"With A Proud History That Runs As Deep As The Roots of Her Trees"
|Named for||William A. Graham|
|• Total||301.65 sq mi (781.3 km2)|
|• Land||291.97 sq mi (756.2 km2)|
|• Water||9.68 sq mi (25.1 km2) 3.21%|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||27.50/sq mi (10.62/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (Eastern)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
Graham County (locally //) is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2020 census, the population was 8,030, making it the third-least populous county in North Carolina. Its county seat is Robbinsville.
The county was formed January 30, 1872, from the northeastern part of Cherokee County. It was named for William A. Graham, United States Senator from North Carolina (1840–1843) and Governor of North Carolina (1845–1849).
The first Graham County Courthouse was constructed in Robbinsville in 1874, but its floor collapsed two decades later while the building was packed during a murder trial. A replacement, built in 1895, was the last wooden courthouse built in North Carolina. The third and current building was completed in 1942.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 301.65 square miles (781.3 km2), of which 291.97 square miles (756.2 km2) is land and 9.68 square miles (25.1 km2) (3.21%) is water. The terrain of the county is mountainous, with elevations ranging from 1,177 to 5,560 feet (359 to 1,695 m). Two-thirds of the county is the Nantahala National Forest. The soil of the valleys is fertile.
Fontana Lake, an impoundment of the Little Tennessee River, forms most of the northern border of the county, with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the other side of the lake. Fontana Lake is formed by Fontana Dam, the tallest dam in the eastern U.S. The remainder of the northern boundary of Graham County is almost completely formed by another impoundment of the Little Tennessee River, downstream from Fontana Dam, created by Cheoah Dam. Fontana Dam and Cheoah Dam are both operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The Appalachian Trail winds through Graham County. Part of the trail is located on top of Fontana Dam. The Cheoah River is noted for its Class IV and Class V whitewater rapids. The river is used for whitewater rafting about 17 days per year, based on a water-release schedule from Santeetlah Dam. Seventy-five percent of Lake Santeetlah shoreline borders national forest.
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, a rare example of an old growth cove hardwood forest, is located in northwestern Graham County. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is part of the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness area.
The Cherokee name for the area, Nantahala, is translated as "land of the noon-day sun" because 90% of the land is slopes of 30 degrees or greater, suggesting that in the valleys one sees the sun only in the middle of the day.
Portions of the Qualla Boundary are located in Graham County. These sections of the Qualla Boundary are non-contiguous from the primary part of the Qualla Boundary located in Swain, Jackson, Cherokee and Haywood counties. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who live in Graham County form the Snowbird Cherokee community.
National protected areas
- Cherohala Skyway (part)
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park (part)
- Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness (part)
- Nantahala National Forest (part)
State and local protected area
Major water bodies
- Deep Creek
- Fontana Lake
- Hooper Mill Creek
- Little Santeetlah Creek
- Little Tennessee River
- Santeetlah Creek
- Santeetlah Lake
- Snowbird Creek
- Tulula Creek
- Blount County, Tennessee – north
- Swain County – northeast
- Macon County – southeast
- Cherokee County – south
- Monroe County, Tennessee – west
|U.S. Decennial Census|
1990–2000 2010 2020
|Black or African American (non-Hispanic)||46||0.57%|
|Hispanic or Latino||219||2.73%|
As of the 2020 census, there were 8,030 people, 3,393 households, and 2,178 families residing in the county.
At the 2000 census, there were 7,993 people, 3,354 households, and 2,411 families residing in the county. The population density was 27 people per square mile (10 people/km2). There were 5,084 housing units at an average density of 17 units per square mile (6.6 units/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 91.91% White, 0.19% Black or African American, 6.84% Native American, 0.16% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.13% from other races, and 0.76% from two or more races. 0.75% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 27.6% were of American, 15.1% Irish, 12.7% English, 10.6% German and 5.1% Scots-Irish ancestry according to Census 2000. 97.7% spoke English and 1.3% Cherokee as their first language.
There were 3,354 households, out of which 27.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.80% were married couples living together, 8.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.10% were non-families. 26.00% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.30% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.82.
In the county, the population was spread out, with 22.00% under the age of 18, 7.30% from 18 to 24, 25.20% from 25 to 44, 27.50% from 45 to 64, and 18.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 95.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.60 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $26,645, and the median income for a family was $32,750. Males had a median income of $24,207 versus $18,668 for females. The per capita income for the county was $14,237. About 14.40% of families and 19.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.30% of those under age 18 and 20.40% of those age 65 or over.
Law, government, and politics
Graham County is governed by an elected five-member board of commissioners. The county is a member of the regional Southwestern Commission council of governments. In 2021, the county began allowing acholic beverage to be purchased within the county. It was the last dry county (in which alcohol sales are generally forbidden with only a few exceptions) in North Carolina.
The Graham County Sheriff's Office protects the court and all county owned facilities, operates the jail, and provides patrol and detective services. Graham County Emergency Medical Services provide full-time paramedic level care to all of Graham County, and to a small portion of northwest Swain County. As there are no hospitals in Graham County, all patients are transported out of county for emergency care.
- Yellow Creek
Many smaller communities in Graham County are named for bodies of water, notable landscape features, or early settlers. Other unincorporated communities in Graham County include:
- Bear Creek Junction
- Dry Creek
- Jenkins Meadow
- Meadow Branch
- Rymers Ferry
- Sawyers Creek
- Tapoco (named for the Tallassee Power Company)
- Tulula (just south of Robbinsville; may have been named for a mythological Cherokee Indian)
- Yellow Creek
In popular culture
- Portions of the movie Nell (1994), starring Jodie Foster, were filmed near Robbinsville.
- Portions of the movie The Fugitive (1993), starring Harrison Ford, were filmed at Cheoah Dam.
- The historic 1927 silent film Stark Love was filmed in Graham County and featured local residents as actors.
- Some scenes from In Dreams (1999), starring Annette Bening and Robert Downey Jr.,were filmed in the area around Fontana Village.
- List of counties in North Carolina
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Graham County, North Carolina
- USS Graham County (LST-1176)
- Rick Aschmann (May 2, 2018). "North American English Dialects, Based on Pronunciation Patterns". Aschmann.net. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
- "QuickFacts: Graham County, North Carolina". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 31, 2022.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
- Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. pp. 140.
- "Graham County". www.grahamcounty.net.
- "The Town of Robbinsville". www.grahamcounty.net.
- "2020 County Gazetteer Files – North Carolina". United States Census Bureau. August 23, 2022. Retrieved September 9, 2023.
- Ripley, George; Dana, Charles A., eds. (1879). The American Cyclopædia. .
- Historical Marker in Robbinsville, the county seat
- "NCWRC Game Lands". www.ncpaws.org. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
- "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
- "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
- Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
- "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 27, 2010. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
- "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
- "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
- "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
- "Last dry county in North Carolina will soon sell alcohol". WUNC. November 4, 2021. Retrieved December 16, 2022.
- "Legal Sales by County: North Carolina ABC Commission". Ncabc.com. Archived from the original on April 17, 2010. Retrieved June 7, 2010.
- Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
- "Sheriff – Graham County North Carolina".
- "USPS.com - ZIP Code Lookup". Tools.usps.com. March 28, 2011. Retrieved June 6, 2012.
- "Graham County". www.grahamcounty.net. Retrieved September 11, 2022.