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Cities and Towns in McDowell County

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Old Fort
Little Switzerland
History of McDowell County

Catawba Falls

McDowell was formed in 1842 from Rutherford and Burke counties. It was named in honor of Colonel Joseph McDowell, an officer of the Revolution. It is in the west central section of the state and is bounded by Burke, Rutherford, Henderson, Buncombe, Yancey, Mitchell, and Avery counties. The present land area is 441.68 square miles and the 2000 population was 42,151. The court was ordered to be held at the home of Jonathan L. Carson until the county seat could be established. The act also named commissioners to select a site as near the center of the county as possible, acquire land, lay out a town by the name of Marion, and erect a courthouse. Marion is the county seat. 

Native Americans discovered this area over 6,000 years ago. In the 1700s, Scots-Irish pioneers from Pennsyvania and Virginia settled here. Those early residents formed a close community protected by a series of forts that remained active until the early 1800s. This was the western-most outpost prior to the American Revolution. During the Revolutionary War, men on the Over Mountain Victory Trail marched through what is present-day McDowell County. Portions of that trail are accessible to this day.

Between 1804 and 1827, the area contributed to North Carolina's gold legacy as the nation's leader in gold production. McDowell County was formally organized in 1843 at the home of Colonel John Carson. His home serves as a museum today in the Pleasant Gardens community. The county was named for Joseph McDowell, a prominet leader during the Revolutionary War. His home, also in Pleasant Gardens, is the only remaining home for which a North Carolina county was named.

McDowell County was organized in 1843 in Carson House (listed in National Register of Historic Places), a stagecoach inn whose famous visitors included Davy Crockett, Andrew Jackson, and Sam Houston.

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