Called the Gateway to the Brushy Mountains, Alexander county is named in honor of the Alexander family who were leaders in Colonial North Carolina. And Taylorsville is the namesake of either John Louis Taylor, Carolina agriculturist and political philosopher, or General Zachary Taylor, the 12th president of the United States. The County was established in 1847, the year of the first sale of land in the county seat (Taylorsville). With the proceeds from the sale, the first courthouse was built on the present site. When the Civil War began, Alexander County was 14 years old. The 1860 population was 5,837; yet Alexander County ranked high per capita in the number of Confederate soldiers serving in the war. The Alexander Railroad Company is an active short line rail system operating between Taylorsville and Statesville and connecting with Norfolk Southern.
This county offers many amazing views of the foothill mountains and valleys that pop into view around nearly every twist and turn of a country road. It’s truly worth your time to spend a day getting lost in this county–for the views alone.
A Stoney Point Post Office was established on February 17, 1826 in Iredell County (at the time), with James Thompson as postmaster. The name was changed to Stony Point in 1832. The Stony Point populated place has existed in both Alexander and Iredell Counties since 1847, when Alexander County was created.
Hiddenite was once noted as a health resort because of its sulfur springs. The town of Hiddenite was incorporated in 1913, but its charter was repealed in 1919. Hiddenite was named for William Earl Hidden (1853–1918), a mineralogist sent to North Carolina by Thomas Edison to look for platinum. Hidden discovered the gem that came to be known as “hiddenite” in 1879 in mines nearby. Until recently, it was found only in Alexander County, North Carolina, but in recent decades it has been subsequently found in both Madagascar and Brazil. Prior to the arrival of W.E. Hidden, the community was known as White Plains; this is how the area appears on a map of 1871.
The Hiddenite Gem Mines and surrounding areas also yield emeralds, sapphires, and many other precious stones. Sluicing and digging for precious gems is a popular recreational activity that draws many visitors to the area.
Hiddenite Celebration of the Arts
The Hiddenite Celebration of the Arts is held on the fourth Saturday in September. The Celebration invites people to see and participate in arts and crafts from different cultures. The main culture is the folk ways of North Carolina, but Hispanic and Hmong folkways are also celebrated. The annual 13.1-mile Hiddenite Half-Marathon is held at the same time.
Emerald Hollow Mine
Called the Gem Capital of the World, Emerald Hollow Mine (484 Emerald Hollow Mine Dr.) is the only Emerald Mine in the world open to the public for prospecting, found in the Brushy Mountains of Hiddenite. This is recognized as one of the most unique and interesting geological locations in North America. You’ll find numerous people sleucing, creeking, and digging for gems any day of the week, and especially on the weekends. One note, that if you do want to partake, you will need to purchase a permit, which can be obtained on property and upon your arrival.
More than 60 different types of naturally occurring gems and minerals are found in this area–and a treasure trove of gemstones can be found at the gem mine museum and gift shop. Many are very rare and include emerald, aquamarine, sapphire, garnet, topaz, amethyst, citrine, rutile, and tourmaline. They also have an abundance of world-class smoky and clear quartz crystals. Hiddenite being the 4th rarest gemstone in the world, can only be found in this small town of Hiddenite, North Carolina.
Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area
Rock climber or not, stop by the Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area (3451 Rocky Face Church Rd) for an amazing view of the small mountain’s rock face, which will jump out of nowhere, it seems, as you round the corner before the park. You’ll find climbers scaling the rock wall daily, and you can also picnic and walk the paths of this nature preserve. It’s definitely selfie worthy too!
Hiddenite Arts & Heritage Center’s Lucas Mansion Museum
The Hiddenite Arts & Heritage Center’s Lucas Mansion Museum (316 Hiddenite Church Rd) pays homage to the trademarks of this area with rotating exhibits featuring hiddenite and gem mining, emerging and regional artists, local craftspeople, a 3,000-piece doll and toy collection on the third floor, and more–all in the beautiful Victorian-era Lucas Mansion. As you tour through the home, be sure to peek out the windows for a beautiful view of the grounds below. The mansion is on the National Registry of Historic Places due to this amazing architectural feat. In 1914, the owner wanted to double the size of the mansion. But instead of spreading out the footprint on land, the two-story house was cut in half by inserting a new second floor between the two existing floors in order to make it the now three-story mansion that it is today. Amazing! The 22-room mansion also features a unique fire system and a bell system (so that residents could communicate between floors). Be sure to stop in the museum gift shop to take home a memory of your visit.
Although you won’t find any activities or attractions here, I highly encourage you to type Vashti into your map locator and drive to the center point of this area for some absolutely amazing views of these North Carolina foothills. You never know what beautiful vista awaits you around the corner!
(P.S. This photo does it no justice.)
Taylorsville, NC is nestled in the foothills of the Brushy Mountains in beautiful Western North Carolina and is the county seat of Alexander County. The town of Taylorsville was formed in 1847 along with Alexander County and named in honor of General Zachary Taylor, who at that time was in Mexico engaged in the Mexican–American War.
The land for the town was donated by J.M. Bogle who gave 22 acres, William Matheson who gave 13 acres, and James James who gave 113⁄4 acres for a total of 463⁄4 acres. Most of the land was woodland, and the road from Statesville to Morganton passed to the south of town.
A commission of Alexander C. McIntosh, R.L. Steel, Sion Harrington, J.H. Newland, and George Swain, treasurer, was appointed to lay out the town of Taylorsville and sell lots to raise money for the building of a courthouse and jail. An auction of lots was held August 11, 1847, and 47 lots were sold. The second sale took place on November 30, 1847, and 10 lots were sold. At a third auction on March 8, 1848, five lots were sold. The total amounted to $6,674.75.
The town of Taylorsville was incorporated in 1851. And John Watts served as its first mayor, appointed by the commissioners. The boundaries of the incorporated town were square, with each side measuring 160 poles or one-half mile long.
Harry Gant, former NASCAR Cup Series driver, is from the area as well as Jerry Rushing, a bootlegger and inspiration for The Dukes of Hazzard.
The Old Jail Museum
Today the Old Jail, built in 1913 as a two-story brick structure with a pyramidal roof, houses a small museum honoring the former jailers and their families who lived in the jail supervising the prisoners. Except for the addition of a wing at the East elevation in 1930, the building has retained much of its original period detailing. Of note are the quoins, which frame the main building, and are unusually stylish details for a jail. This is one of the oldest public buildings of Alexander County–and one of the oldest jails still standing in North Carolina. Four of the 10 original jail cells are still intact and are located upstairs.
The Old Jail (72 Main Ave Dr) is also home to ACAAI’s Genealogical Research Library. The collection includes local census, obituary files, family records as well as books, periodicals, microfilm, photographs, and other research media.
Alexander Railroad Company’s “June Bug”
Alexander Railroad Company, a locally owned, operated, and maintained short line railroad, offers weekday carload freight service along the Highway NC 90 corridor between Statesville and Taylorsville. The railroad’s offices are located in the old depot in Taylorsville.
According to legend, the railroad’s locomotives are painted green and gold in honor of local attorney and State Senator Romulus Z. Linney’s impassioned speech to NC Legislature in 1887, supporting a railroad charter to extend the existing Charlotte-Statesville AT&O line into Taylorsville.
To demonstrate the mineral wealth of this route, Linney referred to the recently discovered Hiddenite stone, claiming, “A well-wintered June Bug can carry away $1,000 worth of this valuable gem, which rivals the diamond in sparkling beauty, tied to its hind leg!” The legislation passed, and the railroad and its locomotives have been nicknamed “The June Bug” to this day.
Next road trip… Cleveland County!