Morganton, North Carolina
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Morganton, North Carolina
Morganton, North Carolina
Historic train station in Morganton
Historic train station in Morganton
Coordinates: 35°44?33?N 81°41?32?W / 35.74250°N 81.69222°W / 35.74250; -81.69222Coordinates: 35°44?33?N 81°41?32?W / 35.74250°N 81.69222°W / 35.74250; -81.69222
CountryUnited States
StateNorth Carolina
 o MayorRonnie Thompson
 o Total19.2 sq mi (49.6 km2)
 o Land19.2 sq mi (49.6 km2)
 o Water10.20 sq mi (26.42 km2)
1,161 ft (354 m)
 o Total16,918
 o Estimate 
 o Density880/sq mi (340/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 o Summer (DST)UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP codes
28655, 28680
Area code(s)828
FIPS code37-44400[2]
GNIS feature ID0990244[3]

Morganton is a city in and the county seat of Burke County, North Carolina, United States.[4] The population was 16,918 at the 2010 census.[5]

Morganton is one of the principal cities in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area. A site five miles north of here has been identified as the Mississippian culture chiefdom of Joara, occupied from AD 1400 to AD 1600. This was also the site of Fort San Juan, built in 1567 by a Spanish expedition as the first European settlement in the interior of North America, 40 years before the English settlement of Jamestown, Virginia.


Joara archeological site

The oldest-known European inland (non-coastal) settlement in the United States of Fort San Juan has been identified at Joara, a former Mississippian culture chiefdom located about five miles north of present-day Morganton. In 1567 a Spanish expedition built the fort there, while seeking to establish an interior route to Mexican silver mines. This was more than 40 years before the English settled Jamestown, Virginia, their first permanent settlement in North America.[6]

The Spanish left a 31-man garrison that occupied the fort for 18 months before being overcome in a Mississippian attack. Five other Spanish forts in the larger interior region were also destroyed about that time. Only one soldier survived. The fort and Indian settlement have been under professional excavation since the early 21st century, with findings published since 2004.[7][8][9] Europeans associated with the British colonies did not try to settle this far west for nearly 200 years, organizing Burke County in 1777.

Today Joara is identified as a significant archaeological and historic site near the Watersee River in the Upper Catawba Valley. Construction of its mounds is believed to have been started by the people of the Mississippian culture by AD 1000, and they occupied the site continuously from 1400AD to 1600AD.[9] Based on additional archeological excavations at the "Berry Site" that revealed the remains of a defensive moat constructed in European style, researchers in 2013 concluded that this was the site of Fort San Juan and Joara. Earlier evidence found in the area included "military artifacts and burned remains of Spanish-built huts."[9][10]

Colonial through 19th century

Public welfare facilities, such as the North Carolina School for the Deaf: Main Building and Western North Carolina Insane Asylum, were first authorized by the state legislature in the late 19th century after the American Civil War.

20th century to present

In the early 20th century, textile mills were developed in the Piedmont as industry left union-dominated areas of the Northeast United States. During the century, however, these industrial jobs gradually moved offshore.

In the late 20th century, Morganton and Burke County, which was still largely rural and with big poultry farms, became locations for industrial-scale poultry processing plants. These jobs attracted many new immigrants to the state from Central America, leading to an increase in Latino population in this area. During the 1990s, Guatemalan-born workers in Morganton worked to organize a union at the Case Farms poultry plant but were ultimately unsuccessful.[11] Labor and factory work have changed in the "Nuevo" South, where many Latino immigrants work in low paid industrial jobs. They are competing with globalization in some industries. At the state level, North Carolina is working to encourage immigrant communities and their contributions.

Synthron plant explosion

On January 31, 2006, an explosion occurred at Synthron Inc., a paint additive chemical manufacturer's plant in Morganton.[12] Workers at Synthron reported hearing a loud hiss minutes before the explosion.[13] Most were able to escape the building before the blast, but even some who were outside were thrown as far as 20 feet (6.1 m). The explosion was heard and felt as far away as 50 miles (80 km).

On the day of the explosion, operations appeared normal until after the steam was turned off and the polymer initiating solution was pumped into the reactor. The operator in charge noted that initially the reaction did not proceed as vigorously as expected, but later the solvent evaporated and the condensed solvent flow returning to the reactor appeared within normal range. A few minutes later, the operator heard a loud hissing and saw vapor venting from the reactor manway. The irritating vapor forced him out of the building. Three other employees also left the building because of the vapors. The operator reentered the building wearing a respirator and started emergency cooling water flow to the reactor. The building exploded less than 30 seconds after he exited the second time.[13] The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) stated that the solvent vapor leaked from the overheated and over-pressurised process reactor, forming a flammable vapour cloud inside the building that ignited.[14]

A total of 14 people were injured in the blast, of whom one man later died.[14] In addition, at least 300 fish died due to chemicals leaking into a creek behind the Synthron plant which leads into the Catawba River.

National Register of Historic Places

Properties recognized for their historic significance date primarily to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the period of more dense development. They include public facilities, such as the state school for the deaf, numerous private homes and former business facilities, as well as several historic districts. They reflect the development of the area by yeoman farmers, and later cotton planters who had plantations, as well as the development of cotton and textile mills, followed by other industries.

They include the Avery Avenue Historic District, Avery Avenue School, Alphonse Calhoun Avery House, Bellevue, Broughton Hospital Historic District, Burke County Courthouse, Creekside, U. S. B. Dale's Market, Dunavant Cotton Manufacturing Company, Gaither House, Garrou-Morganton Full-Fashioned Hosiery Mills, Gaston Chapel, Hunting Creek Railroad Bridge, Jonesboro Historic District, John Alexander Lackey House, Magnolia Place, Morganton Downtown Historic District, Mountain View, North Carolina School for the Deaf Historic District, North Carolina School for the Deaf: Main Building, North Green Street-Bouchelle Street Historic District, Quaker Meadows, Quaker Meadows Cemetery, Dr. Joseph Bennett Riddle House, South King Street Historic District, Swan Ponds, Tate House, Franklin Pierce Tate House, West Union Street Historic District, Western North Carolina Insane Asylum, and White Street-Valdese Avenue Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[15][16]


Morganton is located in central Burke County in the Catawba River valley in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Interstate 40 passes through the southern part of the city, leading east 19 miles (31 km) to Hickory and west 54 miles (87 km) to Asheville. U.S. Route 70 passes east-west through the center of the city paralleling I-40, and U.S. Route 64 passes north-south, leading northeast 15 miles (24 km) to Lenoir and southwest 32 miles (51 km) to Rutherfordton.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Morganton has a total area of 19.2 square miles (49.6 km2), all of it land.[5]

It has a humid subtropical climate (Cfa) and is located in hardiness zone 7b.


Morganton Village, 1939

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 16,918 people, 7,618 households, and 4,117 families residing in the city. The population density was 953.0 people per square mile (368.0/km²). There were 7,313 housing units at an average density of 402.6 per square mile (155.5/km²). The racial composition of the city was: 75.67% White, 12.76% Black or African American, 11.16% Hispanic or Latino American, 1.99% Asian American, 0.55% Native American, 0.81% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, 6.64% some other race, and 1.58% two or more races.

There were 7,618 households out of which 22.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.1% were married couples living together, 12.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.7% were non-families. 34.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the city, the population was spread out with 21.1% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 18.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,836, and the median income for a family was $42,687. Males had a median income of $29,118 versus $24,723 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,906. About 9.7% of families and 13.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.0% of those under age 18 and 11.9% of those age 65 or over.


The state of North Carolina is a major employer in Morganton. State-operated facilities located in Morganton include Broughton Hospital (a psychiatric hospital) and the North Carolina School for the Deaf. Other employers include furniture manufacturing facilities and businesses catering to the many tourists who travel through the area on Interstate 40 to nearby attractions in the Blue Ridge Mountains.



  • WCIS / 760 AM / Religious
  • WMNC / 1430 AM / Country
  • WMNC / 92.1 FM / Country
  • WHGW / 100.3 FM / Religious


  • The Morganton News Herald is the daily newspaper (circulation 12,000).


Colleges and universities

Public schools

  • Freedom High School
  • Robert Logan Patton High School
  • Table Rock Middle School
  • Liberty Middle School
  • Walter R. Johnson Middle School
  • Glen Alpine Elementary School
  • Mull Elementary School
  • Mountain Crest Elementary School
  • Chesterfield Elementary School
  • W. A. Young Elementary School
  • Burke Alternative School
  • College Street Academy
  • Salem Elementary School
  • Forest Hill Elementary School
  • Oak Hill Elementary School
  • Burke Middle College

Private schools

  • Morganton Day School
  • Silver Creek Sda School

Charter schools

  • New Dimensions Charter School

Special education

Other institutions

Notable people


15 miles outside of Morganton is Lake James, which is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.[36][37] There are also multiple ski areas located approximately an hour from Morganton.[38]

Golf courses

  • Quaker Meadows Golf Course
  • Mimosa Hills Golf and Country Club
  • Silver Creek Plantation[39]


  • Mimosa 7, a movie theater operated by Marquee Cinemas[40]
  • City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium (CoMMA), a public auditorium that hosts plays, musicals, graduations, and other cultural and public events.[41][42]


  • Catawba Meadows Park is very close to downtown Morganton and has several baseball diamonds, beach volleyball courts, and other facilities.
  • Martha's Park in downtown Morganton features a splash pad, playground, and picnic area.[43]


  1. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved 2019.
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2020-02-12. Retrieved .
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved .
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved .
  5. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Morganton city, North Carolina". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved 2014.
  6. ^ Constance E. Richards, "Contact and Conflict", American Archaeologist, Spring 2008, accessed 26 Jun 2009
  7. ^ "Spain Makes a Stand", Smithsonian Magazine, March 2006. Accessed 2007-08-02.
  8. ^ "Joara and Fort San Juan" Archived 2011-07-24 at the Wayback Machine, Antiquity, March 2004.
  9. ^ a b c Archeology: "Berry Site", Warren Wilson College
  10. ^ John Noble Wilford (July 23, 2013). "Fort Tells of Spain's Early Ambitions". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013.
  11. ^ Leon Fink, The Maya of Morganton: Work and Community in the Nuevo New South
  12. ^ "Synthron Chemical Explosion - Investigations | the U.S. Chemical Safety Board". Retrieved .
  13. ^ a b "The First Responder". Retrieved .
  14. ^ a b "Maintenance failures behind Synthron blast - CSB". Retrieved .
  15. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  16. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Listings". NRHP Featured Property. National Park Service. 2013-02-27.
  17. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved 2015.
  18. ^ Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607-1896. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who. 1963.
  19. ^ "Etta Baker, 93, Blues Guitarist, Dies". New York Times. September 26, 2006.
  20. ^ [1] Archived July 17, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "Inductee - Johnny Bristol". North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. 2009-10-03. Archived from the original on 2013-07-04. Retrieved .
  22. ^ "Joe Cheves | NC Sports Hall of Fame". 2012-03-09. Archived from the original on 2014-01-02. Retrieved .
  23. ^ "Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr. Library and Museum". 1990-10-17. Retrieved .
  24. ^ "Morganton, NC native Alfreda Gerald is in ... | Film Industry | NC & ...". Retrieved .
  25. ^ "Leon Johnson NFL Football Statistics". 1974-07-13. Retrieved .
  26. ^ Location Name:  Chatham Community Library (2013-02-23). "A Morning with Bill Leslie | Chatham Chamber of Commerce". Retrieved .
  27. ^ a. "Bill Leslie". Retrieved .
  28. ^ "Burl Noggle". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, January 12, 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  29. ^ Staff, Golfweek (2011-01-02). "Career amateur Billy Joe Patton dies at 88". Retrieved .
  30. ^ "Former Wake Forest Golfer Billy Joe Patton Passes - The Official Site of Wake Forest Demon Deacon Athletics". Retrieved .
  31. ^ The Baseball Cube. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  32. ^ "This Month in North Carolina History - Frankie Silver". 2009-06-04. Retrieved .
  33. ^ "North Carolina Museum of History homepage" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-07-15. Retrieved .
  34. ^
  35. ^ Carolyn Roff, "Gladys Love Avery Tillett" Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, edited by William S. Powell (University of North Carolina Press 1996).
  36. ^ "Home". Camp Lake James. Retrieved .
  37. ^ Meg Jernigan, Demand Media. "Lake James State Park Campground Near Morganton, North Carolina | USA Today". Retrieved .
  38. ^ "Ski Resorts in or near Morganton, North Carolina NC". Retrieved .
  39. ^ "Morganton, North Carolina Golf Courses". 2007-04-03. Retrieved .
  40. ^ "Marquee Cinemas". Marquee Cinemas. Retrieved .
  41. ^ "Welcome to CoMMA! "25 Years and Still Lovin' it"". 2012-05-07. Retrieved .
  42. ^ "CoMMA". Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  43. ^ "Martha's Park". Burke County Tourism Development Authority. Retrieved March 2016. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)


  • Gerald W. Sweitzer and Kathy Fields, The 50 Best Small Southern Towns, Atlanta: Peachtree Publishing Co., 2001 (ISBN 1-56145-253-X)

External links

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