Gaston County, North Carolina

Gaston County, North Carolina

Infobox U.S. County
county = Gaston County
state = North Carolina

map size = 250
founded = December 21, 1846
seat = Gastonia | area_total_sq_mi =364
area_land_sq_mi =356
area_water_sq_mi =7
area percentage = 2.02%
census yr = 2000
pop = 190365
density_km2 =206
web =

Gaston County is a county located just west of Charlotte (Mecklenburg County) in the Southern Piedmont in the U.S. state of North Carolina. It is the second largest county, by population, in the Charlotte Metropolitan Area, officially designated the Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). As of 2000, the population was 190,365.

The county seat of Gaston County is GastoniaGR|6. Dallas served as the original county seat from 1846 until 1911.

Of North Carolina's one hundred counties, Gaston County ranks 74th in size, consisting of approximately 364.5 square miles, and is seventh in population. The county has fifteen incorporated towns. [Gaston County government official website - Retrieved on 2008-07-02.]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 364 square miles (942 km²), of which 356 square miles (923 km²) are land and 7 square miles (19 km²) (2.02%) are water. It belongs to the southern Piedmont physiographic province.

Most of Gaston County is in the drainage basin of the Catawba River, except for small areas along the western edge of the county which are in the basin of the Broad River. Both the Catawba and Broad Rivers are in the greater Santee River basin. The Catawba forms the eastern border of the county and much of the central part of the county is in the drainage basin of its right tributary, the South Fork Catawba River. [ [ Gaston County Watersheds] ] The county is located in the Piedmont region of central North Carolina, which consists of gently rolling terrain frequently broken by hills, river and creek valleys, and low, isolated mountain ridges. The highest point in Gaston County is Crowder's Mountain, a rocky monadnock which sharply rises over 800 feet above the city of Gastonia. Crowders Mountain rises to 1,675 feet above sea level, and is part of Crowders Mountain State Park.

Gaston County has 14 incorporated towns: Belmont, Bessemer City, Cherryville, Cramerton, Dallas, Dellview (smallest incorporated town in the U.S. with a population of 23), Gastonia, High Shoals, Lowell, McAdenville, Mt. Holly, Ranlo, Spencer Mountain, and Stanley. In addition, unincorporated areas of the county are divided among 6 townships (used on an administrative basis only): Cherryville, Dallas, Riverbend, Crowders Mountain, Gastonia, and South Point.


The area of present-day Gaston County was originally included in Anson County in 1750, a vast territory with indefinite northern and western boundaries. The area was subsequently ceded to the newly created Mecklenburg County in 1762. Six years later, the part of Mecklenburg County west of the Catawba River (including present Gaston County) formed the short-lived Tryon County.Fact|date=August 2008

In 1779 Tryon County was divided into Lincoln County and Rutherford County, and ceased to exist. Lincoln County was divided in 1846, and Gaston County was created from its southern half. It was named for William Gaston (from whom the city of Gastonia also takes its name), a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1813 to 1817 and a judge of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1833 to 1844. Gaston also wrote the official state song, "The Old North State", adopted in 1927.Fact|date=August 2008

The earliest European settlers of Gaston County were principally Scots Irish, Pennsylvania Dutch, and English. In the 1750s, Dutch settler James Kuykendall and others constructed the Fort at the Point at the junction of the Catawba and South Fork Rivers. [Piper Peters Aheron. Images of America: Gastonia and Gaston County North Carolina. Arcadia Publishing, 2001 (ISBN 0738506737)] The fort was built because of ongoing hostilities with the Cherokee, but it was apparently never attacked. Tensions between the settlers and the Native American inhabitants (primarily of the Catawba tribe) were eased considerably when the boundary dispute between North Carolina and South Carolina was settled in 1772, after which most of the Catawba settled on a reservation near Fort Mill, South Carolina.Gaston County government official website - Retrieved on 2008-07-02.]

