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Sitting proudly as the County Seat of Burke County, Morganton is a city full of almost seventeen thousand people. Morganton, NC is particularly famous throughout the world for the amazing site of Joara, which is close by, and is a world renowned archaeological site that is still drawing specialists from the international community for further study. Morganton is nestled at the foot of the familiar Blue Ridge Mountains, and Table Rock provides visitors and residents alike with spectacularly photogenic views. The Catawba River flows just below Morganton, offering people the chance to cool off in the hot summers – and it rarely freezes over in the cold winters that all Morgantonians have become accustomed to. Morganton is a wonderful place for people to live, and there are many families there that have made Morganton their home for many generations.
The settlement of Morganton was first founded in 1777 and considered to be its own little community in 1784, which is when many residents count Morganton as being created. Throughout its history, Morganton NC has established itself as a brilliant place for people to raise families, as well as being the business and cultural hub of Burke County. However, it was still considered to be a village in 1939. The expansion of the population has followed the explosion of people throughout the world, although Morganton has still retained a part of its original rural vibe. The city of Morganton is only about nineteen square miles, giving it a small and cozy feel, despite its importance.
Joara, the archaeological site that is very close to Morganton, has a long and varied history. The settlement was first created over a thousand years ago, and was one of the largest Mississippian cultural settlements ever formed. Earthwork mounds were created to make the settlement. This Native American settlement was incredibly successful, and was probably a meeting place for many people in the chiefdom of the Mississippi tribe. It was an area from which chiefs could rule, and was easily found by those that wanted help or aid from the tribe. The Native Americans dwelled here for over five hundred years, until the Spanish arrived.
The conquistador Hernando De Soto was the first European to arrive at Joara, but he did little but interact with the people there. It was not until a few years later, in 1567, that colonization as we would understand it really began. Another Spaniard, Captain Juan Pardo arrived with a large contingent of Spanish soldiers, and he ordered them to build a base there in which they could winter. This means that Joara was the first ever European colonial settlement in the United States of America. The English settlement of Jamestown in Virginia occurred over forty years later. However, as was so common during this time, there was no peace nor understanding between the two peoples, with the natives killing the soldiers there and burning down the fort. Their anger was so great that it was decided that the Spanish would not try to create bases in that area.
Sadly, throughout history the site and significance of the site of Joara was lost. The valid history and traditions of the Native American was ignored for many years, and in the 1950s the earthwork mounds at Joara were even flattened to help with farming. But in the 1960s and 1970s there was an increase of interest in the mythical and yet historical settlement of Joara. It was not until 1986 that any real progress was made, and archaeological digs even in 2007 were still finding new artifacts, giving us new information. For example, an archaeological dig in 2013 finally found the actual location of the fort that was burned down, including some very old burnt timbers. Joara has ensured that Morganton has always remained on the cultural map throughout the world.
Today, Morganton NC is a very modern city indeed. The biggest employer within the city, however, is the State of North Carolina, meaning that people living in Morganton are highly dependent on government jobs being maintained through various economic crises. There are many different state-controlled and operated organizations within the city, including Broughton Hospital and the North Carolina School for the Deaf. This emphasis on health care has meant that many people within Morganton, NC are aware of their need for health insurance. WNC Health Insurance remains ready to help all of the residents (and businesses) of Western North Carolina. Since 1994 WNC Health Insurance has been tending to the needs of the citizens of Western North Carolina, and it is imperative for them to consider seriously whether health insurance could benefit their lives, and the lives of their family members.
There are many other industries within Morganton, NC. These include furniture manufacturing facilities, which employ a large number of people from Morganton and the surrounding areas, and the many varied businesses that offer things to the thousands of tourists that visit the city. Many people travel through Morganton to access the Blue Ridge Mountains.
However, it has not always been smooth sailing for the residents of Morganton NC. In January of 2006, a chemical there exploded. It was a chemical manufacturing company, creating paint additives. The majority of the people that worked there were able to escape the building before the explosion actually happened (due to a loud hissing sound). However, despite this, many people were thrown as far as twenty feet by the blast of the explosion. The size of the blast was so large that it was heard and felt by people that were over fifty miles away. Fourteen people were injured in the incident, and tragically, one of them later died. The chemicals from the plant leaked into the ecological system around it, and into the Catawba River. This led to the destruction of much natural wildlife.
Many famous people that have become recognizable throughout the entire world are from the humble town of Morganton. For example, Etta Baker was first discovered at Morganton by folk singer Paul Clayton. She went on to be a world famous guitarist, and even gave advice and help to Bob Dylan. Burl Noggle, the amazing American historian, taught at Morganton public schools during the 1930s. Paige Summers, the model and television star, moved her family to Morganton looking for a quieter and calmer pace of life. Many sports personalities have hailed from Morganton: Joe Cheves, the professional golfer; Leon Johnson, former NFL running back, and Billy Joe Patton, the amateur golfer and member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. And perhaps less positively, Frankie Silver was hanged in 1833 in Morganton, and was the first woman ever to be executed in Burke County. She was found guilty of murdering and dismembering her husband in 1830, but although she was given three years to confess, she never did.
You may have already learned much about Morganton, NC without your even realizing it. Morganton is featured as a location in two very famous books. The first was written by the legendary author Jules Verne. He visited the town in the nineteenth century, and the novel includes an incredible description of the town as it was then. The book, Master of the World, centers around a wonderful machine that can travel in four different ways – in the air, above the water, underneath the water, and on land. A mountain just by the town of Morganton is described as ‘the Great Eyrie’, but many people believe it to be another name for Table Rock. The second book that Morganton appears in was written by Leon Fink, and is a history book called The Maya of Morganton: Work and Community in the Nuevo New South. More of a social justice book than a history book, it follows the plights of the Guatemalan-born workers that lived in Morganton NC in the 1990s, and their efforts to create a union. Both books are understandably popular, and have put Morganton on the literary map.
If you want to come and visit Morganton, NC for a time, or even if you want to move there and become a resident, you will find that there are many exciting things to see and do there. For those of us who are golf enthusiasts, there are not one, not two, but three golf courses; Quaker Meadows Golf Course, Mimosa Hills Golf and Country Club, and Silver Creek Plantation. There is a cinema called Mimosa 7 for the movie buffs, and the City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium – known as COMMA – is a venue that plays home to many different plays, musicals, graduations, and other local events. Just outside the city of Morganton is Lake James, which is very picturesque and beautiful. Within about an hour’s drive from Morganton are many different ski resorts that all can enjoy. No matter what time of year you wish to visit, Morganton has lots to offer!