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Rowan County, North Carolina

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Please add profiles of those who were born, lived or died in Rowan County, North Carolina.

Official Website


The first Europeans to enter what is now Rowan County were members of the Spanish expedition of Juan Pardo in 1567. They established a fort and a mission in the native village of Guatari, believed to be located near the Yadkin River and inhabited by the Wateree. At the time, the area was ruled by a female chief whom the Spaniards called Guatari Mico (Mico was the Wateree's term for chief). The Spaniards called the village Salamanca in honor of the city of Salamanca in western Spain, and established a mission, headed by a secular priest named Sebastián Montero.

This fort was one of six that Pardo's expedition established before he returned separately to Spain in 1568. Small garrisons were stationed at each fort. They were built into the interior, including across the mountains in what is now southeastern Tennessee. In 1568, Native Americans at each fort massacred all but one soldier in the garrisons. The Spanish never returned to this interior area in other colonizing attempts, instead concentrating their efforts in La Florida.

English colonial settlement of North Carolina came decades later, starting in the coastal areas, where settlers migrated south from Virginia. Explorers and fur traders were the first to reach the Piedmont, paving the way for eventual settlers. Rowan County was formed in 1753 from the northern part of Anson County. It was named for Matthew Rowan, acting governor of North Carolina from 1753 to 1754. It was intended to incorporate all of the lands of the Granville District that had previously been included in Anson County.

A house several miles west of present-day Salisbury in "the Irish settlement" served as the first courthouse starting June 15, 1753. Daniel Boone's father Squire Boone served as one of the first magistrates. By mid-1754 a new courthouse site was selected near "the place where the Old Waggon Road (crosses) over Grant's Creek."

As was typical of the time, Rowan County was originally a vast territory with an indefinite western boundary. As the population increased in the region, portions were taken to organize other counties and their seats. In 1770, the eastern portion was combined with the western part of Orange County to form Guilford County. In 1771 the northeastern portion of what was left became Surry County. In 1777 the western part of Rowan County was organized as Burke County.

After the American Revolutionary War, in 1788, the western portion of the now much smaller Rowan County was organized as Iredell County. In 1822, Davidson County was formed from an eastern section. Finally, in 1836, that part of Rowan County north of the South Yadkin River became Davie County, and Rowan County took its present form and size.

A center of textile manufacturing from the late 19th to the late 20th centuries, the county has worked to attract new industries after that one moved offshore in the late 20th and early 21st centuries to cheaper wage markets in Asia.

Adjacent Counties

Cities & Towns

  • China Grove
  • Cleveland
  • East Spencer
  • Faith
  • Granite Quarry
  • Kannapolis (part)
  • Landis
  • Rockwell
  • Salisbury (County Seat)
  • Spencer

Townships & Communities

Atwell | Bear Poplar | Bostian Heights | Crescent | Dogwood Acres | Dukeville | Enochville | Franklin | Gold Hill | Liberty | Litaker | Locke | Mill Bridge | Morgan | Mount Ulla | Providence | Scotch Irish | Steele | Unity | Woodleaf




Genealogy Trails

Nat'l Reg. of Hist. Places