The Formation of Burke County

Burke was formed in 1777 from Rowan. The act was to become effective June 1, 1777. It was named in honor of Dr. Thomas Burke, a member of the Continental Congress and governor of North Carolina, 1781-1782. It is in the west central section of the State and is bounded by Catawba, Cleveland, Rutherford, McDowell, Avery, and Caldwell counties. The present area is 506 square miles and the population is 38,615. The act establishing Burke specified that the first court was to be held at Edward Smith's but subsequent courts were to be held at a place the justices should decide until they selected a permanent place for the courthouse and had the same erected. In 1784 Morgansborough was established and made the county seat. Morganton is the present county seat.168

..... beginning at the Catawba River, on the Line between Rowan and Tryon Counties; thence running up the Meanders of said River to the North End of an Island, known by the name of the Three Cornered Island; thence North to the Ridge that divides the Yadkin and Catawba Waters; then Westerly along the Ridge to the Mountain which divides the Eastern and Western Waters, commonly known by the Name of the Blue Mountain. And that all that Part of the late County of Rowan which lies to the East of the said dividing Line, shall continue and remain a distinct County by the Name of Rowan; and all that other Part of the said county of Rowan which lies West and South of the said dividing Line, shall thenceforth be erected into a new and distinct County, by the Name of Burke. 169

Part of Burke was annexed to Lincoln in 1782.

.....Beginning at Sharrel's ford, running with the road leading towards Henry Whithers, as far as Matthew Wilson's thence a direct course to Simon Horse's, on the waters of Clark's Creek, thence a direct course to the Fish-Dam ford of the south fork of the Catawba river, between James Wilson and David Robinson, and from thence a southwest course to Earl Granville's old line, and that all that part of Burke county lying southeast of the line above described shall henceforth be taken off from Burke, and shall be added and remain to Lincoln county. 170

The line between Burke and Lincoln was authorized to be run in 1784.

..... That the boundary line between the counties of Burke and Lincoln shall hereafter be as follows, to wit: Beginning at the Horse Ford on Catawba river, running thence to John Hawnson Hendry river thence to William Orrson Jacobs river, and thence to the intersection of the counties of Burke, Lincoln and Rutherford, as they now stand. 171

Part of Burke was annexed to Rutherford in 1787.

Whereas by reason of a ledge of mountains that divide the waters of first Little Broad river from the waters of Silver and Cain creeks, it is extremely difficult for the inhabitants on the south side of the said ledge to attend the court house of the county of Burke; and whereas the inhabitants on the south side of the ledge aforesaid have signified their desire to be annexed to the county of Rutherford. ..... all that part of the county of Burke lying to the south-east of the aforesaid mountains so as to include all the waters of first Little Broad river, shall be, and the same is hereby annexed to and declared to be within the county of Rutherford: .....172

The dividing line between Burke and Rutherford was authorized to be established in 1788.

..... That the line as laid out, marked and extended by Joseph M'Dowell, Junior, in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty-five, vis: Beginning at the west point of the line that formerly divided the above counties, thence west to the Indian boundary as in the Act of Assembly of the seventeenth of May, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three; which line is hereby established to be the dividing line between the counties of Burke and Rutherford: ..... 173

Part of Burke was annexed to Wilkes in 1789.

..... Beginning on Iredell county line at the Whetstone hill on the Spring road, and running up said road to the lower Little river, thence up said river to Holmes's creek, thence up said creek to Lambert's fork, thence up said fork to the head thereof, then a north course to the top of the Brushy mountain, being Wilkes line. 174

Buncombe was formed in 1791 from Burke and Rutherford.

..... That all that part of the counties of Burke and Rutherford, circumscribed by the following lines, viz. beginning on the extreme height of the Apalachian mountain, where the southern boundary of this state crosses the same, thence along the extreme height of said mountain to where the road from the head of Catawba-river to Swannanoe crosses, then along the main ridge dividing the waters of South-Toe from those of Swannanoe unto the great Black mountain, then along said mountain to the north east end, then along the main ridge between South-Toe and Little Crab-tree to the mouth of said Crabtree creek, then down Toe river aforesaid to where the same empties into the Nollichucky river, then down the said river to the extreme height of the Iron Mountain and in cession line, then along said cession line to the southern boundary, then along the said boundary to the beginning, is hereby erected into a separate and distinct county, by the name of Buncombe. 175

The boundary line between Ashe and Burke was authorized to be established in 1807.

..... the boundary line between the counties of Ashe and Burke, shall be established and known by the following boundaries, to wit: beginning at the Blowing Rock on the Blue Ridge, near Yadkin Spring, running thence a due west course, crossing some of the head waters of Watauga River, to the top of the ridge dividing the head waters of Watauga River and Elk Creek, then along the extreme height of said ridge to the Grandfather Mountain, thence along the extreme height of the ridge that divides the waters of Toe River from those of Watauga and Elk Creek, to the Tennessee line leaving all the waters of Toe River, and the head waters of Watauga south of said due west line, in Burke, and all the waters of Elk, and the waters of Watauga, north of the said line, in the county of Ashe. ..... commissioners to extend and mark the line from the Blowing Rock, west to the top of the ridge between Watauga Waters and Elk Waters, and no further .... 176

Part of Burke was annexed to Rutherford in 1807.

