Gaston County, North Carolina

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Gaston County
Gaston County Courthouse in Gastonia
Gaston County Courthouse in Gastonia
Official seal of Gaston County
Map of North Carolina highlighting Gaston County
Location within the U.S. state of North Carolina
Map of the United States highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 35°18′N 81°11′W / 35.3°N 81.18°W / 35.3; -81.18
Country United States
State North Carolina
FoundedDecember 21, 1846
Named forWilliam Gaston
Largest cityGastonia
 • Total364 sq mi (940 km2)
 • Land356 sq mi (920 km2)
 • Water8.1 sq mi (21 km2)  2.2%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density636.43/sq mi (245.73/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district5th

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[edit]


Historical population
Census Pop.

2020 census[edit]

Gaston County racial composition[14]
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 153,653 67.41%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 39,762 17.44%
Native American 753 0.33%
Asian 3,509 1.54%
Pacific Islander 59 0.03%
Other/Mixed 10,139 4.45%
Hispanic or Latino 20,068 8.8%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 227,943 people, 85,705 households, and 55,868 families residing in the county.


As of the census[15] 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.


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.[16]

Law and government[edit]

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."[17]

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.[18]

The county is administered by a full-time professional County Manager. Gaston County is a member of the regional Centralina Council of Governments.[19]

County officers[edit]

Board of Commissioners[edit]

Office[20] Holder Party Term expires
County Commissioner (Chairman) Tracy Philbeck Republican 2022
County Commissioner (Vice Chair) Jack Brown Republican 2020
County Commissioner Chad Brown Republican 2022
County Commissioner Allen Fraley Republican 2020
County Commissioner Bob Hovis Republican 2020
County Commissioner Tom Keigher Republican 2022
County Commissioner Ronnie Worley Republican 2020

Soil & Water Conservation District superviors[edit]

Holder[20] Term expires
Becca Hurd 2022
Roger Hurst 2020
Esther Scott 2022
Robin Armstrong Appointed
Kevin Mauney Appointed

Superior court judges[edit]

Office[20] Holder Party Term expires
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Jesse B. Caldwell III Democratic 2022
Superior Court Judge David Phillips Democratic 2020

District court judges[edit]

Office[20] Holder Party Term expires
Chief District Court Judge John K. Greenlee Republican 2020
District Court Judge Richard B. Abernethy Democratic 2020
District Court Judge Craig Collins Republican 2022
District Court Judge Angela G. Hoyle Republican 2020
District Court Judge James A. Jackson Republican 2020
District Court Judge Michael K. Lands Republican 2022
District Court Judge Pennie Thrower Republican 2020

Other offices[edit]

Office[20] Holder Party Term expires
Register of Deeds Susan Lockridge Republican 2020
District Attorney R. Locke Bell Republican 2022
Clerk of Superior Court Larry Brown Republican 2022

North Carolina General Assembly[edit]

North Carolina House of Representatives[edit]

District Representative[20] Party
108 John A. Torbett Republican
109 Dana Bumgardner Republican
110 Kelly Hastings Republican

North Carolina Senate[edit]

District[20] Representative Party
43 Kathy Harrington Republican
44 Ted Alexander Republican

Federal offices[edit]


Senator[20] Party Term expires
Richard Burr Republican 2022
Thom Tillis Republican 2026

House of Representatives[edit]

District[20] Representative Party
5th Virginia Foxx Republican

Courts of law[edit]

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.[21]


