Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Northwestern North Carolina, Alleghany County is the state's fifth smallest county in land area encompassing 233 square miles and sixth smallest in population with around 10,000 residents. The eastern most mountain county in North Carolina, it is convenient to the North Carolina Piedmont and to travelers along I-77. It is bordered by Grayson County, Va., on the north, and by North Carolina counties: Ashe on the west, Wilkes to the south and Surry to the east. Sparta, its county seat and only municipality, sits at the crossroads of US 21 and NC 18 at the county's center.
Alleghany is shaped by the land. The Crest of the Blue Ridge -- the Eastern Continental Divide -- forms the eastern and southern border and is home to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Average elevation is from 2,500 to 3,000 feet with the highest peaks of 4,000 feet or more in the Peach Bottom Mountains in the mid-section of the county.
The county is principally drained by the New River, which flows along the western and northern border, and its main tributary, the Little River, which runs through the central portion of the county. The North Carolina portion of the New River is designated a National Scenic River and offers camping and other recreational opportunities along its shore.
The county was settled in the late 1700's by hardworking pioneers mostly of English, German, Scottish, and Irish descent, some having migrated down the "Wagon Road" from Pennsylvania. Many of their descendants still live on land that was granted to their families nearly 200 years ago.
One of the earliest settlers to the county was Joseph Doughton, believed to have been a member of that early surveying team. He contracted typhoid fever and was taken in by Lieutenant George Reeves who had settled along the New River just north of Alleghany County in what is now Grayson County, Va. Doughton was nursed back to health by Lieutenant Reeves' daughter, Mary. During his convalescence, they fell in love and were married.
Alleghany County was formed by an act of the 1858-59 session of the North Carolina legislature out of the northeastern portion of Ashe County. The Civil War delayed the establishment of a permanent home for county government until 1868. In 1870 James H. Parks, David Landreth and David Evans donated 50 acres of land for the county seat where Sparta is now located. Tradition has it that it was proposed the county seat be named after Parks, but he declined and suggested it be named after the Greek city-state.
Many well-known citizens claim Alleghany County as their home. These include Rufus Doughton, who was elected Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina in 1892; and Robert Doughton, U.S. Representative from 1910 to 1953. Mr. Doughton was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee from 1933 to 1953 and was the major force in the establishment of Social Security and in promoting the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just a few miles from Doughton Park, his namesake attraction along the Parkway, his home is preserved as the Doughton-Hall Bed and Breakfast in Laurel Springs.
The first manufacturer in the county is D&P Pipeworks. Established in 1941, it is still in business today as International Pipes and Accessories manufacturing Dr. Grabow smoking pipes.
Historic area attractions listed in the National Register include the Brinegar Cabin on the Blue Ridge Parkway; the William Weaver House on the New River (locally known as the Fred Weaver House); the Alleghany County Courthouse in Sparta; and the R.L. Doughton home place mentioned above. Also located here are Cumberland Knob, where construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway began Sept. 11, 1935, and Doughton Park, largest and most diverse of the Parkway's recreational areas. Portions of Stone Mountain State Park and New River's State Park are also within Alleghany's boundaries.
For folks who enjoy outdoor recreational activities, Alleghany County offers excellent fishing, small game and deer hunting, hiking, camping, and canoeing, plus public tennis courts and a public swimming pool. Medical services center around Alleghany Memorial Hospital. The Alleghany Wellness Center offers an indoor pool and gym.