..... The dividing line between the said counties of Burke and Rutherford, shall begin at a white oak tree that stands near the forks of the public road above James Jones's, in the line heretofore run between said counties and the public road that leads up second Broad River, shall be the line between said counties, as far as Joseph Goodbread's, thence a south-west course to the dividing ridge that divides the waters of Cove and Crooked Creeks, thence the ridge that divides the waters of Catawba and Broad Rivers, to the Buncombe county line. And the line as herein mentioned shall be the dividing line between the said counties of Burke and Rutherford; .....177

In 1809 the act of 1807 annexing part of Burke to Rutherford was amended to read as follows:

..... That a line shall extend from the White Oak mentioned in the above recited act, on the old east and west line, to a stake; thence crossing Little Rock Creek, to the south side of the tract whereon Widow Smith lives; thence crossing Big Rock Creek, to the north side of Moses Black's buildings: thence to a place called the Dye-Stone; thence to the north side of Levi Trout's buildings; thence between the Plantations of Perminter Morgan and Henry Carter, to the south side of the tract of William Morris, senior; thence with a spur of the mountain, to the dividing ridge between Crooked Creek and Montford's Cove Creek, to the Hickory-Nut Mountain; thence along the ridge to the Round Mountain; thence due west to the Buncombe line; and all that part lying northwardly of said line, be, and the same is hereby declared to be in the county of Burke, and the part southwardly thereof shall continue, as heretofore, within the county of Rutherford ....178

In 1814 the boundary line between Burke and Ashe was authorized to be established.

.... That the following boundaries, to wit: beginning at the Yadkin spring, thence along the extreme height of the Blue Ridge, to the head spring of Flat-top fork of Elk Creek, thence down the meanders of said creek to the Tennessee State line, shall be and the same is hereby declared the permanent dividing line between the counties of Burke and Ashe. 179

In 1818 an act was passed amending an act of 1783 and naming commisioners to run the dividing line between Burke and Iredell.

.... from the three cornered Island in the Catawba River to the bent of Little River in James Fox's land, agreeable to an act of one thousand seven hundred and ninety three for establishing the same. 180

In 1819 an act was passed naming additional commissioners to run the line between Burke and Iredell according to the act of 1818. No description is given in the law. 181

The dividing line between Lincoln and Burke was authorized to be marked in 1824. No description is given in the law. 185

The boundary line between Lincoln and Burke as directed in 1784 was authorized to be run and established by an act passed in 1826. No description is given in the law. 183

Yancey was formed in 1833 from Burke and Buncombe.

..... beginning on the extreme height of the Black mountain; running thence along said mountain to Ogle's improvement; thence along the dividing ridge to Daniel Carter's fork field; thence a direct course to the mouth of Big Ivy creek; thence, with the Warm Springs road, by Bernard's Station, to the three forks of Laurel; thence a direct line, so as to include James Allen's house to the Tennessee line; thence with said line to county of Ashe; thence with the line of said county to the Grandmother mountain; thence a direct course to the extreme height of the Humpbacked mountain; thence with the Blue Ridge to where it intersects the Black mountain; thence with the ridge of said mountain, to the beginning, be, and the same is hereby erected into a separate and distinct county, by the name of Yancy, with all the rights, privileges and immunities of the other counties of this State.184

Caldwell was formed in 1841 from Burke and Wilkes.

.... beginning at Lovelady Ford, on the Catawba River, in the County of Burke, from thence to Corpening's Bridge, on Lower Creek, thence to John's River, at the upper end of the plantation of the late John Perkins, crossing the same, to and with the dividing ridge between Warrior Creek and Wilson's Creek, to the Yancy line, thence with said line to the Ashe line, and with the Ashe line to the dividing Ridge between Buffalo and Elk Creek, thence with said ridge to the Yadkin River, at the mouth of Elk Creek, crossing the same to and with dividing Ridge between Beaver Creek and King's Creek, to the top of Bushy Mountain, at the Burke line, thence with the said line to the corner of Iredell county, and with said line to the Catawba River, thence with the River to the beginning, be, and is hereby erected into a separate and distinct County, by the name of Caldwell. 185

McDowell was formed in 1842 from Rutherford and Burke.

..... beginning at a point two miles south of the corner of Burke and Rutherford, in said line; from thence a direct course to Cove Creek, at a point two miles south of John Bradley's; thence to, and with the dividing ridge between Rock House Creek and Stoney Creek, crossing Second Broad River at the mouth of Rock House Creek; thence a direct course to the Burke line, at or near Conway's .Knob; thence with the Burke and Rutherford line, to a point on the South Mountains, two and one half miles east of Cane's Creek, thence a direct line crossing the top of the Pilot Mountain, to the mouth of Shadrick's Creek; thence a direct course to the top of Linville Mountain, and with the said mountain to the Yancey line; thence with the Yancey line, to the Buncombe line, and with said line to the beginning; be, and the same is hereby created into a separate and distinct County by the name of McDowell. 186

The dividing line between Burke and Caldwell was authorized to be altered and changed in 1859.

