On this day in WNC history: One hundred is a much neater number than ninety-nine isn’t it? On this day in 1911, the NC legislature split parts of Caldwell, Mitchell, and Watauga counties to form the mountainous Avery County, the 100th in the state.

The county was named in honor of Colonel Waightsill Avery, a Revolutionary War officer in the Burke County militia, a lawyer, legislator, and subsequent attorney general of North Carolina. It followed by a week the creation of Hoke County in the southeastern part of the state. It was also the first WNC county created since Swain and Graham were carved from their neighbors in the early 1870s.

Avery County’s boundaries began at the highest peak of Grandfather Mountain and traversed other famous peaks and valleys of the High Country. The legislature tasked county commissioners with selecting a spot for the county seat, which was to be named “Newland” in honor of Lt. Gov. William Newland, a key player in securing the county’s creation. The commissioners initially picked the small railroad-stop town of Elk Park, home of the Salem School and Orphanage for African American children, as the county seat. Unfortunately, the town lay only a half-mile from the Tennessee line. Commissioners quickly settled on the more centrally-located unincorporated railroad stop known as “Old Fields” to construct the town of Newland, which became the county seat in 1912.

North Carolina Public Laws, 1911, NC Digital State Documents Collection

North Carolina Public Laws, 1911, NC Digital State Documents Collection

Photo of Salem School in Elk Park, c1901 in Appalachian Journal, Spring, 1993

Avery County courthouse, postcard, c1920s, courtesy NC Postcard digital collections, Wilson Library, UNC