Living In Elkin
The town’s early history centers on one man and his descendants. Around 1840, Richard Gwyn left Jonesville to settle on the north side of the Yadkin River, recognizing the value of the forested hills and waterpower of Elkin Creek. Within a decade he and several family members established Elkin Manufacturing Company. Farther up Elkin Creek, Alexander Chatham and Thomas Lenior Gwyn opened a small woolen mill in 1877 that grew to become Elkin’s largest industry today. The Northwestern North Carolina Railroad arrived in 1890; the town was ready to take the opportunities the railroad brought for commercial and industrial expansion. It’s strategic location near the Yadkin River and the Big Elkin Creek and as a stop on the railroad caused prosperity that produced brick stores, many industries, and fine houses.
The beginning of industry with the cotton mill, the Civil War involvement the coming of the railroad, the town’s coping with the depression of the thirties, and the two World Wars.
The heritage of the two rivers that flow through the community should not be forgotten. First, the rivers provided water and means for fishing and travel. Also, using waterpower to drive gristmills, forges, and sawmills was an important economic development. The greatest impact was the more sophisticated mills along the rivers that powered shoe and textile factories. Elkin has a proud history and a bright future as seen in its historic downtown, where past landmarks are being revitalized.