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History of Macon County

Macon County Courthouse - Franklin, North Carolina

Macon was formed in 1828 from Haywood County. It was named in honor of Nathaniel Macon, speaker of the House of Representatives, United States Senator, and president of the Constitutional Convention of 1835. It is in the western section of the State and is bounded by the state of Georgia and Clay, Cherokee, Swain and Jackson counties. The present land area is 516.47 square miles and the 2000 population was 29,808. The first court was ordered to be held in the town of Franklin. Franklin is the county seat.

Macon County lies in the southern Appalachian Mountains, in the western corner of North Carolina. It was part of the Cherokee Nation until 1819, when the Cherokees signed the Treaty of Washington, ceding their lands as far west as the Nantahala Ridge.

Commissioners Jesse Franklin and James Meabin were charged with organizing the new territory. They appointed Captain Robert Love chief of the survey party that mapped the land in late spring 1820. The first land sale took place September 20, 1820. Settlement proceeded rapidly.

The survey party ignored the rights of Cherokee citizens who held reservations under the terms of the treaty. Dispossessed of their land, the reservees eventually won settlements through the courts. Several also left their names on the landscape as an indelible reminder of their struggle to remain.

The new territory was part of Haywood County until 1828, when the population was sufficient to establish a new county, with Franklin as the county seat. County government formed in 1829. Old Macon County included most of present Macon County, about half of Jackson (est. 1851), most of Swain (est. 1871) and a small part of Transylvania (est. 1861).

In 1835, after the final Cherokee cession, the county briefly swelled to include all the lands to the west. When Cherokee County was created in 1839, Macon retained the Nantahala community.

Canaro Drayton Smith (1813-1894) was the eighth son of a pioneer Macon County family. In 1820, his father Samuel purchased a tract known as the Tesenta Town (Tessentee), an old Cherokee village site. The family place was a mustering ground and Smith's Bridge became the name of the militia district. Today Smiths Bridge is one of eleven townships in Macon County.

C.D. Smith became a Methodist circuit preacher, but when traveling impaired his health he returned to Macon County and pursued his interest in minerals. He and his wife Margaret Bearden had seven children. Son Frank operated Smith's Drug Store in downtown Franklin and was a photographer whose work helped document the turn-of-the -century landscape.

The "Brief History" Smith wrote in 1891 enjoyed considerable local interest. It went through several printings as a pamphlet published by The Franklin Press, with an accompanying chapter on topography by W.A. Curtis. Click Here to download a Word document that contains Mr. Smith's Brief History of Macon County. 

- Source: J.D. Lewis - Little River, SC


More Information

As of the census[5] of 2000, there were 29,811 people, 12,828 households, and 8,902 families residing in the county. The population density was 58 people per square mile (22/km²). There were 20,746 housing units at an average density of 40 per square mile (16/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.18% White, 1.20% Black or African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.39% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.31% from other races, and 0.63% from two or more races. 1.52% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 12,828 households out of which 24.80% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.50% were married couples living together, 8.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.60% were non-families. 27.00% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.28 and the average family size was 2.74.

In the county the population was spread out with 20.30% under the age of 18, 6.10% from 18 to 24, 23.20% from 25 to 44, 27.90% from 45 to 64, and 22.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females there were 92.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.40 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $32,139, and the median income for a family was $37,381. Males had a median income of $28,113 versus $20,081 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,642. About 8.80% of families and 12.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.00% of those under age 18 and 11.80% of those age 65 or over.

- Wikipedia