History of Yadkin County
In 1673, Abraham Wood, a prominent trader of Fort Henry, now Petersburg, Virginia, sought to open up the back country for more extensive trade and in May of that year he sent out a scouting expedition of two Englishmen, James Needham and Gabriel Arthur. In a nine-day journey west and south they crossed the Blue Ridge and sighted the Great Smoky Mountains. On June 18, Arthur went south along the Trading Path which crossed the Shallow Ford and which later became the Great Wagon Road. Arthur reported his party had reached Yattken Town at Yattken River (the first mention of Yadkin). The meaning of the work Yadkin, derived from Yattken, or Yattkin, a Siouan Indian word, is unknown. In Siouan terminology it may mean “big tree” or “place of big trees.”
The Native Americans in this area for were mainly peaceful farmers. They planted corn, beans, pumpkins, potatoes, and other various vegetables. Also, fruit, game, and fish were plentiful. In addition to small game, wild pigeons and turkeys abounded the area. Some of the fish-falls constructed by the Indians may still be found on the Yadkin River today. The estimated North Carolina Native American population in the year 1600 was: Cherokees, 6,000; Cheraw, 1,200; Keyauwee, 500; and Catawba (including Sugeree and Waxhaw) 5,000. At one time, the Catawbas claimed the area drained by the Catawba River from its headwaters into South Carolina and from the Broad River to the Yadkin River.
The first white settlers in what is now Yadkin County were Morgan Bryan, an active trader and George Forbush. Morgan Bryan was a member of the New Garden Quaker Community in Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1719. In October, 1730, he purchased 100,000 acres of land from Governor Gooch of Virginia on Opequon Creek for Quaker settlement. In 1748, he moved his large family to North Carolina, making his home on the south bank of Deep Creek, 4-5 miles above Shallow Ford on the Yadkin.
Named for the river that marks its northern and eastern boundaries, Yadkin County was formed in 1850 from parts of adjacent Surry County. The most recent population count in Yadkin (2019) stands at over 37,600 and continues to grow. Yadkinville, the County Seat, was formed in 1857 and has a current population of around 2,900.
Originally a farming community, flue cured tobacco was largest cash crop grown in Yadkin County. As tobacco production and use declines, production of other crops continues to increase in Yadkin. Active Vineyards are now producing grapes to be used in wine making. The first winery in Yadkin County opened in 2000 and plenty more have opened since. Yadkin County is now home to 12 producing wineries, the largest concentration in the state of North Carolina. The Yadkin Valley Wine Region was the first federally designated wine producing region or appellation in North Carolina. Wines such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Viognier, and Chambourcin are winning medals in comp etitions throughout the nation.
While it began as an agricultural center and remains primarily rural in character, today the county combines a farming economy with growing industrial development. Industrial growth was slow coming to Yadkin due to the decision in 1871, 1885, and again in 1908 to not allow the railroad into the county. Highway infrastructure later allowed growth to take place, and now Yadkin County has a healthy mix of manufacturing operations. Unifi Inc., is the county’s largest firm, with over 1,000 manufacturing employees. Unifi also manufacturers Repreve ®, a 100% recycled fabric made from discarded water bottles. Also, Lydall Thermal Acoustical supplies metal and fiber problem solving solutions to the automotive market, and Phillips-Van Heusen Apparel Group operates a huge “state of the art” distribution facility in Yadkin County. Additionally, resources such as plastics, metalworking, automotive components, food production, and textile companies add to the manufacturing base. Two major four-lane highways, I-77 and US 421, make Yadkin County easily accessible for industry, residents, and visitors.
Continuing county improvements include expansion of water, wastewater, and natural gas lines. The Yadkin County School system features eight elementary schools, two middle schools, two traditional high schools, the Yadkin Early College high school, and the Success Academy. Development continues at the Yadkin Memorial Park where the 140 acre Lake Hampton on Deep Creek is located. Lake Hampton not only provides a future water source, but also provides ample recreational opportunities with canoeing, hiking trails, picnic shelters, and a playground with more coming soon. Other parks includes Yadkin County Park, Richmond Hill Park, Shore-Styers Mill Nature Park, Yadkinville Community Park and the Yadkin River Access Points. Jonesville offers the Lila Swaim Park, Sgt. Gregory Martin Memorial Park, and the scenic River Trail Greenway. The Yadkin Center of Surry Community College recently opened their third building, the G. Allen Mebane Industrial Training Center offering a number of advanced manufacturing training courses. The Yadkin Cultural Arts Center in downtown Yadkinville continues to offer a wide selection of live entertainment and exhibits, along with housing “The Center Bistro” café. The investment in education, industry, tourism and the arts will provide for orderly growth and growing employee opportunities in the coming years for Yadkin County.