Ashe County

About

Nicknamed “the coolest corner of North Carolina,” Ashe is the state’s most northwestern county located entirely in the Appalachian Mountain region with an average elevation of 3,000 feet. The county was formed in 1799 out of Wilkes and is named in honor of Samuel Ashe, the first Speaker of the NC Senate, a longstanding superior court judge, and the state’s ninth governor. The county seat of Jefferson, chartered by the General Assembly in 1803, was the first town in the entire country to be named after Thomas Jefferson.

The county’s spectacular views and arts and culture communities have made Ashe a popular tourist destination. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the county’s southeastern border for 30 miles and the county offers an abundance of hiking, paddling, and fishing opportunities. The county is home to the second oldest river in the world, the New River, which is estimated to be between 10 and 360 million years old. It is also one of the few major rivers to flow in a northerly direction.

Christmas tree farms provide another catalyst for the county’s tourist economy. With over 12,000 acres of Christmas trees on family farms, the county produces around 20 million trees. The Christmas tree industry provides approximately 700 jobs locally year-round and 2,000 during harvest season. Christmas trees contribute $85 million dollars annually to the county’s economy.

The cattle industry has also served as a key economic driver. The county has historically been known for its dairy production with multiple cheese-making factories over the years. In the 1930s, the Kraft-Phenix Creamery built a $75,000 plant in West Jefferson. The lion’s share of production came from more than 600 patrons sending milk from their farms to the factory, with most of these patrons from Ashe. It was said that the county provided the ideal climate for milk, reducing “off-flavors” as a result of the ice-cold water from the mountain springs, and the cheese was considered the best among all of the Kraft-Phenix branches in the US. Today, the oldest cheese factory in the state is known as Ashe County Cheese and is a can’t-miss stop on a trip to West Jefferson.

Politically, Ashe behaves more like neighboring counties Alleghany and Wilkes and less like its other neighbor, Watauga. The county solidly favors Republicans, where in recent elections Republicans have carried the county by more than 40 points. The last Democrat to win the county was Jimmy Carter in 1976. In 2012, Mitt Romney won the county by nearly 33%. In 2016 and 2020, Donald Trump won with margins of 44% and 46% respectively. In 2022, Ted Budd carried Ashe by 45%.

Geography

County Seat: Jefferson
Biggest Cities:
  • Jefferson
  • West Jefferson
  • Lansing
Media Market: Charlotte

Elected Officials

County Data