Avery County, North Carolina

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Avery County, North Carolina
Avery County Courthouse in Newland.jpg
Avery County Courthouse
Map of North Carolina highlighting Avery County
Location in the U.S. state of North Carolina
Map of the United States highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location in the U.S.
Founded 1911
Named for Waightstill Avery
Seat Newland
Largest town Banner Elk
 • Total 247 sq mi (640 km2)
 • Land 247 sq mi (640 km2)
 • Water 0.1 sq mi (0 km2), 0.06%
 • (2010) 17,797
 • Density 186/sq mi (72/km²)
Congressional district 11th
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Website www.averycountync.gov

Avery County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 17,797.[1] The county seat is Newland.[2] The county seat was initially established in Elk Park when the county was first formed, but was moved to Newland upon completion of the courthouse in 1912. Founded in 1911, it is the youngest of North Carolina's 100 counties.


The county is the newest of North Carolina's 100 counties. It was formed in 1911 from parts of Caldwell County, Mitchell County, and Watauga County. It was named for Waightstill Avery, a colonel in the American Revolutionary War and the first Attorney General of North Carolina (1777–1779). It is often noted for the large amount of Christmas trees that the county produces.


Stream within a Linville community

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 247 square miles (640 km2), of which 247 square miles (640 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.06%) is water.[3]

Avery County is extremely rural and mountainous with all of the county's terrain located within the Appalachian Mountains range. The highest point in the county is Grassy Ridge Bald, which rises to 6,165 feet (1,879 m) above sea level. Most of Grandfather Mountain (whose highest point is Calloway Peak 5,946 feet (1,812 m) shared with Watauga and Caldwell counties) is within Avery county. At an elevation of 5,526 feet (1,678 m) above sea level, Beech Mountain (also shared with Watauga county) is the highest incorporated community east of the Mississippi River. At an elevation of 3,606 feet (1,099 m) Newland is the highest county seat in the Eastern USA.

National & state protected areas

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
1920 10,335
1930 11,803 14.2%
1940 13,561 14.9%
1950 13,352 −1.5%
1960 12,009 −10.1%
1970 12,655 5.4%
1980 14,409 13.9%
1990 14,867 3.2%
2000 17,167 15.5%
2010 17,797 3.7%
Est. 2014 17,773 [4] −0.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[5]
1790-1960[6] 1900-1990[7]
1990-2000[8] 2010-2013[1]

As of the census[9] of 2000, there were 17,167 people, 6,532 households, and 4,546 families residing in the county. The population density was 70 people per square mile (27/km²). There were 11,911 housing units at an average density of 48 per square mile (19/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 93.95% White, 3.48% Black or African American, 0.34% Native American, 0.19% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.28% from other races, and 0.71% from two or more races. 2.41% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 6,532 households out of which 27.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.10% were married couples living together, 9.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.40% were non-families. 26.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.82.

In the county the population was spread out with 19.40% under the age of 18, 10.30% from 18 to 24, 30.10% from 25 to 44, 24.40% from 45 to 64, and 15.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age of Avery County is aging, with it at 38 years. For every 100 females there were 111.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 112.90 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $30,627, and the median income for a family was $37,454. Males had a median income of $25,983 versus $21,652 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,176. About 10.90% of families and 15.30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.30% of those under age 18 and 19.00% of those age 65 or over.

Law and government

The county is governed by a five-member Board of County Commissioners who are elected to two or four-year terms, depending on the number and percentage of votes they receive when elected. The current Board Chair is Martha Hicks, a retired banker. The Vice Chair Maxine Laws, a local businesswoman. Other board members are: Robert "Reo" Griffith, the assistant chief of police of the Village of Sugar Mountain, Faye Lacey, widow of former Chief Judge Robert H. Lacey and Blake Vance, also a local businessman (source: NC Board of Elections, 2014 results; Avery County Commission vote, 2015)

Avery County is a member of the regional High Country Council of Governments. The county commissioners appoint a county manager to oversee day-to-day operations of county government of all departments that are not controlled by an elected head. The current county manager position is filled by Tim Greene, the county's previous finance officer, who was appointed following the retirement of longtime Manager Robert Wiseman and a previous interim appointed manager Wood Hall Young. The board of commissioners also appoints qualified citizen applicants to various boards and committees, such as business and economic development, social service board, library board, Mayland Community College Board and others (source: Avery County government website).

