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North Wilkesboro is a gorgeous small town that can be found in Wilkes County, North Carolina. With only just over four thousand residents, it is a wonderful place to live where almost everyone knows everyone else. North Wilkesboro is often seen as the epitome of the welcoming small American town. Close to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Brushy Mountains, and Stone Mountain State Park, North Wilkesboro enjoys mild winters and summers, and has a lot of rainfall throughout the year. North Wilkesboro is full of various tourist activities for all ages, and has the nickname of the “Key to the Blue Ridge.”
Although many people may not realize it, North Wilkesboro NC is actually a rather new town in the area. It was founded in 1891, and was almost an accident of design. The Norfolk and Southern Railway was built into Wilkes County, and ended where the town of Wilkesboro is now. North Wilkesboro quickly began to develop at and around the railway tracks, and the easy travel connections made it simple for people to come in and out of the new town. The transport links brought industry and business to the little town before many others, and North Wilkesboro became very bright and successful. There are few towns as young as North Wilkesboro that have grown so successfully so quickly – in just over one hundred years!
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Despite not being born or raised within the town of North Wilkesboro, a man named Tom Dula, or Dooley, has had a huge influence on the culture of the town. The Wilkes Playmakers, the local theatre group within the town, puts on a play based on his life every summer. Tom Dooley fought in the Civil War, but was hanged in 1868 for the murder of his pregnant fiancé, a woman named Laura Foster. He was considered by many people to be innocent, and the real murderer Laura’s cousin, Ann, who was in love with Tom. Tom and Ann had had a clandestine relationship when they were young, but while he was away at war, she had got married, and her cousin Laura had become a rather beautiful young woman. To complicate the matters even further, Pauline who was Laura’s sister and therefore also Ann’s cousin, also stated that she was in love with Tom. It is likely that the man had used the women to play off each other, but that is no demonstration of his guilt of the murder. It was Ann that found the body, but despite that Tom made a statement exonerating Ann from any possible blame or suspicion. Despite being defended pro bono by North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance, who believed Tom to be innocent, he was found guilty in two trials, and hanged. Many people were outraged at the time of his execution (although some would say murder), especially when it was said that on her deathbed, Ann confessed to the murder. A poem was written about Tom Dooley by Thomas Land, and it was put to music. The song is still sung in many parts of Wilkes County, and has even been released by popular musicians within recent times. The play is always very popular, drawing audiences from all around Wilkes County.
Throughout its history, North Wilkesboro, NC has pushed the boundaries. For example, before the world could be amused and dazzled by the antics of the drivers on the NASCAR scene, North Wilkesboro was already enjoying racing cars. The North Wilkesboro Speedway had its first race on May 18, 1947, and before long it was holding NASCAR races. In fact, NASCAR events occurred on the North Wilkesboro Speedway for over fifty years. In 1995, the speedway was purchased by two men, Bob Bahre and Bruton Smith. It was hoped by the community and many NASCAR fans who loved the town of North Wilkesboro that NASCAR races would still happen there; but they closed it, and relocated the races to tracks that they already owned in Texas. Many race fans have argued against this decision, and since 1996 many people have tried to purchase the speedway from them, to reopen it as a location for NASCAR. As of 2014, however, they have been unsuccessful. North Wilkesboro history, however, has led it to claim to be the birth of stock-car racing.
Some of the main industries that have made North Wilkesboro NC great and prosperous are not typically known by people who only visit North Wilkesboro. For example, one major business that has been around in North Wilkesboro for many years is mirror production. The Carolina Mirror Company, for many years the largest mirror production company in the entirety of the United States of America, was based in North Wilkesboro. Sadly, it is no longer in business, but it has been replaced with Gardner Glass Products Inc. Another company that is well known and hails from North Wilkesboro, is Lowe’s Improvement Stores, founded in 1946. Lowe’s Improvement Stores is now the second-largest home improvement company in America. This family business developed further in 1964 when they opened Lowe’s Foods.
Sadly, not all of the original family businesses which made North Wilkesboro, NC so great are still there. Much of the furniture trade that brought so much wealth and prestige to the area has moved to places in Asia to lower costs. Wilkes Regional Medical Center is at the center of North Wilkesboro, both figuratively and literally. Based in the middle of the town, it is also the largest employer for residents, and offers care in many departments, from cardiology to pediatrics. Many of the people living close to North Wilkesboro, but not actually within it, depend upon the medical center.
If you are thinking about visiting North Wilkesboro – or even moving there to become a resident yourself – then there are lots of treats in store for you. North Wilkesboro has a vibrant shopping scene based right in the heart of historic Downtown North Wilkesboro. There are many festivals that happen throughout the year. One of the most famous is the Shine to Wine Festival, which has been running for the last two decades. Many local farmers have gotten involved to showcase the wine that they are producing, and people are then able to support local produce. The festival is held on the first Saturday in May, and should not be missed. Having said that, you should not miss the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival either! At harvest time, everyone celebrates the great production in the area, and over one hundred and sixty thousand people turn up to take part in arts and crafts, music workshops, traditional food making, and much more. By the time winter arrives, many citizens of North Wilkesboro are looking forward to the last festival of the year: Light Up Downtown. This celebrates the beginning of the Christmas season, and includes photographs with Santa, and Christmas stalls for all of those presents that you will need to buy!
There are some famous North Wilkesboro, NC folks. Daniel Boone, who gave his name to so many settlements, was a famous explorer, and lived for several years where North Wilkesboro sits now. The longest serving Senator in the history of the United States of America was born in North Wilkesboro in 1917. Robert Byrd, who died in 2010, was senior U.S. Senator for West Virginia from 1959 until his death. But perhaps the most interesting children of North Wilkesboro are brothers: William Swofford and John Swofford. John Swofford excelled on the football field, and went on to become the Commissioner for the Atlantic Coast Conference. His brother, on the other hand, had rather different interests. William Swofford was an excellent singer, and had two Top Ten hits, although he sang under his middle name – Oliver.
If you are looking for a small, snug, and safe little town in which to put down roots, North Wilkesboro, NC certainly deserves your consideration. Even if you just decide to come for a short visit, it is likely that you will want to come again. With the beauty of nature calling out to you from every side, and the call of culture coming from within the community itself, who would not want to experience North Wilkesboro? It offers something for everyone, and you cannot help but fall in love with the gorgeous little town of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina.