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The Key Note

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Jul 18

Flash Back to 1906

Posted on July 18, 2020 at 9:38 AM by Crystal Keener

Wilkes County was named in honor of John Wilkes,  a patriotic member of the English Parliament and friend of the American colonists before and during the Revolution. Wilkes County was formed in 1777 from Surry County, and included what is today Alexander, Caldwell, Ashe, Alleghany, and Watauga counties, and the State of Tennessee, to the Mississippi. Hence, the name that is so often heard, “The State of Wilkes.” 

According to the Yellow Jacket Press (1906), Wilkes County’s present area was 700 square miles with the 1900 census population as 26,872 (13,082 males and 13,790 females). The value of real estate was $1,500,000 with personal property around $1,000,000. 

The Yadkin River was described as, “flowing through Wilkes from west to east.” “For about 40 miles along both sides of this river, and the tributaries emptying into it are some of the most fertile farming lands in the State, producing annually large crops of corn, wheat, rye, oats, grass, and other products of the soil” supporting a “busy and industrious population” (The Yellow Jacket Press, 1906). 

The lands of Wilkes County were divided into three divisions: bottoms, uplands, and mountains, with the soil so fertile that tobacco grown in Wilkes took the highest premium at the 1906’s World’s Exposition in Vienna! 

The south side of the Brushy Mountains was said to be “one of the finest fruit sections of the world” with “many turning their attention to fruit raising as it has handsome returns on their labors and investments” according to the 1906 Yellow Jacket Press. 

The 1906 Views of North Wilkesboro, describes a story of a poor man rising to success “who bought a little tract of 50 acres on Brushy Mountains for $250 and set out fruit trees. Just the next year, the man sold his apple crops for $1,080 providing a bright and prosperous future for his wife and children.” 

Moreover, with the completion of the railroad to North Wilkesboro in 1890, the lumber industry of Wilkes County started to boom! In 1906, Wilkes County provided “the finest pine, oak, hickory, walnut, and poplar lumber that has ever been cut in the past 12 years with untold millions yet to ship worldwide.”  Photo from 1906 Photo from 1906 2 Photo from 1906 3

Pictures taken by the Yellow Jacket Press (1906) depict an Opera House, completed for just $17,000, Wilkes County’s new Courthouse, the Town’s new Granite Stone Banking House with “burglar and fireproof vaults and safes.” 

Stay tuned for more history into “The Great State of Wilkes!” If you have a rich family history in North Wilkesboro, or a story you wish to share, email me at!