The county seat in Newland is the highest county seat east of the Mississippi River, as is the courthouse, located on a pinnacle in the center of town, at an elevation of over 3,600 feet (1,100 m).

Pursuant to state law, some of the most important officials in the county are elected. These include the offices of Sheriff (currently Kevin Frye), Register of Deeds (currently Renee Dellinger), Clerk of Superior Court (currently Lisa Daniels), and Coroner (currently John A. Millan). Elected district judicial officials include: District Attorney Seth Banks, who like the judges, covers the entire 24th Judicial District of Avery, Watauga, Mitchell, Yancey and Madison Counties. Resident Superior Court Judges are Gary Gavennus and Greg Horne, both of whom also work out of Boone. The Chief District Court is Judge Ted Mcintyre, former assistant district attorney, who is based in Newland. Other district court Judges are: Warren Hughes, former Yancey County Clerk of Superior Court, former Superior Court Judge Hal Harrison, and Rebecca Eggers. Chief Magistrate is attorney Bruce Lacey, with Dale Buchanan and Steve Clawson serving as Magistrates. Barbara Jones is Social Services Director and Tax Collector-Assessor Phillip Barrier assumed both positions when long time elected Tax Collector Mary Daniels retired as the last elected Tax Collector in North Carolina. Building inspector is former NBA star Tommy Burleson, County Finance Director is Susan Johnson and the County Board of Elections is headed by Sheila Ollis. The county's elected Soil and Water Board District Supervisors are Bill Beutell and Ann Coleman (source: Avery County government website; NC State Board of Elections).

Avery County is part of the 45th NC Senate District which includes Avery, Watauga, Ashe, Wilkes and Alexander Counties. The senate seat is currently held by retiring three term senator Dan Soucek of Boone, a West Point graduate and former US Army Officer who is a current officer in the NC Army National Guard. The county is part of the 85th NC House District, a three-county district comprising Avery, Mitchell and McDowell Counties. Currently representing the 85th is Josh Dobson, a 1999 graduate of Avery County High School and a resident of neighboring McDowell County, where he previously served as a county commissioner.

The county also has a non-partisan elected school board to oversee the countywide school district. The current school board chairman is John Greene, with Kathy Aldridge serving as vice chair. Other school board members are Keith Tutterow, Steve Smith and Dr. Bob Clark. The county's superintendent of schools is Dr. David Burleson. The School Board is located on NC 194 near the Newland city limits. It also houses the school bus garage, support staff and other school system administrative offices.

Overlooking Avery Square is the historic 1912 Avery County courthouse which was remodeled in 1996 and again in 2014, to add more office space and a second smaller courtroom. The courthouse overlooks much of the town of Newland and is located on Shultz Circle and Glenn Hicks Lane, which was renamed from Jail Street, in honor of Avery Deputy Lt. Glenn H. Hicks, who was murdered in the line of duty in 2003. The courthouse renovations that began in 2013 and were completed in fall of 2014, adding even more office space, which also renovated the older clerk of court's office and vaults, the register of deeds' office and vaults and the badly deteriorated main courtroom. The courthouse also houses local office of the North Carolina Probation and Parole Division, judges offices and chambers, district attorney's sub-office, the county map office, tax office, inspection office, register of deeds, clerk of superior court, guardian ad litem office and North Carolina juvenile justice offices. Connected to the courthouse is a newly renovated sheriff's office and state-of-the-art new jail, both of which were completed in 2011, an elections office, county 911 emergency dispatch center and magistrate's court with a small courtroom.

