50+ Important Facts About Statesville (History and More!)

Last Updated on November 18, 2022

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We think everyone should know these facts about Statesville, North Carolina, whether you’re a frequent visitor or you live here. After scouring multiple sources, our guide shares more than 50 interesting things that have occurred over the history of Statesville through today.

Even if local history isn’t your favorite subject, we know you’ll find something interesting about this important spot in Central NC.

Read More: 30+ Awesome Things to Do in Statesville

Facts About Statesville (Stats and Geography)

Map of North Carolina highlighting Iredell County
Iredell County. David Benbennick, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Before we get into the events that have shaped the city, we also dig into the facts about Statesville for lovers of stats and geography.

  • Statesville is a city in Iredell County, an advantageous spot in North Carolina’s Piedmont region.
  • Statesville is about 50 minutes north of Charlotte, 40 minutes south of Elkin, 45 minutes southwest of Winston-Salem, and about 1 hour 10 minutes southwest of Greensboro.
  • It is also the Iredell County seat.
  • The city occupies more than 24 square miles of land.
  • According to the 2020 census, Statesville’s population was 28,419. It is the second-most populous city in Iredell County, coming in just behind Mooresville.

Read More: The NC Tripping North Carolina Travel Map

The History of Statesville

The majority of facts about Statesville require a deep dive into the city’s history, even before it was known as “Statesville.”

The Fourth Creek Era

Fort Dobbs visiting
Fort Dobbs.
  • Before there even was a Statesville (and even Iredell County), Cherokee and Catawba Indians inhabited the area.
  • The first European settlers arrived from Pennsylvania in 1753. They were primarily German Lutherans and Scots-Irish Presbyterians.
  • The area’s abundance of rich soil, wildlife, and freshwater were the main factors in their relocation.
  • Then part of Rowan County, the church-led settlement became known as the Fourth Creek Congregation.
  • That name came from the stream that was technically the “fourth creek” west of neighbor settlement Salisbury. When you visit Fourth Creek Brewing downtown, you’ll know where the name came from!
  • In 1756, a plot of land became the property of the Fourth Creek Congregation by deed of gift from Fergus Sloan. Statesville’s First Presbyterian Church sits on that land today and church officials still hold the original deed.
  • Fort Dobbs was built in 1756 during the French and Indian War.
  • 1756 is filled with interesting facts about Statesville. One more is that the Fourth Creek Burying Ground became Statesville’s only cemetery in 1756. It would remain the only cemetery in town until 1888. Revolutionary War soldiers are buried there.
  • On February 27, 1760, Fort Dobbs was attacked by Cherokee Indians. One or two provincial soldiers died and about 12 Cherokee died in the skirmish. Fort Dobbs saw the only major French and Indian War battle fought in North Carolina.

Read More: Museum of the Cherokee Indian (13,000 Years of History in One Important Space)

Early Facts About Statesville

Facts About Statesville NC
  • In 1788, Rowan County was divided and Fourth Creek became a part of Iredell County.
  • The county was named after the Associate Justice of the first Supreme Court, James Iredell.
  • By an act of the NC General Assembly, Statesville was officially established in 1789. It’s believed that the original name of the town was “The States Vil.”
  • The first courthouse was built around 1790 and formed the center of town.
  • Statesville began laying railroad track in 1833. This project would connect North Carolina’s Piedmont region with the rest of the South.
  • In 1847, Statesville was incorporated as a city.
  • In 1852, Concord Presbyterian Female College was chartered in Statesville. It opened in the fall of 1856. Today, it is known as Mitchell Community College.
  • A fire devastated Statesville in 1854, burning nearly half the city’s buildings.
  • The Western North Carolina Railroad arrived in 1858. The line linked Salisbury to Asheville.
  • Soon after, the Atlantic, Tennessee, and Ohio Railroad arrived, too.
  • Statesville saw little action during the Civil War until Stoneman’s Raid brought Union General George Stoneman and his “Raiders” to occupy the city on April 13, 1865.
  • During the occupation, Statesville’s railroad depot and the Iredell Express newspaper office were burned along with supplies. A larger fire in the entire city nearly resulted.
  • On May 13, 1865, North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance was arrested in Statesville. A historical marker at 200 S Center St offers details about Statesville’s place in the Civil War and Stoneman’s Raid.

Read More: 50+ Great Things to Do in Asheville (Downtown, Biltmore, and More!)

Post-Civil War Facts About Statesville

Southern Distilling Company in Statesville NC Barrels
Southern Distilling Company.
  • After the war, from the 1860s to the 1930s, the railroad was an integral part of Statesville’s economic future.
  • Statesville quickly became the leader in tobacco production, whiskey, and distribution for roots and herbs.
  • The last railroad stop before heading west, Statesville became known as the “liquor capital of the world” in the late 1800s.
  • In 1868, Tom Dula was hanged in Statesville after he was convicted of murdering his lover Laura Foster in 1866. A series of rumors and conspiracy theories say he didn’t commit the crime. The song “Tom Dooley” was written shortly afterward, though by whom is still a mystery. The Kingston Trio released a version in 1957 that is part of the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.
  • Congregation Emanuel was established in 1883. Located on North Kelly St, it remains one of the few 19th-century synagogues still standing in the United States.
  • The first electric lights in Statesville switched on in February 1889. Downtown lit up with electricity for about two hours. Gas lamps’ days were numbered as a result.
  • Statesville City Hall was built in 1892.
  • The Statesville Cotton Mill was established in 1893.
  • In 1899, the Iredell County Courthouse was built. It still stands today.

