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Wilkesboro Community

Map of Wilkes County

(courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina)


Lying across the Yadkin River from the older town of Wilkesboro, North Carolina, the mountain community of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina arose from a land deal between members of the Finley family in the late 1840s. Following the arrival of the railroad in the late nineteenth century, North Wilkesboro became an industrial powerhouse in Wilkes County. Home to tanneries, lumber companies and a rail depot, the town underwent rapid growth.1


The town came to consist of a number of smaller communities, including an African American population. Stretching as far back as the antebellum era, Wilkes County had hosted a large African American population, a higher percentage of African Americans than any other county in western North Carolina. Both free and slave families lived in Wilkesboro. Eventually the area populated by African Americans came to be known as the Cairo Community. It was from this community that a central part of African American life in North Wilkesboro emerged: Lincoln Heights Rosenwald School.2


By the mid-1980s, during the renovations of the Lincoln Heights Rosenwald School, Cairo had a population of approximately 1200 people including nine churches, two schools, and twenty-five small businesses.  Today the town of North Wilkesboro boasts a historic downtown district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, among other historic sites still waiting to be protected and preserved.3



[1] Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, "Town of North Wilkesboro",Blue Ridge Heritage,  http://www.blueridgeheritage.com/attractions-destinations/historic-small-towns-and-cities/north-wilkesboro

[2] Kathryn Staley, "People of Color in Wilkes County, North Carolina: An Examination of Race, Economic Standing, and Religion and Family." (Student paper, Appalachian State University, 1998), W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection, Special Collections, Appalachian State University, Boone, N.C. http://omeka.library.appstate.edu/items/show/14646

[3] “Letter from Lincoln Heights Recreation Corporation to Presbyterian Committee on Self Development of People,” Lincoln Heights Rosenwald School, https://lincolnheightsrosenwald.org/items/show/89