The county administrative building is located a short distance south and down hill from the courthouse facing NC 181, providing work space for the county manager and many other county offices such as social services, payroll, finance, veterans services, fire marshal, emergency management, waste management, technology and personnel. The complex also serves as the site of county commission meetings in the upstairs board room that which is available for other public meetings such as school board meetings. It was also sometimes used as an auxiliary courtroom for juvenile and district court until the new smaller courtroom was added to the county courthouse in 1997.

The Avery County Sheriff's Office provides law enforcement protection (patrol and criminal investigations) to the entire county by common law, in that the county has no county police department. The Sheriff also provides security to the courts, serves civil orders of the courts and operates the jail complex. Other county services include an integrated enhanced-911 emergency dispatch center that provides service to all county law enforcement (Sheriff's office, 6 town police departments and three company police agencies, plus communications support to the NC Highway Patrol Troopers, NC Wildlife officers, state alcohol agents and state park rangers assigned locally), fire, EMS and rescue services in the county. The Avery 911 center was recognized by the state in 2014 as one of the best in North Carolina for professional services to the county. The county also has a county fire marshal and emergency management office, a countywide transportation service, a veterans services office, and an office of economic development, along with manned trash collection sites throughout the county and a landfill. County recreational services are located in the old Newland High School rock gym, next to Newland Elementary School. Emergency services, such as fire and first responder/rescue, are provided by ten volunteer fire departments and a volunteer rescue squad, several of which also operate ambulances.


The county contains local attractions such as Grandfather Mountain, Grandfather Mountain State Park, Linville Gorge Wilderness, Linville Falls, Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway, which all attract large numbers of visitors. In October, the annual "Wooly Worm" festival at the old school in downtown Banner Elk draws world visitors who come to see caterpillar races that locals happily claim can predict the severity of coming winters based on the fur coats of the worms. The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games is held each year the first full weekend after July 4 and is one of the largest Scottish gatherings outside Scotland and features bagpipes, bands, Scottish food, music, authentic clothing and games such as log and caber toss and use of dogs in sheep herding. Also in October is Oz Days at the former Land of Oz theme park on Beech Mountain in the fall also attracts visitors who love the legacy of the famous Judy Garland movie "The Wizard of Oz" based on Frank Baum's famous book. Oktoberfest on Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain also in October draw large crowds and the annual Music Festival in Newland on July 4 also attracts many visitors.

Ski Resorts are immensely popular tourist destinations in the cold winter months when snowfall and man-made snow create ideal skiing conditions. Sugar Mountain Ski Resort, located in Sugar Mountain, and Ski Beech Resort, located in Beech Mountain, provide multiple winter actives including skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing and ice skating. Hawks Nest Tubing Resort, located in Seven Devils offers snow tubing.

Second homes, gated communities, condominiums, rental properties, hotel-motel lodging, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds and real estate in general all are critically important sources of jobs, income and tax revenue. The brilliant fall colors or the foliage of the surrounding mountains, winter sports, mountain bicycling, hiking, horseback riding, warm weather camping, hiking, wildlife viewing, hunting and searching for geological finds all make for a year-round tourism-generated and regular real estate market.

Major Employers: The State of North Carolina is the largest employer in the county. It operates a forestry center, DOT office, State Highway Patrol office, state agriculture extension office, probation/parole office, alcohol law enforcement office, a state park service office and two prisons in lower Avery County on the Mitchell County border. Those side-by-side facilities are Mountain View and Avery-Mitchell. A third prison facility, the BRIDGE Unit, was a novel project to use non-violent, first-time youthful felony offenders to work on state lands and fight forest fires as "smoke jumpers." It was closed in the late 1990s and torn down. Other major employers are: the Avery County School System, Mayland Community College, Cannon Memorial Hospital, Lees-McRae College, Avery County government, Lowes Foods, US Textiles, Unimin, various large tree farms and mining operations which are also important local employers.

A privately operated Avery Fairgrounds is located on Vale Road just outside the Newland city limits. It is funded both by allocated county funds and private funding and controlled by a fair board. The Avery County Agricultural and Horticultural Fair has been an annual event in early September of each year and draws huge crowds to the site for rides, displays and other events.

