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Profile - About Catawba County, North Carolina

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Catawba County, North Carolina, is located in the western part of the State in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was established on December 12, 1842 and, on January 8, 1845, Newton was selected as the County seat.  It was one of the first counties of the 100 counties in North Carolina to adopt the county manager form of government (March 1, 1937). The Board of Commissioners has five members elected on an at-large basis to staggered four year terms.

Catawba County's estimated July 1, 2013 population of 154,810 included the inhabitants of its eight municipalities. It covers 405 square miles (656.10 Km). Early Catawbans were either refugees or descendants of refugees from European political strife. Most were German and Scotch-Irish, who initially settled in Pennsylvania and migrated to the south when converging factors of crowding and under-employment evolved. Many, after being attracted by the fertile ground of the Valley of Virginia, moved into the Catawba County area in the 1740s after troubles developed in Virginia. The specter of future crowding, plus the growing danger of Indian attack from nations in the Ohio Valley were the primary reasons.

The cities and towns in Catawba County are Brookford, Catawba, Claremont, Conover, Hickory, Long View, Maiden, Newton.

Catawba County's three lakes and its location in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains have a strong influence on the County's climate and ambience. The County is sheltered by mountains that moderate winter temperatures and provide refreshing summer breezes. Elevation ranges from 705 to 1780 feet, averaging 995 feet. Its average year round temperature is 68.8 Fahrenheit (20.4 Celsius). Its three large lakes are strikingly beautiful backdropped against the wooded shorelines. Lake Hickory covers 4,100 acres (1,659 hectares) and 105 miles of shore line (169 Km), Lake Lookout Shoals covers 1,270 acres (514 hectares) and 39.1 miles of shoreline (63 Km), and Lake Norman which covers 32,510 acres (13,157 hectares) and 520 miles of shoreline (837 Km). Lake Norman is the largest manmade lake in NC.

Contemporary County
Catawba County, the central county of North Carolina’s fourth largest MSA, has diversified and balanced a traditional manufacturing base of furniture, textile, and telecommunications.  However, the layoffs of the last three years have been a challenge to traditional industries that have in the past benefited from Catawba County’s economy being based on manufacturing.  Comprehensive efforts are being directed at identifying and recruiting new sectors in manufacturing such as biomedical, pharmaceutical, technology and building products, and identifying and recruiting non-manufacturing sectors such as retirement and retail development.  The once tight labor force has transitioned into a pool of skilled workers loyal to the area and its industries.  Catawba County has been recognized as being one of the top ten areas in America to raise a family.

There are 43 public schools in the County with just over 24,000 students. It has two colleges: Lenoir-Rhyne College, a liberal arts institution founded in 1891 and Catawba Valley Community College, a member of the NC Community College System. CVCC offers a variety of educational opportunities including one- and two-year vocational programs, a two-year college transfer program and continuing education programs.

A major medical area, the County boasts two outstanding hospitals (one County-owned), a large medical community, and nursing and rest homes.

The County, Chamber of Commerce and cities have worked together to attract new business and industry. These included the establishment of the Industrial Development Commission (which in 1993 was merged with the Hickory Office of Business Development and renamed the Economic Development Corporation), expansion of water and sewer lines, road and highway improvements, enhancements to public education, and much more. Another major milestone was the completion of Interstate 40 in the mid 1970s which expanded economic development. In 1980, the voters approved mixed drink sales in Conover and Hickory, which spurred hotel, motel, restaurant, and entertainment growth in the County.

The final portion of US Highway 321 was dedicated on December 7, 1998, cutting at least 10 minutes off the drive to Charlotte and ushering in a new life for rural southern Catawba County. The $45 million dollar highway is expected to bring commercial and industrial growth.

Sports in the Catawba County Area
Golf - Catawba County has seven beautiful golf courses playable year-round due to the temperate climate with an average temperature of 68.8 Fahrenheit (20.4 Celsius).

The Ensure Classic at Rock Barn, which began in 2003 on the PGA Tour's Champions Tour schedule, brings the legends of golf to the Rock Barn Golf and Spa's Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course in Conover.   For one week, more than 80 Champions Tour pros take part in practice rounds, pro-ams and official competition.  Live coverage on The Golf Channel brings the action to millions of viewers across the country.

Motor Car Racing - the Hickory Motor Speedway has been in continuous operation for 42 years. It is the "birthplace" of America's racing stars--Junior Johnson, Ned Jarrett, Ralph Earnhardt, Bobby Issac, Morgan Shepherd, Tommy Houston, Harry Gant, Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett, and Jack Ingram. The Hickory Motor Speedway generates some $2.5 million each year into the local economy.

Fishing Tournaments - Bass tournaments are held from March through October on Lake Hickory and Lake Norman. The lakes are famous for Large Mouth and White Bass. Striped bass weighing 40 pounds have been pulled from the lakes. 

Minor League Baseball returned to Catawba County in 1993. The "Crawdads" and L. P. Frans Stadium in Winkler Park led the South Atlantic League in attendance during its first year of play. The team is a Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates and won the South Atlantic League championship in 2002.  

Catawba County was home to the Newton-Conover Twins, a member of the Tarheel League from 1938-1939, and (following a stoppage of play for World War II) from 1948 until 1951.  The Twins were reorganized and took the field again from 1960 until 1962.

