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Bakersville History

Looking down North Mitchell AvenueEven though the headwaters of Toe River into which Cane Creek flows was occupied as early as 1777, the names of these first settlers are not known. By 1790 William McKinney, Frederick Ledford, Thomas McKinney, John Gouge, Thomas Young, John Wilson and Reid Medlock had established themselves in the Cane Creek Valley, and on White Oak and Snow Creek. However, the first settler on the site of what is now Bakersville was David Baker.

David D. Baker, a son of David, was a large land owner, innkeeper, merchant and political leader until about 1859, when he and his family migrated to the far west. In January 1857, an adventurer who had stopped with "Colonel" David described the town as one "of some mark."

Early Bakersville - first paving of the streetsIt is probable that Baker's plantation became known as Bakersville in the 1840's; certainly by 1852, for in this year the court records of Yancey County refer definitely to the town of Bakersville. The surrounding territory including the Little Rock Creek area was known in the tax records up to 1860 as the Cane Creek Company. The first voting place for the company was established at Briggs' store, which was located in the Fork Mountain area.

Since 1868 Bakersville has been the seat of government for Mitchell County. Important before as a trading center and village, during the Civil War and afterward it became the center of politics in Mitchell County and remains so to this day. The movement for the establishment of a new county in 1861 originated in Bakersville, as did the movement to establish the town as the county seat. The town was incorporated in 1870, and secured a post office in 1874.

Old Bakersville jailBakersville has experienced all types of economic weather, fair and foul. Shut off from markets of the southeast during and after the Civil War, the residents found that living was tough here, as it was elsewhere in the isolated sections of the Appalachian Mountains. However, in the 1870's uses for mica were discovered, and Bakersville lay midway between the Hawk, Clarissa and Stagger Weed deposits and the Sink Hole deposits at Bandana. In 1901 weather brought a terrible disaster, remembered as the "May Flood." Nearly half the town's dwellings and business establishments were swept away.

Disaster struck again in 1923 when much of the town burned. Again the town rallied and became strong enough to survive the Great Depression of the thirties. Bakersville enjoyed a surge in building and economic prosperity during the middle 1950's. Much of the town was rebuilt during that era.

However, disaster struck again in January, 1998 when Cane Creek swelled by torrential rains brought on by El Nino destroyed many roads, homes and businesses, resulting in the declaration of Bakersville as a disaster area and eligible for Federal funds to assist in rebuilding and in preparing the terrain to avoid another such disaster.

History compiled by Bruce Ledford. Sources: Historical Celebration of Bakersville, North Carolina, prepared by the Publications Committee of the Bakersville Historical Celebration in 1956 and from The Tri-County News, The Mitchell News-Journal, The Mitchell Ledger, The Toe Valley View, and the Johnson City Press-Chronicle.

© 2008 B.I.G.