Avery County is one of 420 counties and eight independent cities that fall into the Appalachian Region as defined by the US Government's Appalachian Regional Council (ARC). ARC was founded by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 to address poverty in the 13 Eastern states of Appalachia. Avery is listed as "Transitional" by the ARC. Based on 2006 statistics from the US Government, the five classification categories for factors such as unemployment, income and poverty rate, the levels are: Distressed (worst), At-risk, Transitional, Competitive and Attainment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate as of August 2013 was 10.6% (not seasonally adjusted), down from 11.2% for 2012. According to Census American Community Survey data for 2011 the poverty rate is listed at 18.1%.


The county's agricultural focus is the mass production of Fraser Fir Christmas Trees. Tree farms produce trees year round and they are harvested in mid October, wrapped, stacked and sold in bulk at local or far away lots or shipped to wholesalers across the country. Some farms also sell directly to visitors. Shrubbery, landscaping and greenhouses all are important agricultural aspects of the county's economy, as is beef cattle farming.

Grape growing and vineyards are becoming popular with three vineyards presently operating in the county in Banner Elk, Plumtree and Linville Falls.


Based in Newland, The Avery Post and The Avery Journal-Times cover all of Avery County. The Avery Journal-Times newspaper is owned by Jones Media publishing company and is a sister publication of the Watauga Democrat in Boone, while the Post is locally owned [10]

WECR radio station at 1130 on the AM dial serves the local area with local programs and religious music, along with local news, events and weather.

Television coverage is primarily based out of Charlotte, which the county is in its Designated Market Area (DMA). However, because of proximity, several stations in the Tri-Cities also cover the area and are carried on local cable.


The county's hospital is Charles A. Cannon Memorial Hospital, a campus of Appalachian Healthcare System. The hospital is centrally located in Linville and opened since 2000. The campus also hosts the Sloop Medical Building, housing various doctor's offices, the local YMCA complex, and a pharmacy. The hospital is a critical care facility with a 24-hour emergency department as well as imagery, lab, surgery, and other services. It has 25 medical beds and ten psychiatric beds. Critical illnesses and injuries and trauma patients are often stabilized at Cannon, then flown or transported by ambulance to hospitals in Charlotte, Asheville, or Johnson City, Tennessee.

The Avery County Emergency Medical Service (EMS) is a full-time county department (since 1994). They provide paramedic-level emergency medical care via three ambulances and a supervisor's SUV at all times, at station locations across the county. Backup is provided by fire departments, a rescue squad and law enforcement first responders.


Unusual, doubly terminated quartz crystal with clay inclusions, found in Avery County, which is well known for producing quartz specimens.

Avery County schools

Avery County Schools has eight schools housed on seven campuses, ranging from pre-kindergarten to twelfth grade: five elementary schools, two middle schools and a central high school. Avery High School has close to 700 students and is located near Newland. It is scheduled for large-scale renovations by 2023. The Avery mascot is the Viking, and Avery athletics are a cornerstone of local culture. Football and wrestling programs have been historically prominent in regional conferences. An Army JROTC program is active, as is band, chorus and numerous student clubs. Avery High has a dual enrolment partnership program with Mayland Community College, which allows students to earn college credits while still in high school. The two county middle schools are: Avery Middle across from the High School built in 1978 and Cranberry Middle in Cranberry on a joint campus with Freedom Trail elementary near Elk Park was built in 1998. Other county elementary schools are located in: Newland (fully renovated in 2002), Crossnore Elementary was built on a new campus in 2003, Riverside Elementary in lower western Avery built in 1987 and the new Banner Elk Elementary, between Banner Elk and Sugar Mountain was built in 2011. All Avery elementary schools are newly built since 1987 or were renovated from between 1996 to 2011.

