Gaston County, North Carolina

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Gaston County
Historic 2nd Gaston County Courthouse - Gastonia, NC.jpg
Gaston County Courthouse in Gastonia
Gaston County nc seal.jpg
Map of North Carolina highlighting Gaston County.svg
Location within the U.S. state of North Carolina
North Carolina in United States.svg
North Carolina's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 35°18′N81°11′W / 35.3°N 81.18°W / 35.3; -81.18
CountryFlag of the United States.svg United States
StateFlag of North Carolina.svg  North Carolina
FoundedDecember 21, 1846
Named for William Gaston
Seat Gastonia
Largest cityGastonia
  Total364 sq mi (940 km2)
  Land356 sq mi (920 km2)
  Water8.1 sq mi (21 km2)  2.2%%
  Density636.43/sq mi (245.73/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
  Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 5th

Gaston County is a county in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 206,086. [1] The county seat is Gastonia. [2] Dallas served as the original county seat from 1846 until 1911.


Gaston County is included in the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is the fourth largest county in the metropolitan area, behind Mecklenburg County, York County and Union County as of the 2018 US Census estimates. [3] It is located in the southern Piedmont region.

Of North Carolina's 100 counties, Gaston County ranks 74th in size, consisting of approximately 364.5 square miles (944 km2), and is tenth in population [4] [ circular reference ]. The county has fifteen incorporated towns. [5] In addition to fifteen incorporated towns and cities, there are several unincorporated communities such as Hardin, Lucia, Crowders Mountain, Sunnyside, Alexis, Tryon, and North Belmont. [6]


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. [7] 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. [8]

Most early farms were small, cultivated primarily by White yeoman farmers of English ancestry. North Carolina's colonial policy restricted the size of land grants, and in Gaston County they tended to be about 400 acres (1.6 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. [9]

Gaston County was founded in 1846. It is named for William Gaston, member of the state supreme court. [10]

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[ who? ] 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. [8]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 364 square miles (940 km2), of which 356 square miles (920 km2) is land and 8.1 square miles (21 km2) (2.2%) is water. [11] It belongs to the southern Piedmont physiographic province.[ citation needed ]

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. [12] 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 King's Pinnacle, a rocky monadnock which sharply rises over 800 feet (240 m) above the city of Gastonia. King's Pinnacle rises 1,690 feet (520 m) above sea level, and is part of Crowders Mountain State Park. [13]

Adjacent counties


Historical population
1850 8,073
1860 9,30715.3%
1870 12,60235.4%
1880 14,25413.1%
1890 17,76424.6%
1900 27,90357.1%
1910 37,06332.8%
1920 51,24238.3%
1930 78,09352.4%
1940 87,53112.1%
1950 110,83626.6%
1960 127,07414.7%
1970 148,41516.8%
1980 162,5689.5%
1990 175,0937.7%
2000 190,3658.7%
2010 206,0868.3%
2020 (est.)226,568 [14] 9.9%
U.S. Decennial Census [15]
1790-1960 [16] 1900-1990 [17]
1990-2000 [18] 2010-2014 [1]

As of the census [19] of 2004, there were 194,459 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 83% White, 13.9% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 1% Asian, 0% Pacific Islander, 0.3% from other races, and 1% from two or more races. 3.00% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 92,094 males and 98,271 females in Gaston County. Of these 39,492 are under 15, 23,082 are aged 16–24, 59,096 are aged 25–44, 44,710 are aged between 45-64 and 23,985 are 65 and over. The median age is 36.89 years.

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." [20]

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. [21]

The county is administered by a full-time professional County Manager. Gaston County is a member of the regional Centralina Council of Governments. [22]

County officers

Board of Commissioners

Office [23] HolderPartyTerm expires
County Commissioner (Chairman)Tracy Philbeck Republican 2022
County Commissioner (Vice Chair)Jack Brown Republican 2020
County CommissionerChad Brown Republican 2022
County CommissionerAllen Fraley Republican 2020
County CommissionerBob Hovis Republican 2020
County CommissionerTom Keigher Republican 2022
County CommissionerRonnie Worley Republican 2020

Soil & Water Conservation District superviors

Holder [23] Term expires
Becca Hurd2022
Roger Hurst2020
Esther Scott2022
Robin ArmstrongAppointed
Kevin MauneyAppointed

Superior court judges

Office [23] HolderPartyTerm expires
Senior Resident Superior Court JudgeJesse B. Caldwell III Democratic 2022
Superior Court JudgeDavid Phillips Democratic 2020

District court judges

Office [23] HolderPartyTerm expires
Chief District Court JudgeJohn K. Greenlee Republican 2020
District Court JudgeRichard B. Abernethy Democratic 2020
District Court JudgeCraig Collins Republican 2022
District Court JudgeAngela G. Hoyle Republican 2020
District Court JudgeJames A. Jackson Republican 2020
District Court JudgeMichael K. Lands Republican 2022
District Court JudgePennie Thrower Republican 2020

Other offices

Office [23] HolderPartyTerm expires
Sheriff Alan Cloninger Democratic 2022
Register of Deeds Susan Lockridge Republican 2020
District Attorney R. Locke Bell Republican 2022
Clerk of Superior CourtLarry Brown Republican 2022

North Carolina General Assembly

North Carolina House of Representatives

DistrictRepresentative [23] Party
108 John A. Torbett Republican
109 Dana Bumgardner Republican
110 Kelly Hastings Republican

North Carolina Senate

District [23] RepresentativeParty
43 Kathy Harrington Republican
44 Ted Alexander Republican

Federal offices


Senator [23] PartyTerm expires
Richard Burr Republican 2022
Thom Tillis Republican 2026

House of Representatives

District [23] RepresentativeParty
5th Virginia Foxx Republican

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.

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. [24]


Presidential elections results
Presidential elections results [25]
Year Republican Democratic Third parties
2020 63.2%73,03335.5% 40,9591.3% 1,506
2016 64.1%61,79832.3% 31,1773.6% 3,456
2012 62.0%56,13836.7% 33,1711.3% 1,174
2008 62.2%52,50737.2% 31,3840.6% 511
2004 67.8%43,25231.8% 20,2540.4% 249
2000 66.7%39,45332.6% 19,2810.8% 445
1996 58.4%33,14934.3% 19,4587.3% 4,132
1992 56.5%34,71431.1% 19,12112.4% 7,600
1988 70.3%34,77529.5% 14,5820.2% 94
1984 73.4%39,16726.5% 14,1420.2% 83
1980 55.6%25,13942.1% 19,0162.3% 1,049
1976 46.1% 19,72753.5%22,8780.4% 159
1972 75.8%27,95622.9% 8,4621.3% 483
1968 43.8%18,74123.6% 10,10032.6% 13,973
1964 45.9% 17,12954.1%20,197
1960 51.4%21,25048.6% 20,104
1956 53.7%18,15946.3% 15,671
1952 51.9%19,15748.1% 17,781
1948 32.6% 6,18047.3%8,96620.2% 3,822
1944 30.5% 6,02369.5%13,744
1940 19.9% 4,29480.1%17,262
1936 21.4% 4,77278.6%17,555
1932 28.4% 5,16470.8%12,8900.9% 157
1928 59.1%9,70240.9% 6,702
1924 35.0% 3,56664.2%6,5540.8% 82
1920 44.8% 5,80355.2%7,148
1916 45.6% 2,54254.2%3,0190.2% 11
1912 6.2% 24459.5%2,33334.3% 1,347
1908 44.6% 1,97054.4%2,3980.9% 40
1904 31.1% 89668.0%1,9580.8% 25
1900 44.9% 1,62653.4%1,9311.6% 58
1896 43.6% 1,62555.5%2,0690.8% 33
1892 36.5% 1,17350.3%1,61613.0% 418
1888 42.9% 1,26054.1%1,5893.0% 88
1884 41.4% 97857.4%1,3561.0% 25
1880 50.6%1,13949.2% 1,1070.0% 1


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. [26] Gaston County Schools has 54 public schools, including 9 high schools, 11 middle schools, 32 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 four charter schools: Community Public Charter School (K-7) in Stanley, Ridgeview Charter School (K–4) in Gastonia, Piedmont Community Charter School (K–12) in Gastonia, and Mountain Island Charter School (K–8) in Mount Holly. [27]

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.

