Gates County is a small, rural county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 12,197. Its county seat is Gatesville. It is part of the Albemarle Sound area of the Inner Banks and part of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area based in adjacent Virginia. Gates County is quite prideful in its high school athletics. Gates County High School has won a state championship in football, in 1971. That team was led by legendary coach, Pete Smoak. Most recently, the football team has been successful in the Tar-Roanoke Conference, and winning the conference in 2010. The Red Barons galvanized the entire northeastern part of North Carolina, as it went on its improbable run, winning 11 games in a row, and going undefeated in the conference. This team was led by current head coach, Matt Biggy. It is home to many athletes, including Thomas Smith, formerly of the Buffalo Bills, and Walter Smith I, formerly of the Toronto Argonauts. As in other areas along the waterways, centuries of Native Americans created settlements, increasingly permanent, along the Chowan River. At the time of European contact, the Chowanoke occupied most of the territory along the river. After suffering dramatic population decreases likely due to European infectious diseases, to which they had no immunity, most were pushed out by encroaching Tuscarora. With early settlement in the mid-17th century by English colonists, the county was organized in 1779 from parts of Chowan County, Hertford County, and Perquimans County. It was named for General Horatio Gates, who had commanded the victorious American colonial forces at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. Early history Thousands of years of indigenous settlements had preceded European exploration of present-day Gates County. In 1585, the Ralph Lane Colony explored the Chowan River. They explored the river at least as far up as Winton. In 1622, the John Pory Colony led an expedition from Virginia to the Chowan River. (Pory was secretary of the Province of Virginia.) In 1629, Sir Robert Heath was granted a patent to settle Carolina. This patent embraced Gates County. During the 1650s, colonists from Virginia started to move increasingly into the Albemarle Sound region. Colonel Drew and Roger Green led an expedition into the Albermarle area. In 1654, Francis Speight was granted a patent for 300 acres (1.2 km2) of land near Raynor Swamp. The first English settlement in Gates County was established near Corapeake, North Carolina in 1660. In 1670, Colonel Henry Baker of Nansemond County obtained a grant of land for 2,400 acres (9.7 km2) near Buckland. In 1672, George Fox, leader of the Quakers, visited Gates County. He described the county as barren. Following the English colonists' defeat of the remaining Chowanoke in 1676, the following year, they created a Chowanoke Indian Reservation, the first within the present-day United States. It was established at the Chowanoke settlement between Bennett's Creek and Catherine Creek in Gates. From 16841722 Gates County was a part of the Chowan precinct. In 1711, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel established an Anglican school for Chowanoke and local Native Americans at Sarum, with Mr. Marshburn as the teacher. In 1738, settlers created a mail route from Suffolk, Virginia to Corapeake and Edenton, North Carolina. The stage coach route crossed the Chowan River at Barfield. 1800s In 1806, Middle Swamp Baptist Church was established as the first Baptist church in Gates County, as part of the Second Great Awakening revival in the South, led by Baptist and Methodist preachers. In 1811, Savages United Methodist Church was established, the oldest Methodist Church in Gates County. Both denominations preached to enslaved blacks as well as white settlers, and accepted them as members. In 1825, Marquis de Lafayette passed through Gates County and was entertained at Pipkin's Inn. The town of Gatesville was incorporated in 1830. The old courthouse located on Court St. was built in 1836. The oldest item in the courthouse is the Federal-style bell, which was purchased in 1781. William Paul Roberts, who would become the youngest Confederate general to serve in the American Civil War, was born in Gatesville, 1841. According to the 1850 census, there were 717 farms in Gates County and only 15 produced cotton. In 1851, Reynoldson Academy was established. Organized by free blacks, New Hope Baptist church was established in 1859. In 1878, Jethro Goodman introduced peanuts into Gates County. Secretary of State Thad Eure was born in 1899. Port of Hamburg The Cross Canal, or Hamburg Ditch, three miles (5 km) south of the Virginia line, was Gates County's water route to the major port of Norfolk. Opened 18051822, it ran straight east for ten miles (16 km) through the Dismal Swamp, from a landing on Daniels Road in Gates County to the Dismal Swamp Canal. The Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center is now located there. The Cross Canal is no longer a through route. In the late 20th century, sportsmen in small boats still used the Gates County end, at the site of Hamburg, to enter the swamp. Hurricanes since then toppled huge trees across it, blocking all access to the canal. The Civil War Survival in Gates County prior to the American Civil War required self-reliance. Most of the land in Gates County was covered with virgin timber. The mostly subsistence farmers did not hold many slaves. A. J. Walton was the Gates County representative