The North Carolina
Mitchell was formed in 1861 from Yancey, Watauga, Caldwell, Burke, and McDowell counties. It was named in honor of Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a professor at the University of North Carolina. While on an exploring expedition of Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, Dr. Mitchell fell and was killed. He was buried on the top of this lofty mountain.
It is in the western section of the state and is bounded by the state of Tennessee and Avery, McDowell, and Yancey counties. The present land area is 221.43 square miles and the 2000 population was 15,687.
The first court was ordered to be held at Eben Child's. Commissioners were named to acquire the land, establish a town by the name of Calhoun, and erect a courthouse in Calhoun. They maintained it was inconvenient to three-fourths of the citizens. They said the matter should, therefore, be referred to the Assembly. In 1862, an act was passed authorizing the people to decide by ballot for Calhoun, or for Davis as the county seat. In 1863, an act was passed which stipulated that the county seat should be located at the geographical center of the county by actual survey and measurements.
In 1863, the justices met and unanimously agreed that Norman's Hill should be selected as the county seat. From 1861-1866, commissioners were appointed to acquire the land and lay out a town. At the regular September term, 1866, held at Davis, the commissioners reported that they had acquired twenty-nine acres of land and sold the lots. In 1868, the county seat was changed from Davis to Bakersville. Bakersville was incorporated in 1870 and is the county seat.
The county is well-known for its scenery. It is home to Roan Mountain, which has the largest naturally-occuring rhododendron gardens in the world. Bakersville pays homage to the blooming of those gardens each June during the North Carolina Rhododendron Festival, which is held at Bowman Middle School. The Blue Ridge Parkway skirts the southern sections of the county, with many places to stop off and admire the beautiful scenery of the area.
Mitchell County is bounded by the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, Mount Mitchell, which is located in neighboring Yancey County and by one of the oldest mountains in the world, Grandfather Mountain, located in adjoining Avery County. The North Toe River flows through the county and joins with the South Toe at Toecane to form the Nolichucky River, one of the best whitewater rafting rivers in the eastern U.S.
Mitchell County is also known for its rich trove of gems and minerals. The world-famous North Carolina Mineral and Gem Festival, one of the oldest festivals of its kind, makes Spruce Pine and Mitchell County its home each August. Rockhounds from around the world descend on the region to explore the vast treasures stored underground.
As of the census of 2000, there were 15,687 people, 6,551 households, and 4,736 families residing in the county. The population density was 71 people per square mile (27/km²). There were 7,919 housing units at an average density of 36 per square mile (14/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.87% White, 0.22% Black or African American, 0.45% Native American, 0.20% Asian, 0.66% from other races, and 0.60% from two or more races. 1.98% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 6,551 households out of which 27.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.90% were married couples living together, 8.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.70% were non-families. 25.20% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.82.
In the county the population was spread out with 21.20% under the age of 18, 6.80% from 18 to 24, 26.40% from 25 to 44, 27.10% from 45 to 64, and 18.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 95.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.30 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $30,508, and the median income for a family was $36,367. Males had a median income of $26,550 versus $20,905 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,933. About 10.70% of families and 13.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.20% of those under age 18 and 16.40% of those age 65 or over.