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Wilkes County Genealogy

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Wilkes county was formed in 1777 from parts of Surry County and Washington District (now Washington County, Tennessee). The first session of the county court was held in John Brown’s house near what is today Brown’s Ford. The act creating the county became effective on February 15, 1778, and the county celebrates its anniversary as February 15. It was named for the English political radical John Wilkes, who lost his position as Lord Mayor of the City of London due to his support for the colonists during the American Revolution.

In 1799 the northern and western parts of Wilkes County became Ashe County. In 1841 parts of Wilkes County and Burke County were combined to form Caldwell County. In 1847 another part of Wilkes County was combined with parts of Caldwell County and Iredell County to become Alexander County. In 1849 additional parts of Wilkes County and Caldwell County were combined with parts of Ashe County and Yancey County to form Watauga County. Numerous boundary adjustments were made thereafter, but none resulted in new counties.

The County seat of Wilkes County is Wilkesboro. The Blue Ridge Parkway passes through Wilkes county. Wilkes County is also divided into the following townships: Antioch, Beaver Creek, Boomer, Brushy Mountains, Edwards, Elk Creek, Hays, Jobs Cabin, Lewis Fork, Lovelace, Moravian Falls, Mulberry, New Castle, North Wilkesboro, Rock Creek, Somers, Stanton, Traphill, Union, Walnut Grove, and Wilkesboro.

Wilkes County is a part of the Yadkin Valley Wine Growing area.

Among the famous residents of Wilkes County:

* Daniel Boone (1734-1820), the famed explorer and pioneer, lived in Wilkes County for several years, and married a Wilkes County native, before moving west to Kentucky.
* Benjamin Cleveland (1738-1806), was a distinguished colonel in the North Carolina militia during the Revolutionary War. He was one of the American commanders at the famous Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780.
* William Lenoir (1751-1839), the first President of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
* Montford Stokes (1762-1842), United States Senator and Governor of North Carolina from 1816 to 1832. In 1832 he was appointed by President Andrew Jackson to lead the Federal Indian Commission in what is now Oklahoma; he is believed to be the only veteran of the Revolutionary War buried in that state.
* Chang and Eng Bunker (1811-1874), the world-famous Siamese twins, who were a popular attraction in Asia, Europe, and North America in the nineteenth century, settled in Wilkes County in the 1850s and married two local sisters.
* George Allen Gilreath (1834-1863), a captain in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War; he commanded the regiment which advanced the farthest into enemy lines during Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. Gilreath was killed in the assault.
* James B. Gordon (1822-1864), a general of cavalry in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
* Tom Dula (Dooley) (1844-1868), a Confederate veteran of the Civil War who was tried and hanged shortly after the war for the murder of his fiancee, Laura Foster. Dula was the subject of a top-selling 1958 ballad by the Kingston Trio, entitled “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley”.
* James Larkin Pearson (1879-1981), poet and newspaper publisher who served as North Carolina’s official Poet Laureate from 1953 to 1981.
* Robert Byrd (1917-), the senior U.S. Senator from West Virginia since 1959. Byrd is the longest-serving Senator in American history.
* Junior Johnson (1931-), in the 1950s, Johnson became a legend in the rural South by consistently outrunning law-enforcement officials in auto chases while delivering homemade liquor (moonshine) to his customers. Johnson then became a champion NASCAR racer, winning 50 NASCAR races before his retirement.
* Benny Parsons (1941-2007), well-known NASCAR racer who won the 1973 NASCAR championship. After his retirement he became a popular racing analyst for the ESPN, NBC and TBS television networks.
* John Swofford (1948-), since 1997 the Commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), one of the nation’s premiere college sports conferences.
* Deneen Graham (1964-), the first black woman to be crowned Miss North Carolina (1983).
* Zach Galifianakis (1969-), a popular stand-up comedian who has appeared on such television shows as Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. He has also been a character actor in films such as Into the Wild and on several television series for the Comedy Central network, such as Reno 911.

Wilkes County is home to the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival, Merlefest, the Shine to Wine Festival, the birth of the folk song “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley”.

Source: Wikipedia.

Wilkes County Genealogy Resources

Wilkes County NCGenweb site

Wilkes County NCGenWeb Archives

Wilkes Genealogical Society, Inc.
P.O. Box 1629
North Wilkesboro, NC 28659


Wilkes County Government

Wilkes County Government Official Site

Wilkes County Register of Deeds
500 Court House Drive
Suite 1000
Wilkesboro, NC 28697
Phone: 336.651.7351
Monday – Friday 8:30am – 4:55pm
(None of their documents can be accessed online as of July 14, 2010)

Appalachian Regional Library – Serving Ashe, Wilkes and Watauga Counties
215 Tenth Street
North Wilkesboro, NC 28659
Phone: 336.838.2818

Cities and Towns

* North Wilkesboro
* Ronda
* Wilkesboro


* Cricket
* Fairplains
* Hays
* Millers Creek
* Moravian Falls
* Mulberry
* Pleasant Hill


1790 Federal Census Transcription

1800 Federal Census Index

1810 Federal Census Index

1820 Federal Census Index

1830 Federal Census Index

1840 Federal Census Index

1850 Federal Census Index

1850/1860 Federal Slave Mortality Census

1870 Federal Census Images


USGS listing of cemeteries in Wilkes County

Cemetery Transcriptions

Wilkes County Cemetery Transcriptions

Wilkes County Cemetery Census

Query Forums

Wilkes County, NC Query Forum

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Wilkes County, NC at Genforum

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