to the North Carolina secession convention. Soon after, the "Gates Guard" was the first company raised in the County to protect its borders. The second company was "Gates Minutemen". Thanks to the productivity of its agriculture, Gates County helped supply food to the Confederate States of America. General William P. Roberts from the county was the youngest general of the Civil War. Brigadier General Laurence S. Baker, a native of Gates County, lost an arm. Jack Fairless, another county native, formed a band known as the "Buffaloes" (later Company E, 1st Regiment of North Carolina Union Volunteers). Made up of draft dodgers, Confederate deserters, and renegades from both sides, the Buffaloes raided homes throughout the area. With the able bodied men off fighting the war, the only people left behind were women, children, and old men unit to be soldiers. Fairless had an easy time terrorizing them. Fairless had originally been a Confederate soldier, but he been dishonorably discharged for stealing. He was eventually killed by his own men in self-defense. Fort Dillard was built as a Confederate fort in the county. The story of the "Ellis Girls" was long told in the county. One day while fishing in the Chowan River, the sisters spotted a Union gunboat on its way to burn Winton. Union soldiers seized the girls and held them prisoners on the gunboat until they finished burning the town. Only then were they released, unharmed but very frightened. 1900s On May 9, 1925 the first bridge opened across the Chowan River between Gates and Hertford counties. In 1925, Hwy 158 opened between Gates and Pasquotank through the Great Dismal Swamp. In 1935, the Sunbury Ruritan Club was established, the first and oldest in the state. Beckford Junction was abandoned in 1940. Beckford Junction was a train switch that allowed trains to go to Suffolk, Elizabeth City, or Edenton. The last passenger train serving Gates County ended in 1954. In 1954 the Gates County Historical Society was established. In 1973 A.B. Coleman donated 925 acres (3.74 km2) of land in the Millpond to the state. This was the beginning of Merchants Millpond State Park. In 1984 a bad tornado struck Gates County, killing two people and causing between $500 thousand and $5 million USD worth of damage. Hurricane Floyd hit Gates County in 1999. 2000s In September 2007 Gates County was chosen as a potential site for a US Navy landing field in the northeastern part of the state. Law and government Gates County employs the Council-manager style of government. Under this form an elected Board of Commissioners appoints a manager to oversee the day to day operations and carry out the will of the council. The Board of Commissioners is responsible for appointing the county manager, passing local ordinances, and establishing policy. Gates County has five Commissioners, one from each district. The Commissioners are elected for four-year terms and have overlapping terms so that all of the Commissioners don't go up for reelection each time. Gates County is a member of the Albemarle Commission regional council of government. The Gates County Sheriff's Department consists of less than 15 deputies that maintain order in the county. Gates County has five volunteer fire departments with six fire stations, and one EMS station consisting of paid and volunteer members. County districts Gates County is divided into five districts. Each district elects a member to the Board of Commissioners. Each of the five districts contain a polling place where members of that district go to vote. The five districts are Gatesville, Eure, Gates, Sunbury, and Hobbsvile. Register of Deeds Sharon Harrell is the current Register of Deeds for Gates County. She in position is elected by the people of Gates County for a term of four years. The land deeds date back to 1779, with provided land plots for taxation reasons. Birth and Death Records in Gates County date back to 1913. And also for the veterans in the county, Gates County office provides military discharge papers. Marriage License are issued under the following provisions; Aged 16 to 18 must have parent consent, under the age 16 must have approval by judge, and 18 to 21 must show birth certificate. The Gates County office also issues Deeds of Trust which is when a bank loans you money and you put up your home for payments. Clerk of Court The current Clerk of Court for Gates county is Nell Wiggins. The Clerk of Court is elected by the people every 4 years. The Clerk of Court is responsible for keeping the following; Infractions, misdemeanors, felonies, civil records, wills, adoption records, and juvenile records. The current cost of court for Gates County is $121.00. Education Gates County Schools has five schools ranging from pre-kindergarten to twelfth grade. Those five schools are separated into one high school (Gates County Senior High School), one middle school, and three elementary schools. Rosenwald Schools Rosenwald Schools were schools set up by money from the Rosenwald Fund. This fund was created in 1917 by Julius Rosenwald to encourage construction of schools for rural black children, mostly in the South, who were underserved. The fund required communities to raise matching funds, including the use of public money and the support of school boards. At the time, the school boards were run by whites and the schools were segregated. Blacks had been disfranchised throughout the South, so services for them were typically underfunded. Black communities strongly supported the