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Rowan County

Rowan County seal


COUNTY SEAT: Salisbury

FORMED: 1753

LAND AREA: 511.37 square miles

White: 79.4%
Black/African American: 16.9%    
American Indian: 0.6%    
Asian: 1.2%    
Pacific Islander: 0.1%
Two or more races: 1.8%
Hispanic/Latino: 9.4% (of any race)

From State & County QuickFacts, US Census Bureau, 2020.


Rowan County

Piedmont region


REGION: Piedmont
RIVER BASIN: Yadkin-Pee Dee, Map
NEIGHBORING COUNTIES: Cabarrus, Davidson, Davie, Iredell, Stanly

Rowan County, NC

See also: North Carolina Counties (to access links to NCpedia articles for all 100 counties)

by Jay Mazzocchi, 2006

Rowan County, located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, was formed in 1753 from Anson County and was named for Matthew Rowan, the governor of North Carolina at the time of the county's establishment. Early inhabitants of the area included the Catawba and Saponi Indians, followed by German and Scotch-Irish settlers. Salisbury, the county seat, was incorporated in 1755 and was named after the cathedral town in England; during much of the nineteenth century, it was the largest city in western North Carolina and served as a major center of trade and politics. Other communities in the county include Spencer, East Spencer, China Grove, Bear Poplar, Mount Ulla, Millbridge, Faith, Craven, and part of Kannapolis, extending up from Cabarrus County. Notable physical features of the county include the Yadkin River, High Rock Lake, Dunn Mountain, and Panther and Beaverdam Creeks.

Catawba College (1851) and Livingstone College (1879) are located in Rowan County, which also is home to several landmarks and historic sites, such as Old Stone House, the county's oldest building, constructed around 1766. This and other sites are run by Rowan Museum, Inc. Other significant landmarks include the Confederate Prison and the Gold Hill Mining District. Cultural institutions in Rowan County include the North Carolina Transportation Museum at Spencer Shops, Waterworks Visual Arts Center, Catawba College's Shuford School of Performing Arts, and the Catawba Community Children's Chorus. The county hosts festivals and annual events such as the Rowan County Agricultural Fair, the National Sportscaster and Sportswriters Hall of Fame Awards, the Old Miners Jubilee, Santa Claus Special, the Rockwell Craft Festival, and Take Pride in Granite Day.

Rowan County produces agricultural goods such as horticultural crops and livestock. Manufactured products include polyester fiber, trucks, textiles, yarn, furnaces, furniture, and mobile homes. The population of Rowan County was estimated to be 133,000 in 2004.

Annotated history of Rowan County's formation:

For an annotated history of the county's formation, with the laws affecting the county, boundary lines and changes, and other origin information, visit these references in The Formation of the North Carolina Counties (Corbitt, 2000), available online at North Carolina Digital Collections (note, there may be additional items of interest for the county not listed here):

County formation history:

Index entry for the county:


Brawley, James S. Rowan County: A Brief History. Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History, 1977. (accessed February 15, 2019).

Additional resources:

Corbitt, David Leroy. The Formation of the North Carolina Counties, 1663-1943. Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1987. (accessed June 20, 2017).

Rowan County Government. "Rowan County, North Carolina." (accessed February 15, 2019).

Rowan County Chamber of Commerce. "Welcome to the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce." (accessed February 15, 2019).

DigitalNC. "Rowan County." North Carolina Digital Heritage Center. (accessed February 15, 2019).

North Carolina Digital Collections. "Explore by ... [place, time period, format]." North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. (accessed February 15, 2019).

Image credits:

Rudersdorf, Amy. "NC County Maps." Raleigh: Government & Heritage Library, State Library of North Carolina, 2010.

Origin - location: 


I'm desperately trying to find my ancestors who are said to originate from Rowan, NC. The family name is "Holbrook". This is my great grandfather's paternal lineage. It was always understood and repeated they were Native American. I'm 64 years old and remember an amazing amount of him. He definitely had physical features of Native American, as did his children, one of whom was my maternal grandmother. I have many stories that were told us but I long for physical evidence. My 70 year old brother and I are the only ones left in our entire large family who are old enough to remember such a precious man. We would love to be able to share concrete evidence with our grown children and grandchildren, as we are the last ones.
I would appreciate any help or information, resources etc that could be of help.
Thank you!

Would like to find a map of the old saw community cica 1906.
Its located in sw rowan county nc


I suggest contacting the Rowan County historty museum or a local history room in Rowan County public library. 

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

An ad for the sale of Rowan County ancestor's land refers to 235 acres situated on Grants Creek, near the Lincoln Road, 13 miles from Salisbury. Does "the Lincoln Road" correspond to a modern roadway? NC 152, perhaps? Thanks for any guidance.

Dear Lisa,

Thanks for visiting NCpedia. Do you have a time frame for this ad? Depending on the time frame, you may find information locating the area on an older map. I recommend visiting the North Carolina Maps website ( NC Maps is a collaboration with the State Archives, Outer Banks History Center, and University Library at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Francesca Evans, Government & Heritage Library

Rowan county is awesome

Hi Elijah!

Thanks for visiting NCpedia!! I'm glad Rowan County is awesome.

Francesca Evans, Government & Heritage Library

We are doing a research project and we could use some more information about Rowan county, can you help us?
Thank you in advanced

Hi Elijah,

There is so much information about Rowan County. Do you have any specific questions? If you are looking for primary sources on Rowan County, I recommend looking at the North Carolina Digital Collections (

Francesca Evans, Government & Heritage Library

I hope you can fill in a blank space for me. I cannot go any further with searching for my G.G. Grandfather EDWARD WESLEY SMITH or his daughter ROXY ANN SMITH/HENDLEY/WEBB.
Edward was born in Rowan County around 1816/1820. married Harrriet Dozier 1851 Berrien County GA.died 1881 in GA.
I live in England and have been searching for my family for years. Thank you for reading my request.

Dee Russell

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