Most early farms were small, cultivated primarily by white yeoman farmers. North Carolina's colonial policy restricted the size of land grants, and in Gaston County they tended to be about convert|400|acre|km2 each. One of the earliest grants in the area was given to Captain Samuel Cobrin, commander of a local militia company, on September 29, 1750. [Robert F. Cope and Hanley Wade Wellman, The County of Gaston: Two Centuries of a North Carolina Region (Gaston County Historical Society, 1961), 13, cited in [ Peter Hoyle House National Register Application] ]

Between 1845 and 1848, Gaston County experienced an industrial boom. During this three-year period, the first three cotton mills in the County were established. Some authorities say that the first one was established by Thomas R. Tate on Mountain Island, near the present site of Duke Energy's Mountain Island Dam and Hydroelectric Station. Other sources say that the first mill was established by the Linebergers and others on the South Fork River near McAdenville. Most sources agree that among the first three mills in operation in the County was the Stowesville Mill, founded by Jasper Stowe and Associates in the South Point Community south of Belmont. Gaston County still leads all other counties in the country both in the number of spindles in operation and in the number of bales of cotton consumed.Gaston County government official website - Retrieved on 2008-07-02.]

German influence

German pioneers began settling Gaston County in the mid 18th century and establishing homesteads after migrating southward from the Shenandoah Valley and beyond, via the Great Wagon Road. German settlers established themselves in clusters of independent farmsteads linked by extended family connections and by participation in Lutheran, Reformed, or German Baptist (Dunker) congregations.

By 1790 it is estimated 10 to 30 percent of the greater Piedmont population of North Carolina was of German origin, and modern-day Gaston County had an even higher concentration. Outnumbered by English and Scots-Irish neighbors, the Germans were perceived as a distinct group, and many of them strove to maintain German culture and ways. The use of the German language continued well into the 19th century, with a period of transition from German to bilingual, with predominant English usage established between 1825 and 1850. In the late 18th century, German dominated in many churches and families; by the 1835, sermons in Reformed and Lutheran congregations were often preached in both languages. By the late 19th century, German all but disappeared.

Similar patterns appeared in architecture. Traditional German construction methods-- often the work of artisans trained in the fatherland-- usually prevailed from the 1750s through the 1780s. The successive decades until the 1820s saw a blending of Germanic traditions and mainstream stylistic developments. Finally, from the 1820s to the Civil War, as popular national ideals homogenized much of the American culture, German descended families acceded to these trends.


As of the censusGR|2 of 2000, there were 190,365 people, 73,936 households, and 53,307 families residing in the county. The population density was 534 people per square mile (206/km²). There were 78,842 housing units at an average density of 221 per square mile (85/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 82.98% White, 13.87% Black or African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.95% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.03% from other races, and 0.87% from two or more races. 3.00% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 73,936 households out of which 32.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.20% were married couples living together, 13.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.90% were non-families. 23.30% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 2.97.

In the county the population was spread out with 24.60% under the age of 18, 8.20% from 18 to 24, 31.00% from 25 to 44, 23.50% from 45 to 64, and 12.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 93.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.70 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $39,482, and the median income for a family was $46,271. Males had a median income of $33,542 versus $23,876 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,225. About 8.30% of families and 10.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.50% of those under age 18 and 11.10% of those age 65 or over.

Law and government

Gaston County is governed by a seven-member [ Board of Commissioners] . Two members are elected from Gaston Township and one each from the other five townships of Gaston County. They are elected on a partisan basis to four year staggered terms. Those that file for a particular seat must live in the township. However, the vote is countywide or "at-large." [ [ Elections-Board of Commissioners] , Gaston County government website. Retrieved on 2008-07-22]

The offices of Sheriff, District Attorney, Clerk of Superior Court, and Register of Deeds are also elected offices, elected on a countywide, partisan basis. Gaston County currently is divided into forty-six (46) voting precincts [ [ Board of Elections Information] , Gaston County government website. Retrieved on 2008-07-22.] .

The county is administered by a full-time professional County Manager. Gaston County is a member of the regional Centralina Council of Governments.

In the North Carolina General Assembly, areas of Gaston County are within the 41st and 43rd districts of the North Carolina State Senate and districts 108, 109, and 110 of the North Carolina House of Representatives. At the federal government level, most of Gaston County is within North Carolina's 9th congressional district. Some western parts of the county, including Cherryville, King's Mountain, and southwestern Gastonia, are within North Carolina's 10th congressional district.

Courts of Law

North Carolina has a unified statewide and state-operated court system, called the General Court of Justice. It consists of three divisions: Appellate Courts, Superior Courts, and District Courts. In Gaston County, there is also a Small Claims Court.

