About Catawba County

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 population of 160,610 (2020 U.S. Cenus) included the inhabitants of its eight municipalities. The county's geographic area spans 416 square miles. 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, and 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). Nearly half the county is bordered by more than 180 miles of the Catawba River. 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 covers 32,510 acres (13,157 hectares) and 520 miles of shoreline (837 Km). Lake Norman is the largest manmade lake in NC.

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. 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 and a top place to retire.

There are 43 public schools in the County with just over 25,000 students. The county has three colleges: Lenoir-Rhyne University (LRU), a liberal arts institution founded in 1891; Appalachian State University, which established a new campus in Hickory (known as App State Hickory) that opened with Fall 2023 enrollment; and Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC), a member of the NC Community College System offering one- and two-year vocational programs, a two-year college transfer program and continuing education programs.

Considered a regional healthcare hub, the County is home to two nationally-recognized medical centers (one County-owned), a large medical services community, and nursing and retirement homes.

The County, Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation, and cities and towns have worked together to attract new business and industry. This has included the 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.

Improvements to NC Highway 16 from the Newton-Conover area to Charlotte and improvements to US Highway 321 now place Charlotte, including Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, less than an hour away. Along with convenient access to NC Highways 16 and 321 and Interstates 77 and 40, Catawba County is in an ideal location to access a variety of amenities from nearby cities such as Charlotte, Asheville, and Winston-Salem, to the Appalachian Mountains and East Coast beaches.

Minor League Baseball returned to Catawba County in 1993. The Hickory 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 Texas Rangers and won the South Atlantic League Championship in 2002, 2004 and 2017.

Golf - Catawba County has six beautiful golf courses playable year-round due to the temperate climate with an average temperature of 68.8 Fahrenheit (20.4 Celsius). The county also offers disc golf and a footgolf facility.

Auto Racing - The Hickory Motor Speedway has been in continuous operation for more than four decades. It is the "birthplace" of America's racing stars, such as 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.

The Carolina Panthers, a National Football League (NFL) team, and the Charlotte Hornets, a National Basketball Association (NBA) team, represent the region with stadiums in Charlotte.

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 NBC’s broadcast team for NASCAR races.

Catawba 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 beginning in 2015, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Another Hickory High graduate, Austin Johnson, has played with the Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints. Bandys High graduate Justin Harper also played for the Ravens and now coaches college football.

The arts have always been strong in Catawba County, and present day Catawba County is no exception considering the art museum, symphony, theatres, choral society, 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 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, including "The Last of the Mohicans" (1992).

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 CountyIn 1992, Catawba County celebrated its Sesquicentennial Anniversary. The Sesquicentennial Planning Committee adopted the 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.