Founding of the Town of Burnsville

Otway Burns and Snap Dragon

The Town of Burnsville was established in 1834 by the North Carolina General Assembly from land that was conveyed by John “Yellow Jacket” Bailey.  The Town was named for Captain Otway Burns, a naval hero of the war of 1812.   Captain Burns, at the cost of his political career, cast the tie breaking vote to permit new Western Counties to be formed in North Carolina which included Yancey County.   After the formation of Yancey County John Bailey then donated the land for the Town of Burnsville with the request that the town be named in honor of Captain Otway Burns.

Burnsville Town Hall

Burnsville Town Hall was originally built in 1908 on the southwest corner of the Town Square to serve as the County Courthouse for Yancey County.  The original courthouse was torn down and the monument of Otway Burns was erected.  The new courthouse was a two-story rectagular building that incorperated projecting polygonal end bays.  The walls were scored and stuccoed and the entrance pavillion was pedimented.  

Yancey County used this new facility for the next 56 years.  Court was held upstairs in a large open space which also housed the judge’s chambers, a holding cell for prisoners, and at one time, the draft board office.

In 1965, another courthouse was constructed, this time on the southeast corner of the Town Square.  The former courthouse was sold to prominent Judge Bill Anglin on May 26, 1965.  It was often joked that he was the only judge to own his own courthouse.  For the next 10 years the former courthouse remained empty.  With the doors off the hinges and broken windows, vagrants often inhabited its shelter.

In 1974, Mayor Jim Anglin encouraged his brother Bill to sell the former courthouse to the Town for Municipal use.  The town offices were housed at the time in the current Fire Department facilities on North Main Street.  On June 8, 1974 Judge Anglin agreed to deed the real estate and property to the town, but specifically excluded the bell that hung in the belfry.  For many years the bell sat on the judge’s back porch until it was transferred to Yancey County.  The cupola (which currently sits on the Yancey County Courthouse) was later replaced with a clock tower through donations in an effort led by Cecil Shaw.

After renovation of the first floor all the existing town departments were moved into the office space located on the first floor of the building.  Though this space was much more adequate than its previous home, the growing municipal government would soon need to expand into the rest of the building.

In 1987, Mayor Mark Bennett began efforts to both expand and renovate Town Hall to better suit the municipal government.  Mayor Bennett led efforts to expand office space to the second floor as well as choosing a color palette more appropriate to the building.  The upstairs board room, upon his passing, was named in Mark Bennett’s honor.

The Yancey County Courthouse/Burnsville Town Hall was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places by the State of North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History, on August 10, 1979.

Photo by Richard Kennedy