Wilkes County’s Pre-Revolutionary Story

Source: NCpedia

Wilkes County, North Carolina, holds a significant place in the pre-Revolutionary history of the United States, marked by a series of events and figures that shaped the region’s identity and contributed to the broader narrative of colonial America. Founded in 1777 from parts of Surry and Burke counties, Wilkes County emerged as a frontier outpost teeming with promise and potential.

At the heart of Wilkes County’s pre-Revolutionary story lies its role as a frontier settlement. Pioneers such as Daniel Boone, who arrived in the area in the mid-18th century, played a crucial role in opening up the western frontier and establishing the foundations of what would become Wilkes County. Boone’s exploits in exploring and mapping the region not only expanded the reach of colonial settlement but also paved the way for future generations of settlers to follow (Draper, 1999).

The formation of Wilkes County coincided with a period of increasing tensions between the American colonies and the British Crown. As discontent simmered over issues of taxation and governance, Wilkes County residents found themselves drawn into the fold of revolutionary fervor. Figures like Benjamin Cleveland, Joseph Winston, and William Lenoir emerged as local leaders, advocating for colonial rights and organizing resistance efforts against British rule (Brown, 1980).

One of the defining moments in Wilkes County’s pre-Revolutionary history came with the Battle of Alamance in 1771. Although not directly located within Wilkes County, the conflict between colonial regulators and British forces resonated deeply with residents of the region. The battle, which culminated in a decisive victory for the British, underscored the growing discontent among North Carolina’s backcountry settlers and set the stage for future revolutionary actions (Rankin, 1955).

Throughout the pre-Revolutionary period, Wilkes County served as a hotbed of revolutionary activity, with residents actively participating in protests, boycotts, and acts of civil disobedience. The county’s rugged terrain and remote location made it an ideal hiding place for dissenters and patriots alike, providing refuge for those fleeing persecution or seeking to evade British authorities (Crouch, 1890).

In addition to its role in the broader revolutionary movement, Wilkes County played a vital role in the economic and social fabric of colonial America. The fertile lands along the Yadkin River, which traversed the county, supported thriving agricultural communities and facilitated trade and commerce with neighboring regions (Wilkes County Heritage Book Committee, 1982).

As tensions between the colonies and Britain reached a boiling point, Wilkes County residents found themselves increasingly embroiled in the struggle for independence. In May 1776, North Carolina’s Provincial Congress met in Halifax to consider a resolution for independence, with representatives from Wilkes County in attendance. The congress ultimately voted in favor of independence, setting the stage for North Carolina to become the first colony to formally declare its independence from British rule (Hamilton, 1914).

Throughout these formative years, Wilkes County remained a bastion of colonial resistance and resilience, its residents steadfast in their commitment to the cause of liberty and self-determination. Their contributions, both on the battlefield and on the home front, would ultimately help pave the way for the birth of a new nation – the United States of America.


  • Brown, T. J. (1980). The Roots of Bluegrass: A History of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. University of Tennessee Press.
  • Crouch, J. (1890). Historical Sketches of Wilkes County. Journal of American History.
  • Draper, L. C. (1999). Boone: A Biography. University of Tennessee Press.
  • Hamilton, J. G. de R. (1914). Reconstruction in North Carolina. Columbia University Press.
  • Rankin, H. B. (1955). The Regulators in North Carolina: A Documentary History, 1759-1776. Raleigh, NC: State Dept. of Archives and History.
  • Wilkes County Heritage Book Committee. (1982). Wilkes County Heritage, North Carolina. Wilkes County Heritage Book Committee.