The District Court Division is divided into 39 district court districts. Gaston County forms District 27A. The District Court is responsible for preliminary "probable cause" hearings in felony cases, has exclusive original jurisdiction over misdemeanor cases and most traffic offenses. Trials are by district court judges; no trial by jury is available for such cases. Appeals are to the superior court for trial before a jury. District Court is the proper division for general civil cases where the amount in controversy is $10,000 or less. Civil cases in District Court may be tried before a jury; appeals are to the Court of Appeals. Domestic relations cases involving alimony, child support, child custody, divorce, equitable distribution, and juvenile matters are also heard in this court. Gaston County has six District Court Judges elected on a non-partisan basis to four-year terms. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina designates one of the judges as Chief District Court Judge, and this judge has administrative duties, including assigning the judges to sessions of court.

The Superior Court has jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases. Generally, civil cases involving more than $10,000 in money and a few special categories of cases, such as those involving appeals from administrative agencies and constitutional issues, are tried in Superior Court. In criminal cases, the Superior Court has original jurisdiction in all felony cases and in some misdemeanor cases. Both criminal and civil cases in superior court are tried before a twelve-person jury. Gaston County has two Superior Court Judges elected on a non-partisan basis to eight-year terms.

Small claims court handles civil cases where a plaintiff requests assignment to a magistrate and the amount in controversy is $5,000 or less. There is no jury and usually no lawyers. A person who loses in small claims court may appeal for a trial by jury before a judge in District Court. Magistrates are appointed for two-year terms by the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge upon nomination of the Clerk of Superior Court. [ [ Gaston County Courts] ]

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement within the incorporated municipalities of Gaston County is generally the responsibility of the police department of the particular municipality. Responsibility for law enforcement in unincorporated areas of the county rests with the Gaston County Police Department. It is one of two county police forces within the State of North Carolina, the other being the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in neighboring Mecklenburg County. The Gaston County Police Department is also the primary law enforcement agency for the incorporated cities of High Shoals, Spencer Mountain, and Bessemer City. They are also authorized to respond to calls in all areas of the county.

The Gaston County Sheriff's Office is responsible for operating the Gaston County Jail, protecting the county courthouse, serving civil and criminal documents, evictions, seizure of property or money as ordered by the courts, and pursuing and arresting fugitives from legal actions taken through the courts. [ [ Gaston County Sheriff's Office website] . Retrieved on 2008-07-22.]


Public education in Gaston County is administered by the Gaston County Schools public school system. The system is governed by the nine-member [ Gaston County Board of Education] which sets policy and establishes guidelines for school operations. Board members are elected on a nonpartisan, county wide basis, with seven representatives chosen from the six townships and two members selected at-large. Gaston County Schools has 53 public schools, including 9 high schools, 11 middle schools, 31 elementary schools, one alternative school (middle and high school age), and one separate school (Webb Street School in Gastonia) serving students ages 3 to 22 with moderate to severe disabilities.

Gaston County has one charter school: Piedmont Community Charter School in Gastonia, for grades K through 12.

There are two colleges in Gaston County. Gaston College is a community college located in Dallas offering Associate Degree, Certificate, and Diploma programs. Belmont Abbey College is a Roman Catholic Liberal Arts College located in Belmont.

Transportation Infrastructure

Major highways


Bus and Rail Service

Gaston County is served by Greyhound Lines and Amtrak, both with stops in Gastonia. Freight rail service is provided by the Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX.

The Greyhound station is located at 702 Davis Street in Gastonia . It is open Monday through Saturday 7:00 AM to 5:30 PM, and closed Sundays and Holidays.

The Amtrak station is located at 350 Hancock Street in Gastonia. The city is served by Amtrak's Crescent. The Northbound train (#20) for New York City arrives at Gastonia at 12:56 AM and the Southbound train (#19) for New Orleans, Louisiana arrives at 3:12 AM.

The Norfork Southern main line passes from west to east across the county, passing through Kings Mountain, Gastonia, and Belmont. From Gastonia, a branch line leads north to Dallas and High Shoals and south to Crowders.

CSX rail lines pass through the northwestern and northeastern corners of Gaston County. In the northwest, a line between Lincolnton and Shelby passes through Cherryville. In the northeast, a line between Lincolnton and Charlotte passes through Stanley and Mount Holly.


Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is a major, full-service airport with passenger flights. It is across the Catawba River in Mecklenburg County in Charlotte.

