Burke County was founded in 1777 and covers 515 square miles. Burke’s county seat is Morganton, and probably one of the best-known landmarks of Burke County is the famous Table Rock. Burke County was named for Thomas Burke who was a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1777 to 1781. From 1781 to 1782 he served as Governor of North Carolina. The original settlers to the western Piedmont region of Burke County were Scottish, Irish and German immigrants in the mid to late 18th century. Most of the settlers were yeoman farmers that were fiercely independent; therefore very few families were slaveholders. Long before the Europeans arrived the area was the largest Native American settlement in North Carolina dating from about 1000 AD and continuing into the next centuries.
Burke County was the site of the final strategy meeting that led to 1,000 Appalachian frontiersmen to begin the war of the American Revolution. They actually began the first battle by taking it to the British commander Ferguson at Kings Mountain rather than to wait for him to come to them. They had to cross over the mountain in order to engage this battle, therefore earning the name “Over Mountain Men”.
Burke County is comprised of 23 townships; Dexter, Icard, Jonas Ridge, Linville, Lovelady, Lower Creek, Lower Fork, Morganton, Quaker Meadows, Silver Creek, Smoky Creek, Upper Creek, Upper Fork and Valdese. It is also home to a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Pisgah National Forest.
The well-known Broughton Hospital is located in Burke County at Morganton. This hospital services patients admitted for various mental illness reasons, so when you hear the expression mental hospital, you will know they are more than likely speaking of the Broughton Hospital.