One of the things we’ll be doing as we get to know a community is write a few posts about some of the interesting but maybe not too well-known local history. One of the reasons I chose Warren County as our initial location was its interesting background.
We’ve already had quick posts about Soul City and the groundbreaking legal battle over the PCB dump. Both of these stories are fairly recent- they happened during the last half of the 20th century. If you ever happen to drive through Warren County you see history goes much further back.
Warren County is located along the I-85 corridor in North Carolina, and is right next to the Virginia border. Many people pass through it without noticing. Honestly, there aren’t many towns there. Warrenton is the county seat, it’s population is 811. Norlina and Macon are the two other towns there, but there are some other unincorporated communities. The entire county is home to 19,388 people.
A lot of people ask me where Warren County is even though it’s only an hour outside the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle region where about 1.8 million people make their home. It’s a beautiful place and I have enjoyed getting to know it better.
The county is bordered by two lakes, Lake Gaston on the east and Kerr Lake on the west. It looks like most of the eastern piedmont to me, though I admit I am looking through West Coast lenses. Some rolling hills, lots of trees, tobacco farms here and there- I think it looks like what you would expect in North Carolina.
I have seen a lot of old homes in Warrenton, probably more homes older than 1860 than I have seen anywhere in the South. Even the older parts of Raleigh don’t seem to have as many antebellum homes as Warrenton. I’ve been told many times in Warrenton that before the Civil War, there were more millionaires living there per square mile than anywhere else in the South. General Lee of the Confederate Army sent his daughter to live there, and the home where she resided still stands. The wealth was connected to the railroads, but the genteel nature of the Warrenton homes doesn’t seem to reflect the smokestacks and iron trains that brought them their money.
I often feel like there is more to the story when I am there.