The city of Gastonia owns and operates Gastonia Municipal Airport, which is a general aviation airport which covers convert|280|acre|km2 and has one runway.

Adjacent counties

*Lincoln County, North Carolina - north
*Mecklenburg County, North Carolina - east
*York County, South Carolina - south
*Cleveland County, North Carolina - west


*Bessemer City
*Dellview (inactive; smallest municipality in state)
*High Shoals
*Kings Mountain (part also in Cleveland County)
*Mount Holly
*Spencer Mountain

Unincorporated communities

*Ashebrook Park
*Brown Town
*Mountain Island
*South Gastonia (CDP)
*Tryon - near site of former Tryon County courthouse


* Cherryville
* Crowders Mountain
* Dallas
* Gastonia
* Riverbend
* South Point

Natural heritage

Gaston County’s most significant natural heritage sites are distributed across the county. They range from Crowders Mountain in the southwest corner to sites east of Stanley and at the mouth of the South Fork Catawba River.

Gaston County has twelve natural heritage sites listed as being of state or regional significance. Six of these are listed because of the presence of the Bigleaf Magnolia ("Magnolia macrophylla"). This magnificent plant has the largest simple leaf of any species in the temperate world, and one of the largest flowers. Of the 34 known sites containing Bigleaf Magnolias in North Carolina, 29 are in Gaston County.

Two sites are important because they provide habitat for the Bog Turtle ("Glyptemys muhlenbergii"). The Bog Turtle is the single most significant rare animal species surviving in Gaston County.

Crowders Mountain State Park is the largest natural heritage site in the county. It covers over 3,000 acres of topographically, botanically , and zoologically diverse land. Six natural plant communities are found in the park, and the area supports a diversity of wildlife species. Some animals documented in the park have not been documented elsewhere in the county. A second natural heritage site, Pinnacle Road, has recently been incorporated into the park. This site is most significant for the occurrence of Dwarf Juniper ("Juniperus communis") along its ridgeline.

The Stagecoach Road site is the largest and best preserved granitic outcrop in the county. Its thin soils are dominated by hickory species and it is also home to several smaller species such as "Talinum teretifolium" (Fame flower), "Diamorpha smallii" (Small’s sedum), and "Hypericum gentianoides" (Pineweed) that are found only in this type of habitat. A farm site contains an old growth forest dominated by beech, yellow poplar, oaks, and maples - some trees with diameters of nearly 3 feet. [ Retrieved 2008-07-04.]

Another 25 other sites are listed as being of local significance. Two of these are home to extremely rare plants. Catawba Cove, near the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, supports a stand of Schweinitz's sunflower ("Helianthus schweinizii"), a Federally endangered species. The Armstrong Ford site near Belmont is the only place in western North Carolina (and one of only two sites in the state) where Magnolia vine ("Schisandra glabra") has been found. [ Retrieved on 2008-07-04.]

Points of interest

The Peter Hoyle House, with notable German-American construction features, is the oldest extant structure in Gaston County. Located on the Dallas-Stanley Highway above the South Fork Catawba River, it was built around 1760 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden covers convert|110|acre|km2 in the South Point area of Gaston County, on South New Hope Road.

The [ Gaston County Museum] is located in the town of Dallas, North Carolina.

The [ Schiele Museum of Natural History] is a noteworthy science museum and planetarium located in Gastonia that features both permanent and touring exhibits.

Crowder's Mountain State Park is noted for its resident raptors and sheer vertical cliffs which drop convert|150|ft|m. From Crowders Mountain, the highest point in Gaston County, views stretch for more than convert|20|mi|km.

The U.S. National Whitewater Center is a world-class recreation and training facility. Set among 300 wooded acres along the scenic Catawba River, the multiuse facility has a climbing center, mountain-biking trails and running trails.

Christmas Town, USA - McAdenville, North Carolina - Each December, hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights turn this small mill town into a spectacular holiday display. Visitors stroll down Main Street surrounded by the sights and sounds of Christmas.

Spencer Mountain, which is located in central Gaston County, is the site of the old WBTV television transmitter. It was from this site that the first commercial television signal in North Carolina was broadcast, when WBTV signed on the air in 1949. The tower remains on the mountain today, but is no longer in use as WBTV's primary transmitter. It is used by NWS for its NOAA Weather Radio transmission signal.


External links

* [ Gaston County government official website]
* [ Gaston County Schools official website]

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