20th Century Facts About Statesville

Things to Do in North Carolina Statesville Balloons Carolina Balloonfest
  • By the turn of the 20th century, liquor was crucial to the economy of Statesville. At the time, there were more than 250 legal stills in Iredell County. However, forces had been working since 1852 to take it down.
  • In 1903, the Watts Act was passed to prohibit the manufacture and sale of spirits outside of incorporated towns.
  • North Carolina then took the lead on statewide prohibition, enacting a ban on production and sale of “intoxicating liquors” in 1909. The Federal Government followed suit with the 18th Amendment in 1919.
  • Heavily dependent on liquor, Statesville’s economy fell on hard times.
  • The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment in 1933. NC’s statewide prohibition ended soon afterward.
  • In 1937, the Alcoholic Beverage Control System (ABC) officially recognized the 21st Amendment. However, Statesville didn’t organize its own ABC board at that time.
  • In 1939, the Statesville Owls began playing in the Tar Heel League of Minor League Baseball. They would play in multiple leagues and would win three championships before temporarily disbanding in 1969.
  • Before we get to more about 1969, Iredell Museums opened in 1956.
  • In 1957, a 3,000-year old Egyptian mummy arrived at the museum. “Margaret the Mummy” remains one of the best-known permanent exhibits today.
  • In 1959, construction began on a dam that would create Lake Norman.
  • Lake Norman State Park was established in 1962. The entrance and visitor center are located on the outskirts of Statesville.

Read More: 25+ Great Things to Do in Lake Norman (Nearby Towns and Parks)

  • Tracy Barnes opened Balloon Works (aka FireFly Balloons) in 1969 as one of America’s orginal manufacturers of hot air balloons.
  • Shortly after, Statesville native Bill Meadows started a flight training and promotion company to train balloon pilots.
  • Another development in the late 1960s is the intersection of I-40 and I-77 in Statesville. Officials are working to improve this section of both major roads as traffic to the area increases.
  • In 1973, Statesville organized its own ABC board for alcohol sales. Perhaps they needed time to think things over?
  • The first National Balloon Rally was held in 1974. Today, it’s known as Carolina Balloonfest and is the world’s second-oldest hot air balloon festival. Even when the festival isn’t in action, you can fly a balloon over Statesville!
  • In 1997, the National Civic League named Statesville an All-America City for the first time. The city won again in 2009.

Read More: Amazing Small Towns in North Carolina

21st Century Facts About Statesville (Today and Beyond!)

Fourth Creek Brewing Co Statesville NC
Fourth Creek Brewing Co.
  • For the 2008-2009 school year, NASA chose Mitchell Community College first for its University Student Launch Initiative competition.
  • The Statesville Owls returned to the baseball diamond, this time as a summer college team. They played in the Southern Collegiate Baseball League for 6 years, starting in 2010. After two dormant seasons, they returned in May 2018.
  • In October 2010, the Statesville Historical Collection opened its first displays at the former FireFly Balloon Factory. After occupying multiple temporary homes, it opened a gallery at 212 North Center St, formerly Gordon’s Furniture Store.
  • Pete and Vienna Barger founded Southern Distilling Company in 2013. They opened for tours, tastings, and shopping in 2017. Since 1903, this was the first licensed distillery in the one-time liquor capital of the world. You can learn a lot of the city’s history and its relationship with liquor through a tour.
  • The first Full Bloom Film Festival was held in Statesville in 2015. The Iredell Arts Council-led event continues to draw filmmakers and visitors to the area each year.
  • In 2019, the Fort Dobbs State Historic Site opened to the public. It is the only State Historic Site that interprets the French and Indian War.

Beyond these interesting facts about Statesville, we think you’ll enjoy visiting today.

With beautiful historic buildings and churches still standing, it’s clear that the history of Statesville lives on. In fact, there are five National Register of Historic Place Districts in Statesville, including the following:

  • Academy Hill
  • Broad Street/Davie Avenue
  • Downtown Statesville
  • Mitchell College
  • Race Street

With art and small business driving the downtown, we’re eager to continue visiting and experience the bright future that awaits Statesville. We can’t wait to keep adding history to this guide as the city makes it.

Until then, do you have any facts about Statesville to share with us? We’d love to hear about them!

Before you let us know in the comments, here are some Statesville travel guides that we’ve created.

Sources Used

A special thanks to these sources that helped us compile these facts about Statesville:

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Things to Do in Statesville (and Nearby)

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