Morganton NC was founded in 1777 after the formation of Burke County in the same year. Burke County was named after Dr. Thomas Burke (1747-1783), a member of the Continental Congress and Governor of North Carolina.
Morganton was initially called Morganborough and is the county seat of Burke County. Morganton was named after Daniel Morgan (1736-1802), who is considered one of the best battlefield tacticians during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783).
Due to its colder summer climate, the North Carolina Supreme Court held its August Sessions in the Burke County Courthouse each year from 1847 to 1861, a significant event at that time for a town with a population of only 558.
The railroad reached Morganton in 1868, bringing summer vacationers to the town.
In 1875, the North Carolina General Assembly with the help of Samuel Tate passed a bill, which brought the Western North Carolina Insane Asylum to Morganton. The facility opened in 1883. Its name changed to the Broughton Hospital in 1959.
In 1891 with a population of 1,557, Samuel Tate helped to influence legislation to move the North Carolina School for the Deaf from Raleigh to Morganton. The school opened in 1894.
Today, Morganton, a town of 17,000, has an upcoming food and arts community amid a well-preserved historic downtown area.
Camping, swimming, canoeing, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, picnicking and much more, Lake James State Park located on the shores of 6,812-acre Lake James is a popular destination for all of these activities year round. The Park consists of the Catawba River Area and the Paddy’s Creek Area each a few miles apart. Camping is only permitted in the Catawba River Area while swimming is only allowed in the Paddy’s Creek Area.
During their August-to-May playing season, the Municipal Auditorium in Morganton NC hosts concerts, Broadway shows, dance shows and theater. Their atrium also features an impressive ceiling fresco by world-renowned fresco artist Ben Long.
The History Museum of Burke County exhibits over 20,000 artifacts grouped by major historical events and by themes, such as military, fashion, toys or games, spanning more than three centuries. Visitors can also see recreations of a town-typical barbershop, an old-fashioned beauty parlor, a café and the offices of an optometrist and a dentist. These everyday settings offer visitors of all ages a wonderful glimpse back into our distant and not so distant past. Guided tours are available.
The Historic North Carolina School for the Deaf is the second historic state institution in Morganton. Situated on a beautiful hill south of downtown, the school’s campus comprises 14 historical buildings constructed between 1891 and the mid 1930s, including the magnificent Main Building with its imposing five-story clock tower. A small museum, located on site, explains the history of the school through old pictures, architectural drawings, articles and memorabilia (by appointment only).
The Historic Broughton Hospital was one of two large state institutions, which were brought to Morganton in the late 1800s. Originally called the Western North Carolina Insane Asylum, the Broughton Hospital, which has considerably expanded over the years, continues to be a major employer in the region. The historic buildings can still be viewed from the outside today.
The Railroad Depot and Museum is a cute little museum located in a beautifully restored train station from the 1860s. The museum features a collection of railroad memorabilia including nostalgic dining car tableware, an old telegraph, a ticket counter, a brass bell and a headlamp from a steam locomotive.
The Historic McDowell House, which is located in Quaker Meadows 2.5 miles (4 km) from downtwon Morganton, is a beautifully restored plantation home from 1812 and the oldest brick home in Burke County. It is said that in 1780 on these grounds Charles McDowell’s father and other Patriot soldiers made plans, which led to the victory over the British in the Battle of Kings Mountain during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783).
The Historic Tate House is not just a beautiful building in a park-like setting in the center of downtown, it was also the home of one of Morganton’s most influential residents. Samuel Tate, who was a local hero during the American Civil War and a successful businessman and politician in the late 1800s, is credited with bringing two large state institutions to this small community located far from the state capital Raleigh.