The 29th National Football League (NFL) Team plays in Charlotte, approximately 60 miles (37.2 kilometers) from Catawba County. Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte opened and the Carolina Panthers began play in the 1995 season, and then later played in the 2004 Super Bowl. 

The National Basketball Association (NBA) returned to Charlotte in the fall of 2004 when the Charlotte Bobcats began play. 

Improvements to NC Highway 16 from the Newton-Conover area to Charlotte and the improvements to US Highway 321 now place Charlotte less than an hour away.

Professional Athletes
Race car driver Ned Jarrett of Catawba County was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1990, the National Sports Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Hickory Metro Sports Hall of Fame in 2001. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte in May 2011. His son, Dale Jarrett, is a three-time winner of the Daytona 500, was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998 and was the 1999 Winston Cup Champion. Dale Jarrett is now part of ESPN’s broadcast team for NASCAR races.

Catawban County residents Bryan Harvey and Bob Patterson both started as major league baseball pitchers in the late 1990s.   Harvey's sons, Kris and Hunter, both played in the minor leagues.  Hunter Harvey was the top draft pick for the Baltimore Orioles in 2013.

Ryan Succop, who played football for Hickory High School, has had a successful career as a kicker in the National Football League, first with the Kansas City Chiefs and then with the Tennessee Titans beginning in 2015.  Another Hickory High graduate, Austin Johnson has played with the Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints.  Bandy High graduate Justin Harper also played for the Ravens.

The arts have always been alive in Catawba County, and present day Catawba County is no exception--the symphony, theatre, choral, and much more. Our artists helped to cultivate the country music market in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. One of these artists, Homer Lee "Pappy" Sherrill of Sherrills Ford, performed in Carnegie Hall in New York City. Hickory's Blue Sky Boys in the 1940s were a top duet in the Southern Music Circuit. 

Prehistoric and historic Indian artifacts are also indicative of Catawba County--pottery, carvings, pipes, arrowheads, tools, etc.--become unearthed periodically during building excavations and farming activities. In the mid-1950s, for example, supermarket construction workers found Indian artifacts that have been determined to be prehistoric. This site is approximately six miles from the Government Center.

Mid-1800s Catawba County saltglazed pottery is a collector's item. The Catawba Indians used this type of clay before the settlers came, and they passed this knowledge on to the settlers.

Woodwright Eddie Hamrick and Potter Burlon Craig are nationally renowned. Both have works displayed in the Smithsonian and in the homes of U.S. Presidents.

The Hickory Museum of Art is the second oldest museum in North Carolina, and is known for its concentration of American art (19th and 20th century).

The Trojan Band of Bandys High School, one of seven high schools in Catawba County, represented North Carolina in the January 20, 1993, Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington DC.

Jon Reep, a native of the Mountain View area, won the national competition known as "Last Comic Standing" in 2007, which became a springboard for him to build a national reputation as a comedian.

Catawba County's scenic beauty has been used on two occasions for major motion pictures.

Significant Events in Our History
At the turn of the century, gold mining was a successful industry in Catawba County. Catawba County was part of one of the largest gold producing areas in the entire country. North Carolina maintained its leadership in gold production until 1848 when it was eclipsed in importance by the great rush to California.

In the 1940's Catawba County was recognized nationally for the courage of its people in conquering a polio epidemic. In 55 working hours people joined together to turn a youth camp into a hospital.

After the Civil War Catawba County began an annual event to honor its military--the Old Soldiers Reunion. It has evolved into a large festival held the third week of August, and is the oldest continuing patriotic celebration in the United States.

The Catawba County Seal was designed by Pearl (Mrs. Loy) Setzer Deal of Hickory, and officially adopted by the Board of Commissioners on September 7, 1925. Catawba County SealThe Shield is divided into four parts, representing the national colors of red, white, and blue, with the fourth color of royal purple representing the blending of the national red and blue into royal purple. The county through the royal purple stands by the national colors.

The four emblems are the cross in the field of red to represent religion, which was established with the earliest settlers; the torch in the field of white representing education, which was established along with the church in the earliest days; the cow in the royal purple, representing the farming upon which the county has always depended and the dairying which made the county famous far and wide; and the wheel in the field of blue to represent the manufacturing here in the county.

Catawba County FlagIn 1992 Catawba County celebrated its Sesquicentennial Anniversary. The Sesquicentennial Planning Committee adopted the County's theme, "Keeping the Spirit Alive Since 1842!" In conjunction with this celebration, the County held a flag designing contest which was won by Rosemarie Hefner. The new design was made official by the Board of Commisioners and the first copies of the flag were made by Maxine Weeks of the Catawba Flag and Pole Company. The flag was raised on January 26, 1992 during a special ceremony at the Government Center in Newton.

Catawba County's history is a history of spirited people. With a spirit of rebellion Catawbans split with Lincoln County; a spirited people united and fought a major polio epidemic in the 1940's; an entrepreneurial spirit built a thriving economy; a patriotic spirit resulted in the oldest continuing patriotic celebration in the US--the annual Soldier's Reunion in Newton; an artistic spirit is reflected in our furniture artisans, music, quilting, pottery, etc.

Catawba County, NC... 
Keeping the Spirit Alive Since 1842!