schools, raising money, and sometimes contributing land and labor. The schools were built to model designs developed by architects at Tuskegee University, a historically black college. The Rosenwald Fund stimulated the construction of more than 4,977 schools and related structures for African-American children before its depletion in 1948. Seven Rosenwald Schools built in communities in Gates County. In some areas, such schools have been converted to community centers and other uses. Corapeake (still standing) Reid's Grove (still standing) T S Cooper Hobbsvile Reynoldson Sunbury Roduco Geography According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 346 square miles (896.1 km2), of which 341 square miles (883.2 km2) is land and 5 square miles (12.9 km2) (1.45%) is water. Great Dismal Swamp The counties of Gates, Perquimans, Camden and Currituck contain sixty percent of the Great Dismal swamp. In 1973, Union Camp donated the land which it owned in the swamp to the Nature Conservancy. The Conservancy next donated the land to the Department of The Interior, and the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was created. The refuge consists of 107,000 acres (430 km2) of swamp and wetlands' surrounding Lake Drummond. Merchants Millpond State Park In 1811, the Norfleet family built the first dam at the millpond. At that time, it consisted of around 750 to 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) of water. The mill ground corn. In 1856 the Millpond was sold and became known as Williams Millpond. In 1910, Charles Lawrence purchased the Millpond. It became known as Merchants Millpond. In the 1960s A. B. Coleman purchased the Millpond. In 1973, A.B. Coleman donated 925 acres (3.74 km2) of the land to North Carolina under the condition that it was to become a state park. Today Merchants Millpond occupies 3,200 acres (13 km2). Major highways US 13 US 158 NC 32 NC 37 NC 137 Adjacent counties and independent cities Suffolk, Virginia north Camden County, North Carolina northeast Pasquotank County, North Carolina east Perquimans County, North Carolina southeast Chowan County, North Carolina south Hertford County, North Carolina west Southampton County, Virginia northwest Economy Most of Gates County's revenue comes from property taxes on personal property, with a small percentage coming from commercial sources. Industries The main industries are agriculture and forest products. Heritage tourism and recreation are increasing in importance. Demographics As of the census of 2010, there were 12,197 people, 3,901 households, and 2,933 families residing in the county. The population density was 31 people per square mile (12/km²). There were 4,389 housing units at an average density of 13 per square mile (5/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 63.7% White, 33.2% Black or African American, 0.5% Native American, 0.1% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.6% from other races, and 1.8% from two or more races; 1.4% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. There were 3,901 households out of which 34.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.20% were married couples living together, 13.30% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.80% were non-families; 21.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.30% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.09. In the county the population was spread out with 26.70% under the age of 18, 6.10% from 18 to 24, 29.10% from 25 to 44, 23.70% from 45 to 64, and 14.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 96.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.50 males. The median income for a household in the county was $35,647, and the median income for a family was $41,511. Males had a median income of $32,227 versus $21,014 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,963. About 14.50% of families and 17.00% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.90% of those under age 18 and 26.20% of those age 65 or over. Townships The county is divided into seven townships: Gatesville, Hall, Reynoldson, Haslett, Holly Grove, Hunters Mill and Mintonsville. Gates County was formed in 1779 from Chowan, Hertford, and Perquimans counties. It was named in honor of General Horatio Gates, who commanded the American Army at the Battle of Saratoga. Gates County is in the northeastern section of the State and is bounded by Camden, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Chowan and Hertford counties, and the state of Virginia. The present land area is 340.67 square miles. The act establishing the county provided that commissioners be appointed to select a site centrally located for the erection of a courthouse, etc., and to have the building erected. In 1781, an act was passed to levy an additional tax for the completion of the public buildings. The Legislature of 1830-1831 passed an act which said that the place now known as Gates Court House, in the county of Gates, shall in the future be known and described by the name of Gatesville. Gatesville is the county seat. Gates County was a part of an area originally called "Albemarle", named for George, Duke of Albemarle. Later, what is now Gates County was split into three separate entities: Hertford, Chowan, and Perquimans counties. Most of the land within the present boundaries was considered to be Nansemond County, VA, until 1728, when William Byrd had surveyed the "dividing line" between Virginia and North Carolina. The area was in