The Gaston County Public Library has 10 branches spread throughout the county.

Transportation infrastructure

Major highways

Rail service

Gaston County is served by Amtrak, with a stop in Gastonia. Freight rail service is provided by the Norfolk Southern Railway, CSX and Patriot Rail.

The Norfork Southern main line passes from west to east across the county, passing through Kings Mountain, Bessemer City, Gastonia, Ranlo, Lowell, Cramerton and Belmont. From Gastonia, a branch line leads south to Crowders. [28]

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. [29]

Patriot Rail operates state-owned trackage between Gastonia and Mount Holly with a spur extending to Belmont.


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 with a single runway, Runway 3/21, an asphalt runway that is 3,779 feet in length. [30]

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.[ citation needed ]

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.[ citation needed ]

Crowders Mountain State Park is the largest natural heritage site in the county. It covers over 3,000 acres (12 km2) 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.[ citation needed ]

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 (0.91 m). [31]

Another 25 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. [32]

Points of interest

The Hoyle Historic Homestead, 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.[ citation needed ]

The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden covers 110 acres (0.45 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 150 feet (46 m). From Crowders Mountain, the highest point in Gaston County, views stretch for more than 20 miles (32 km).

The U.S. National Whitewater Center is a world-class recreation and training facility. Set among 300 acres (1.2 km2) wooded along the scenic Catawba River, the multiuse facility has a climbing center, mountain-biking trails and running trails.[ citation needed ]

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.

Piedmont Lithium is a mining company currently in the process of proving economic mineral recovery of lithium in Gaston County. After five years of surface prospecting, the company is currently drilling many sample cores across 2,300 acres (930 ha) of land it owns or has mineral rights to the county proving economic viability of mining lithium for the boom in battery demand to support electric vehicle and other uses in the 2020s. [33]


Map of Gaston County, North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels Map of Gaston County North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels.PNG
Map of Gaston County, North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels




Unincorporated communities

See also

Related Research Articles

Catawba County, North Carolina U.S. county in North Carolina

Catawba County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 154,810. Its county seat is Newton, and its largest city is Hickory. The county is part of the Hickory–Lenoir–Morganton, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Belmont, North Carolina City in North Carolina, United States

Belmont is a small suburban city in Gaston County, North Carolina, United States, located about 13 miles (21 km) west of uptown Charlotte and 9 miles (14 km) east of Gastonia. The population was 10,076 at the 2010 census. Once known as Garibaldi Station, the name change for Belmont is disputed. Some say it was named for a prominent New York banker - August Belmont. Others contend the Pope ordered the abbot of the monastery to change the name since he would not tolerate an abbey in a place that bore the Garibaldi name. The abbot could see Crowder's mountain from the property and named the town Belmont - "beautiful mountain". Belmont is home to Belmont Abbey College.

Cherryville, North Carolina City in North Carolina, United States

Cherryville is a small city in northwestern Gaston County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 5,760 at the 2010 census. The New Year's Shooters celebrate the area's German heritage by beginning each year with a customary chant and the honorary shooting of muskets. Cherryville is located approximately 38 miles (61 km) west of Charlotte and 16 miles (26 km) northwest of Gastonia.

Cramerton, North Carolina Town in North Carolina, United States

Cramerton is a small town in Gaston County, North Carolina, United States. It is a suburb of Charlotte and located east of Gastonia. The population was 4,165 at the 2010 census. A well-known feature is the Cramer Mountain gated development featuring homes around an 18-hole golf course at Cramer Mountain Country Club.

Dallas, North Carolina Town in North Carolina, United States

Dallas is a small town in Gaston County, North Carolina, and a suburb of Charlotte, located north of Gastonia. The population was 4,488 at the 2010 census. It was named for George M. Dallas, Vice President of the United States under James K. Polk.

Gastonia, North Carolina City in North Carolina, United States

Gastonia is the largest city in and county seat of Gaston County, North Carolina, United States. It is the second-largest satellite city of the Charlotte area, behind Concord. The population was 71,741 at the 2010 Census. In 2019, the population had increased to 77,273. Gastonia is the 13th most populous city in North Carolina. It is part of the Charlotte metropolitan area, officially designated the Charlotte Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

High Shoals, North Carolina Town in North Carolina, United States

High Shoals is a town in Gaston County, North Carolina, United States named for the high rocky shoal across the Catawba River. The population was 696 at the 2010 census.

