Native Americans discovered this area over 6,000 years ago. In the early 1700s, Scots-Irish pioneers settled here. Those early residents formed a close community protected by a series of forts that remained active until the early 1800s. This was the western most out-post prior to the Declaration of Independence. During the Revolutionary War, men on the Over Mountain Victory Trail marched through. Portions of the trail are accessible today.
Between 1804 & 1827, the area contributed to North Carolina's gold legacy as the nation's leader in gold production. McDowell County was formally organized in 1843 at the home of Colonel John Carson. His home serves as a museum today in the Pleasant Gardens community. The county was named for Joseph McDowell, a prominent leader during the Revolutionary War. His home, also in Pleasant Gardens, is the only remaining home for which a North Carolina County was named.