Presidential elections results
Presidential elections results[22]
Year Republican Democratic Third parties
2020 63.2% 73,033 35.5% 40,959 1.3% 1,506
2016 64.1% 61,798 32.3% 31,177 3.6% 3,456
2012 62.0% 56,138 36.7% 33,171 1.3% 1,174
2008 62.2% 52,507 37.2% 31,384 0.6% 511
2004 67.8% 43,252 31.8% 20,254 0.4% 249
2000 66.7% 39,453 32.6% 19,281 0.8% 445
1996 58.4% 33,149 34.3% 19,458 7.3% 4,132
1992 56.5% 34,714 31.1% 19,121 12.4% 7,600
1988 70.3% 34,775 29.5% 14,582 0.2% 94
1984 73.4% 39,167 26.5% 14,142 0.2% 83
1980 55.6% 25,139 42.1% 19,016 2.3% 1,049
1976 46.1% 19,727 53.5% 22,878 0.4% 159
1972 75.8% 27,956 22.9% 8,462 1.3% 483
1968 43.8% 18,741 23.6% 10,100 32.6% 13,973
1964 45.9% 17,129 54.1% 20,197
1960 51.4% 21,250 48.6% 20,104
1956 53.7% 18,159 46.3% 15,671
1952 51.9% 19,157 48.1% 17,781
1948 32.6% 6,180 47.3% 8,966 20.2% 3,822
1944 30.5% 6,023 69.5% 13,744
1940 19.9% 4,294 80.1% 17,262
1936 21.4% 4,772 78.6% 17,555
1932 28.4% 5,164 70.8% 12,890 0.9% 157
1928 59.1% 9,702 40.9% 6,702
1924 35.0% 3,566 64.2% 6,554 0.8% 82
1920 44.8% 5,803 55.2% 7,148
1916 45.6% 2,542 54.2% 3,019 0.2% 11
1912 6.2% 244 59.5% 2,333 34.3% 1,347
1908 44.6% 1,970 54.4% 2,398 0.9% 40
1904 31.1% 896 68.0% 1,958 0.8% 25
1900 44.9% 1,626 53.4% 1,931 1.6% 58
1896 43.6% 1,625 55.5% 2,069 0.8% 33
1892 36.5% 1,173 50.3% 1,616 13.0% 418
1888 42.9% 1,260 54.1% 1,589 3.0% 88
1884 41.4% 978 57.4% 1,356 1.0% 25
1880 50.6% 1,139 49.2% 1,107 0.0% 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.[23] 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.[24]

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[edit]

Major highways[edit]

Rail service[edit]

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.[25]

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.[26]

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.[27]

Natural heritage[edit]

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).[28]

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.[29]

Points of interest[edit]

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.


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




Unincorporated communities[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  3. ^,unioncountynorthcarolina,yorkcountysouthcarolina,mecklenburgcountynorthcarolina,US/PST045218
  4. ^ List of counties in North Carolina
  5. ^ "About Gaston County".
  6. ^ "About Gaston County". Retrieved September 6, 2019.
  7. ^ Piper Peters Aheron. Images of America: Gastonia and Gaston County North Carolina. Arcadia Publishing, 2001 (ISBN 0738506737)
  8. ^ a b County Profile - "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 29, 2008. Retrieved July 5, 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link). Gaston County government official website. Retrieved on 2008-07-02.
  9. ^ 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[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. pp. 135.
  11. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Archived from the original on January 12, 2015. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  12. ^ Gaston County Watersheds Archived September 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Piedmont North Carolina Trip Reports (GCounty High Pointers Assn., 2010), cited in [1]
  14. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  15. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  16. ^ Patterson, Scott; Ramkumar, Amrith (March 9, 2021). "America's Battery-Powered Car Hopes Ride on Lithium. One Producer Paves the Way". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on March 12, 2021. Retrieved March 13, 2021.
  17. ^ "Elected Officials: Board of Commissioners". County of Gaston. Archived from the original on March 18, 2013. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
  18. ^ "Polling Places". Board of Elections. County of Gaston. Archived from the original on March 30, 2012. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
  19. ^ "About Centralina COG". CCOG. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i
  21. ^ "Welcome to Gaston County - District 27A". Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  22. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  23. ^ "About the Board". Gaston County Schools. Archived from the original on May 31, 2012. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
  24. ^ "Gaston County". Office of Charter Schools. NC Dept. of Public Instruction. Archived from the original on October 26, 2008. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
  25. ^ "System Maps, Directories & Schedules". Norfolk Southern. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  26. ^ " - CSX System Map". Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  27. ^ "Airport Master Record, Gastonia Municipal Airport, Federal Aviation Administration" (PDF). WayBack Machine. October 9, 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 9, 2012. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  28. ^ "Gaston County: 2003 Environmental Report Card". Archived from the original (DOC) on March 3, 2016. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  29. ^ "The Natural Heritage of Gaston County" (PDF). WayBack Machine. May 25, 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 25, 2006. Retrieved March 15, 2018.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°18′N 81°11′W / 35.30°N 81.18°W / 35.30; -81.18