and Broughton Hospital. Burke County has been referred to
as the "Western State Capital."
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