controversy between the two States until then, and both granted land to applicants. It was Chowan County, and a narrow strip of Perquimans, until 1759, when all the area west of Bennett's Creek was cut off to Hertford County. Before the settlement of this area by the Europeans, the Nansemond, Chesapeake, Chowanoc/Chowanoke, Meherrin and the Nottoway Indians made their homes here. They were a peaceful people, but once the settlers made their way into the area, unfortunately their days were numbered. After 1711, few Native Americans were found in the county, although there is a large population of Meherrins living in Hertford, Bertie, Gates, and Northhampton counties. It is not uncommon to find traces of these gentle people left behind in the fields of the county. Arrowheads and pottery shards are often found in open fields and along riverbanks. In the early years of settlement, pioneers had to try to make a living off of land that was riddled with swamps and sandy soil that would not produce. The landscape made many pass in areas further south where land was richer, and had fewer wetlands. Those who stayed behind were a strong and resourceful lot. The descendants of many of those persevering and strong of the difficult life, those who passed through knew them as friendly and hospitable people. Many of the surnames represented in the county today originated from some of the earliest pioneers. Names like Brinkley, Eure, Riddick, Benton, Lane, Cowper, Cross and Norfleet, among many others, were the same names that George Washington and other notable Americans were familiar with when they passed through the area in the early days of this area's history. From 1728 through 1780, the area grew from a thick wooded and inhospitable land to an agrarian community with many of the same resources that many surrounding areas had. However, the physical characteristics made it difficult to grow into a prosperous urban center, because there were few navigable waterways. The main commerce was in hogs sold in Nansemond Co., tar (pine pitch) made from the pine forests of the county, and timber from the thick virgin forests. In 1779 the area between the Chowan River to the West and Southwest, South of the county of Nansemond, Va., West of the Dismal Swamp and North of Catherine Creek and Warwick Creek was separated into a county all it's own. The physical land barriers of swamps or rivers made it difficult for residents of this area to travel to government seats in bad weather, and it was for this reason, among others that Gates County became an entity of it's own. Gates County was named for General Horatio Gates, a Revolutionary War hero. As commanding general at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, he delivered one of the most damaging blows yet felt by English forces in the war. However, in 1780 his failure at the disastrous Battle of Camden transformed him from one of the Revolution's most esteemed soldiers into one of its most controversial. In 1780 a courthouse, prison and stocks were built in Gatesville, at that time known as Gates Court House. In 1830-1831 the Legislature passed an act, which changed the name of the county seat from Gates Court House to Gatesville. In 1836 the Federal style courthouse was built, which now houses the Gates County Public Library and the Gates County Historical Society. General William P. Roberts, who at age 20 was the Confederate's youngest Brigadier General, was born in Gates County July 11, 1841. He commanded the N.C Cavalry, 12th NC Battalion, Georgia Battalion, Gen W.H.F. Lee's Division, and Hampton's Cavalry Corps Army of Northern Virginia. In 1875 he represented Gates County at the constitutional convention, and the following year he was elected to the state legislature. In 1880, he became a state auditor and served in that capacity until 1888. Roberts died in Norfolk, Virginia, on March 28, 1910, and was buried in the Gatesville Cemetery. In the last quarter of the 19th century, the railroad opened Gates County to new opportunity. Shipment by rail was more efficient and allowed logging operations to move timber cheaply to markets, farmers to ship produce more readily and small towns to burgeon into prosperous communities. It remained this way until the railroads stopped running through the county in 1979, after highways made truck shipment cheaper than the rails. Gates County has remained close to the same since it was formed in 1778. Other than obvious changes in technology, Gates still relies on the agriculture and timber industry more than any other commercial enterprise. Six of the nine largest manufacturers in the county all rely on the timber businesses, while the majority of jobs are in agriculture. Many things haven't changed much since the late 18th century. The county's population hasn't even doubled in over 200 years. In 1790 there were 5,372 people living here as compared to the 10,720 of the year 2002. That only adds to the small town feeling of this tight knit community, and the hospitality of the early pioneers is still present in the current residents, as is the resilience and perseverance of their forebears. *If you happen to get the chance to visit Gates County, be ready to be spoken to, greeted on the street, and have people wave at you who you don't even know. The pace of life here is slow so don't rush through. Take the time to stop and talk to the people, have a bar-b-que sandwich and soda at one of the family restaurants.
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