Graham County was the home of Native American Indians for untold centuries before the arrival of the white hunters, trappers and settlers in the 1700s. It remained remote well into the late 1800s. Established in 1872 it was one of the last counties formed in North Carolina.
Native Americans were forcibly relocated from the area in 1838 in what has become known as the Trail of Tears. Many Indians hid in the remote mountain areas defying the government’s forced march west. Descendants of those people today form the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation with land in several western North Carolina counties including Graham.
The remoteness of the area resulted in slow development. Logging was the first main industry in the early 1900s. In the 1990s, it was the only county in North Carolina without a 4-lane road and had only a single red light. Today the county relies primarily on tourism to support the local economy. The opening of the Cherohala Skyway in 1997, the promotion of the Tail of the Dragon since 2000 and the white water rafting on the Cheoah River have seen tourism flourish. Recently the exposure of local moonshiners on television has stirred even more interest.
Robbinsville, the sleepy county seat, has a population of about 2,000. There are traffic jams twice each year – for homecoming and the Christmas parade. The biggest celebration of the year is the annual 4th of July Heritage Festival with local arts and crafts, local music, street dancing and various events. Another big draw is the Graham County Rescue Squad’s annual Ramp Fest scheduled for the last week of April.
Experience the arts and culture of the mountains year round at Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center. Housed in a restored 1926 native rock schoolhouse, the Center hosts many events and enrichment programs for all ages, including the summer concert series, An Appalachian Evening, a high-end retail artisans gallery featuring the fine craft of over 150 artists, two annual festivals, classes and much more.