North Carolina was the birthplace of both Andrew Johnson, the 17th President of the United States, and Ava Gardner, the famous Hollywood actress.
Cleveland County, located in the western part of North Carolina, has a rich and diverse history that stretches back thousands of years. The area was originally inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Catawba and Cherokee peoples. European settlers began arriving in the late 18th century, with the county officially established in 1841.

In the early years, agriculture played a crucial role in the county's economy. The fertile soil and mild climate made it ideal for farming, leading to the growth of successful cotton and tobacco plantations. As the demand for these crops increased, so did the need for labor, resulting in the expansion of enslaved African American populations in the region.

During the American Civil War, Cleveland County experienced significant turmoil as it was situated in the border state of North Carolina. The county was at times occupied by both Union and Confederate forces, leading to destruction and constant insecurity for residents.

After the war, Cleveland County began to develop industries beyond agriculture. Textile mills, powered by the Broad River, emerged as major employers, drawing many workers from the rural areas. The cotton mills, along with the rise of the railroad, brought newfound economic opportunities and spurred the county's growth through the early 20th century.

Today, Cleveland County continues to be a thriving community with a mix of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, and education. The county is known for its dedication to preserving its history, with several museums and historic sites showcasing its rich heritage.

This timeline provides a glimpse into the major events and milestones that have shaped the history of Cleveland County, North Carolina.

  • 1762: Cleveland County is formed from portions of Lincoln County.
  • 1774: The Tryon Courthouse is established as the county seat.
  • 1841: The town of Shelby is founded and becomes the new county seat.
  • 1861-1865: Cleveland County residents serve in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
  • 1884: The Carolina and Northwestern Railway is completed, enhancing transportation in the county.
  • 1929: The Great Depression hits Cleveland County, leading to economic struggles for the area.
  • 1941-1945: Many Cleveland County residents serve in World War II.
  • 1951: Cleveland County Technical College opens, later evolving into Cleveland Community College.
  • 1976: The Shelby Historic District is established, preserving the city's historic architecture.
  • 1991: The Earl Scruggs Center, honoring the renowned banjo player, is opened in Shelby.
  • 2019: Cleveland County celebrates its 257th anniversary since its formation.