Lowell, North Carolina City in North Carolina, United States

Lowell is a small city in Gaston County, North Carolina, United States, located east of Gastonia. The population was 3,526 at the 2010 census.

Mount Holly, North Carolina City in North Carolina, United States

Mount Holly is a small suburban city in northeastern Gaston County, North Carolina, United States. The city is situated just west of the Catawba River, north of Interstate 85, south of North Carolina State Highway 16, and west of Charlotte. The population was 13,656 at the 2010 census, up from 9,618 at the 2000 census.

North Carolina Highway 7

North Carolina Highway 7 (NC 7) is a primary state highway in the U.S. state of North Carolina. Entirely within Gaston County, it connects the towns of Lowell, McAdenville, and Belmont with the city of Gastonia.

The Garden Parkway was a proposed limited access toll road that was to be built in North Carolina, United States, that would have passed through portions of Gaston County and Mecklenburg County.

The Piedmont & Northern Railway was a heavy electric interurban company operating over two disconnected divisions in North and South Carolina. Tracks spanned 128 miles (206 km) total between the two segments, with the northern division running 24 miles (39 km) from Charlotte, to Gastonia, North Carolina, including a three-mile (5 km) spur to Belmont. The southern division main line ran 89 miles (143 km) from Greenwood to Spartanburg, South Carolina, with a 12 mi (19 km) spur to Anderson. Initially the railroad was electrified at 1500 volts DC, however, much of the electrification was abandoned when dieselisation was completed in 1954.

South Fork Catawba River Stream in North Carolina, USA

The South Fork Catawba River begins south of Hickory, North Carolina just northwest of the intersection of US Highway 321 and North Carolina Highway 10, at the confluence of the Henry Fork and Jacob Fork. The South Fork Catawba River travels 48.5 miles, passing along the communities of Lincolnton, High Shoals, McAdenville, and Cramerton, to Lake Wylie where its now submerged confluence with the Catawba River lies near the North Carolina and South Carolina border.

Gaston County Schools is public school district located in Gaston County, North Carolina. With 31,189 students enrolled in 55 schools as of the 2012–13 academic year, it is the ninth largest public school district in North Carolina.

Cherryville Township is a township in northwestern Gaston County, North Carolina, United States. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 16,500. It includes the incorporated city of Cherryville, the inactive incorporated town of Dellview, the unincorporated community of Tryon, and a portion of the town of High Shoals. It is represented on the Gaston County Board of Commissioners by Allen Fraley of Cherryville.

Charlotte metropolitan area Metropolitan area in the United States

The Charlotte metropolitan area or Metrolina is a metropolitan area of North and South Carolina within and surrounding the city of Charlotte. The metropolitan area also includes the cities of Gastonia, Concord, Huntersville, and Rock Hill as well as the large suburban area in the counties surrounding Mecklenburg County, which is at the center of the metro area. Located in the Piedmont, it is the largest metropolitan area in the Carolinas, and the fourth largest in the Southeastern United States. The Charlotte metropolitan area is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States.

North Carolina Highway 279

North Carolina Highway 279 (NC 279) is a primary state highway in the U.S. state of North Carolina. It connects the cities of Cherryville, Dallas, and Gastonia.

Stuart W. Cramer High School is a public high school in the Gaston County Schools district located in Cramerton, North Carolina. Its attendance range covers the central portion of eastern Gaston County and includes all of the towns of Cramerton and McAdenville and portions of Belmont and Mount Holly. Audrey Devine serves as principal. Assistant principals include Mary-Beth Edwards, Phillip Morris and Chris Gardner. Terry Radford serves as athletic director. The school was named for Stuart W. Cramer of Thomasville, North Carolina. Cramer was the founder of Cramerton, North Carolina, a leading industrialist in the textiles and air conditioning industries, and one of the founding partners of Duke Power.


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Coordinates: 35°18′N81°11′W / 35.30°N 81.18°W / 35.30; -81.18