Ashe County History

Ashe County History

The area we call home has been known by other names over the years. Native Americans roamed over a wide territory and left here many obvious signs of their presence. But if they had a name for this small part of their country, it is unknown today. We know King Charles II gave the colony of Carolina to eight Lords Proprietors in 1663. Three counties then were created by the Lords Proprietors, with the one called Albemarle covering the northern section of this colony and running westward to the Pacific Ocean. It included our area. Albemarle County, through divisions into gradually smaller territories over the years, would eventually develop into one hundred North Carolina counties.

In 1799, Ashe County was created by act of the state legislature through a division of Wilkes County territory. The name was given to honor Samuel Ashe, a former Governor, Superior Court Judge, and Revolutionary War patriot. The new county contained approximately 977 square miles. In 1849, approximately 320 square miles of this was taken for the creation of Watauga County, and in 1859 approximately 230 square miles for the formation of Alleghany County.

One of our county’s most distinctive features is the New River. It is said to be over three hundred million years old, and is unique in that it flows northward. The river has been a major reason for people to settle here, and today it is also a popular destination for recreational activities. On July 30, 1998, its borders became protected from major development when it was proclaimed an American Heritage River.