Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Where Mountains Meet Water

Posted October 30, 2007

Our county by county tour of the Tar Heel state continues. We've already paid Perquimans a visit in the east and Haywood in the west. Today the road leads us to a beautiful spot in the foothills.

Pardon my pleasure but this journey takes me home. Burke County calls itself the place "Where the Mountains Meet the Water." Burke is the home of Lake James which includes 154 miles of shoreline in the shadows of Table Rock, a majestic peak that rises up over Linville Gorge. Lake James and the South Mountains both boast state parks, glorious scenery and wildlife including bald eagles.

Several major publications have listed Burke County as one of the best places to live and raise a family. Its nickname is the Western State Capital. Burke has the third largest concentration of state employees. The overall population is about 90,000 with Morganton serving as the county seat and largest city.

Burke was once called the "Mother of All Counties." Originally Burke included parts of 16 other counties including Buncombe, Catawba, Mitchell, Madison, Yancey, McDowell and Alexander.

Famous residents include Senator Sam Ervin. Check out his new statue at the historic Burke County Courthouse in Morganton. Other notables from Burke are blues singer and guitarist Etta Baker, former NFL running back Leon Johnson, Motown musician Johnny Bristol and Frankie Silver who was hanged in Morganton in 1833 for chopping up and hiding the remains of her abusive husband.

Burke County is also the home of historic Quaker Meadows where the successful plan to defeat the British in the Battle of Kings Mountain was hatched under a large oak tree in 1780.

Burke got its name in honor of Thomas Burke of the Continental Congress. Burke later became North Carolina’s third governor.

What else do you know about Burke County? Please share.


Please with your account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • seltiger Nov 1, 2007

    Bill, I don't personally remember it but I grew up in the country in the community of Chesterfield. My husband grew up in town and my mother-in-law does remember your family's store. My earliest memory of town is Kibler's Drug Store where my grandmother would take me for a delicious grilled cheese sandwich on her weekly trip to town. I'm 42 years old so the downtown has changed quite a bit since I was little.

  • bleslie Oct 31, 2007

    Seltiger, did you know of my parents' store -The Book Store in Morganton on West Union Street?

  • seltiger Oct 31, 2007

    My husband and I are both originally from Morganton and are always happy to hear you talk about being from there and promoting the beauty of the area. I love living in and being anywhere in North Carolina, but I'll always be a "mountain girl" at heart.

  • NCSUBAEstudent Oct 30, 2007

    Famous Louise's Rock House Restaurant is a great little place to eat at in Linville Falls. It sits on 3 county lines-Burke, Avery, and McDowell. They have excellent rubarb pie. :-)

  • Silver loves Rebel Red puppies Oct 30, 2007

    Here's something cool, and just in time for Halloween. The home of Brown Mountain and the Brown Mountain Lights. I've loved hearing about that since I was a kid.

  • fishnett5977 Oct 30, 2007

    LOL Bill!!! Didnt think anyone blushed anymore 'cept me!!! Bet it made you smile too!!!lol Happy Halloween!!!

  • bleslie Oct 30, 2007

    Fishnett, you make me blush!

    BTW, Tom Ditt, my Burke buddy writes: "The Charlotte Observer is running a series of articles this week, some written by Bruce Henderson, about the Catawba River. Sunday was a head-waters story from wset of Old Fort. Yesterday covered Lake James."

  • fishnett5977 Oct 30, 2007

    I agree Celt! Think we can convince the county to add a statue of him in Morganton? Bill, you really do deserve that! You have done much in recent times to promote this state and all its beauty. And your music reflects this very very much!!! So glad you are a native son!!! Have a great day! :)

  • bleslie Oct 30, 2007

    Oh, Celt! You are most very kind! I hope life is going well for you!

  • Celt Oct 30, 2007

    Well, I do know that one of my favorite musicians in the Celtic revival is from Morganton. A phenomenal musician, equally adept on the whistle and guitar.

Meet the Author
Bill Leslie