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Gaston County is a county located just west of Charlottemarker (Mecklenburg Countymarker) in the southern Piedmont in the U.S. state of North Carolinamarker. 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 Gastoniamarker. Dallasmarker 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 , and is seventh in population. The county has fifteen incorporated towns.


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 Rivermarker 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. 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 Mountainmarker, a rocky monadnock which sharply rises over above the city of Gastoniamarker. Crowders Mountain rises to above sea level, and is part of Crowders Mountain State Parkmarker.

Gaston County has 14 incorporated towns: Belmontmarker, Bessemer Citymarker, Cherryvillemarker, Cramertonmarker, Dallasmarker, Dellviewmarker (smallest incorporated town in the U.S. with a population of 23), Gastoniamarker, High Shoalsmarker, Lowellmarker, McAdenvillemarker, Mount Hollymarker, Ranlomarker, Spencer Mountainmarker, and Stanleymarker. Inincorporated areas of the county are divided among six townships (used on an administrative basis only): Cherryville, Dallas, Riverbend, Crowders Mountain, Gastonia, and South Point.


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. 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 Carolinamarker was settled in 1772, after which most of the Catawba settled on a reservation near Fort Mill, South Carolinamarker.

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 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.

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 Islandmarker, 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 McAdenvillemarker. 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 Belmontmarker. 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.

German influence

German pioneers began settling Gaston County in the mid 18th century and establishing homesteads after migrating southward from the Shenandoah Valleymarker 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 census 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 average life expectancy is 36.89 years.

The races there are very mixed: 157,965 are white, 26,405 are black or African-American, 525 are American Indian and Alaska native, 1,814 are Asian, 50 are native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 5,719 are Hispanic or Latino, 1,958 are some other race and 1,648 are two or more races.

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."

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.

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.

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 Countymarker. The Gaston County Police Department is also the primary law enforcement agency for the incorporated cities of High Shoalsmarker, Spencer Mountainmarker, and Bessemer Citymarker. 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.


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 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 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 Dallasmarker offering Associate Degree, Certificate, and Diploma programs. Belmont Abbey College is a Roman Catholic Liberal Arts College located in Belmontmarker.

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 Citymarker arrives at Gastonia at 12:56 AM and the Southbound train (#19) for New Orleans, Louisianamarker arrives at 3:12 AM.

The Norfork Southern main line passes from west to east across the county, passing through Kings Mountainmarker, Gastonia, and Belmontmarker. From Gastonia, a branch line leads north to Dallasmarker and High Shoalsmarker and south to Crowdersmarker.

CSX rail lines pass through the northwestern and northeastern corners of Gaston County. In the northwest, a line between Lincolntonmarker and Shelbymarker passes through Cherryvillemarker. In the northeast, a line between Lincolntonmarker and Charlottemarker passes through Stanleymarker and Mount Hollymarker.


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

The city of Gastoniamarker owns and operates Gastonia Municipal Airportmarker, which is a general aviation airport which covers and has one runway.

Adjacent counties


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

Unincorporated communities


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 Parkmarker is the largest natural heritage site in the county. It covers over 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 .

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 Belmontmarker 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.

Points of interest

The Peter Hoyle Housemarker, 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 Gardenmarker covers 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 Carolinamarker.

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 Parkmarker is noted for its resident raptors and sheer vertical cliffs which drop . From Crowders Mountain, the highest point in Gaston County, views stretch for more than .

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

Christmas Town, USA - McAdenville, North Carolinamarker - 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 Mountainmarker, which is located in central Gaston County, is the site of the old WBTVmarker 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.


  1. Gaston County Watersheds
  2. Piper Peters Aheron. Images of America: Gastonia and Gaston County North Carolina. Arcadia Publishing, 2001 (ISBN 0738506737)
  3. County Profile - Gaston County government official website. Retrieved on 2008-07-02.
  4. 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
  5. Elections-Board of Commissioners, Gaston County government website. Retrieved on 2008-07-22
  6. Board of Elections Information, Gaston County government website. Retrieved on 2008-07-22.
  7. Gaston County Courts
  8. Gaston County Sheriff's Office website. Retrieved on 2008-07-22.
  9. Retrieved 2008-07-04.
  10. Retrieved on 2008-07-04.

External links

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