Three small local high schools were closed in 1969 with the opening of the present central Avery County High School near Newland. Crossnore High School was torn down in the early 1970s. The largest of the old high schools, Cranberry High School, is now preserved as a community center in Cranberry near Elk Park. Numerous older historic rock work schools built by the Depression-era Work Projects Administration (WPA) that had been community K-8 schools were closed, starting with the old Riverside School in 1987. Both Elk Park School and Minneapolis Schools were closed in 1998 and consolidated into the new Cranberry Middle-Freedom trail School. Beech Mountain school was the last K-8 school in Avery County. It was closed in 2008 and is now a community center. The area students were moved to Cranberry Middle-Freedom Trail School. The last WPA school still operating in the county was the old downtown Banner Elk School, which closed in 2011 and reopened on a new campus located between Banner Elk and Sugar Mountain.

Charter schools

Two authorized charter schools operate in Avery County:[11]

  • Crossnore Academy, formerly an orphanage in the Town of Crossnore
  • Grandfather Academy, formerly Grandfather Home Orphanage in Banner Elk

Colleges and universities


Map of Avery County, North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels




  • Altamont
  • Banner Elk
  • Beech Mountain
  • Carey's Flat
  • Cranberry
  • Elk Park
  • Frank
  • Heaton
  • Hughes
  • Ingalls
  • Linville
  • Minneapolis
  • Montezuma
  • Newland No. 1
  • Newland No. 2
  • Pineola
  • Plumtree
  • Pyatte
  • Roaring Creek

Unincorporated communities


Notable people

  • Tommy Burleson, former NBA star and current Avery County building inspector.
  • Paul Johnson, college football coach of Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech.
  • Joyce McKinney, former beauty queen, famous for allegedly kidnapping Mormon missionary Kirk Anderson in the UK in 1977. She later again gained fame for cloning her pit bull terrier "Booger" in Korea in 2008.
  • John Mark Bentley, US Collegiate Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee.



Avery County Airport (7A8) is a small, public general aviation facility with no control tower. It primarily serves private aircraft and has no regularly scheduled commercial or cargo flights or major carriers. The facility jointly serves Avery and Mitchell Counties and is located on Grassy Creek Road, just off US19E near the Mitchell County Line in Green valley, 10 miles south of Newland and 4 miles east of Spruce Pine. It is jointly operated by both counties and has a 3000-foot long runway that is 60 feet wide, with over runs at both ends in excess of 110 feet. The facility has private contractors who offer private air services, flying lessons and charter flights. The airport has seen increased usage in recent years and has been upgraded several times. The county has made cursory inquiries into resurfacing the airport to a heavier weight rating, to allow NC Air National Guard C-130 aircraft from Charlotte Douglass International Airport Air National Guard Base to conduct intermittent landing and "touch and go" combat exercises. The US Marine Corps on the NC coast at New River and Cherry Point Air Stations has also expressed an interest in conducting mountain landing training for Osprey vertical takeoff aircraft if the airport runway is thickened, as has the NC Army National Guard for its helicopters located in Salisbury. The Avery County runway is of sufficient length to accommodate large military aircraft, but not of sufficient surface thickness. Mission Hospital in Asheville has also been approached to possibly establish an air ambulance base at the airport.

A smaller private airport is also located in Banner Elk parallel to NC 194 at the Elk River Club resort; which is for residents and approved guests of the Elk River Property Owners Association.

Public transportation

Avery County Transportation (ACT) provides general public transportation vans for a fee. The service is by call, offering rides to various locations in the county and out-of-county medical rides.

Major highways

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 17, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved January 11, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 11, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 11, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 11, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved January 11, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Our Publications". Mountain Times Publications. Retrieved December 8, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "A-E Counties". Office of Charter Schools. North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Retrieved December 8, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Cooper, Horton. History of Avery County, Biltmore Press, 1964
  • Cooper, Horton. North Carolina Mountain Folklore and Miscellany Murfreesboro, N.C., Johnson Pub. Co., c1972
  • Hardy, Michael C. Avery County: Images of America, Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2005
  • Hardy, Michael C. Remembering Avery County, Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2007
  • Hardy, Michael C. and Jimmie Daniels Families, Friends, and Felons: Growing Up in the Avery County Jail. Lulu.com, 2008
  • http://mountaintimes.com/advertising/publications/

External links

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