Virginian Adam Sherrill led the first permanent settlers into the territory west of the upper Catawba River in 1747. Primarily of European descent, these settlers had first found refuge in southern Pennsylvania and had migrated southward to become the areas first traders and founders. St. Pauls Union Church was the first congregation organized in the area, which was originally part of Lincoln County. Catawba County was formed as an independent county in 1842 and is named in honor of the areas original inhabitants, the Catawba Indians.
In the countys early days, before the arrival of the railroad, the area was engaged primarily in rural agricultural production.
By the advent of the Civil War, the railroad had entered Catawba County, connecting the county to the industrial centers in the North and Midwest. The growth of the railroad produced the rural communities of Catawba, Claremont, Conover, Hickory and Maiden. The access to the industrialized North revolutionized Catawba Countys agriculture role in western North Carolina. Soon Hickory became the population hub of Catawba County and by the latter part of the 19th century Catawba County had become a competitive center for agriculture and commerce in North Carolina.
Following World War II, Catawba County continued to evolve as a prosperous manufacturing center, specializing in textile and furniture production. Catawba County emerged as a technological center in the late 20th century, with fiber optic and coaxial cable manufacturers establishing themselves as a durable facet of Catawba Countys vibrant economy.
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