.... That the dividing line between the counties of Burke and Caldwell be altered and changed in the following manner, to wit: from Corpening's bridge on lower creek, the line shall run with said creek to a point where the lands of Joseph Tipps and Jesse Harrison join, thence a north-east-wardly course to a large pine tree near the public road leading from the Horseford road to Sudderth's ferry, the said pine being now a line tree between said counties of Burke and Caldwell, thence with the line as, established at the session of the General Assembly of 1840-41, and that said line be so run as to include the dwelling house of Jesse Harris, within Caldwell county. 187

Mitchell was formed in 1861 from Yancey, Watauga, Caldwell, Burke, and McDowell.

......That a county by the name of Mitchell shall be and the same is hereby laid off and established out of portions of Yancey, Watauga, Caldwell, Burke and McDowell counties with the following boundaries; beginning at the top of Grandfather mountain, .thence with the top of the Blue Ridge to the Bear Wallow Gap, thence to the Three Knobs, thence to Big Crab-tree creek, thence down said creek to Toe river, thence down said river to the Tennessee line, thence with the Tennessee line to Elk river, thence to place of beginning; and the said county of Mitchell, when it is laid off and established, shall be, and is hereby, invested with all the rights, privileges and immunities with the other counties of the State. 188

An act amending an act to establish a county by the name of Mitchell was passed in 1861.

.... That an act passed at the late session of the General Assembly, entitled an act to lay off and establish a new county by the name of Mitchell, be so amended as to run from the top of the Grand Father Mountain, with the old Watauga line, to the Blue Ridge; thence with the said Yancey line, and according to said act, around to the beginning. 189

The boundary line between Burke and McDowell was authorized to be changed in 1870.

.... That the dividing line between Burke and McDowell Counties where it runs to the river at the mouth of Shadrick's creek, it shah run up the river on the south side at the water's edge to and against the mouth of Bradshaw's creek in Wm. R. Gray's farm, thence across the river to the mouth of Bradshaw's creek, thence up the creek to the fork, thence up the right hand fork through Fulwood's land to the second fork, thence up the right hand fork to the present line. 190

An act repealing an act to change part of the line that divides Burke and McDowell was passed in 1871.

That an act entitled "an act to change part of the line that divides Burke and McDowell counties," in the laws of one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine and one thousand eight hundred and seventy, and the provisions of the same, are hereby repealed.191

Part of Rutherford was annexed to Burke in 1871.

..... beginning at the corner where Rutherford, McDowell and Burke unite, and running along the top of the ridge of the South mountain as the line now runs to the corner where Rutherford, Cleveland and Burke unite, thence by a direct line to the beginning, be and the same is hereby annexed to, and shall form a part of the county of Burke. 192

The boundary line between Burke and Caldwell was authorized to be changed in 1885.

..... Beginning at the new line one mile below Corpening's bridge on Lower Creek, and running thence with the southwest boundary of W. C. Corpening's lands to the old line at or near Turtle's Cross Roads. 193

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- NOTES (From: David Leroy Corbett; The Formation of North Carolina Counties 1663-1943, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History, Raleigh, North Carolina, 1950.)
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168. State Records of North Carolina (hereafter cited as S.R.) , XXIV, 28, 149, 604; North Carolina Manual, 1913, p. 519; K.P. Battle: The Names of the Counties of North Carolina, p. 27.
169. S.R., XXIV, 28.
170. S.R., XXIV, 472.
171. S.R., XXIV, 646.
172. S.R., XXIV, 845
173. S.R., XXIV, 646.
174. S.R., XXIV, 845
175. Laws of North Carolina (hereafter cited as Laws), 1791, Ch. 52.
176. Laws, 1807, Ch. 70.
177. Laws, 1807, Ch. 71.
178. Laws, 1809, Ch. 14.
179. Laws, 1814, Ch. 72.
180. Laws, 1818, Ch. 139.
181. Laws, 1819, Ch. 39.
182. Private Laws of North Carolina (hereafter cited as Private Laws), 1824, Ch. 46.
183. Private Laws, 1826, Ch. 70.
184. Laws, 1833-34, Ch. 83. In 1838 the court of pleas and quarter sessions appointed commissioners to establish the line   between Burke and Yancey. For a description of this survey, see appendix, p. 251
185. Public Laws of North Carolina (hereafter cited as Public Laws), 1840-41, Ch. 11.
186. Public Laws, 1842-43, Ch. 10.
187. Private Laws, 1858-59, Ch. 103.
188. Public Laws, 1860-61, Ch. 8.
189. Private Laws, First Extra Session, 1861, Ch 22.
190. Public Laws, 1869-70, Ch. 96.
191. Public Laws, 1870-71, Ch. 50.
192. Public Laws, 1870-71, Ch. 129.
193. Public Laws, 1885, Ch. 193.
 

Perhaps what is not illustrated here is the relationship Burke County had to the lands to the west.
For the benefit of those researching the area of the North Carolina/Tennessee boundary families,
see this new page:
NC TENNESSEE LANDS

 

 


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Derick S. Hartshorn - 2008
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