Person County was settled by a variety of groups, including Native Americans for hundreds of years. Settlers of Scots, Scots-Irish, English, French Huguenot, African and German ancestry came much later. Religious affiliation in the county is predominantly Protestant with a small contingent of Catholics and other groups. Due to its proximity to Virginia, the Carolina coast, and the Appalachian foothills, a wide variety of Southern American English dialects can be heard in the county, with Virginia Piedmont, Coastal Southern, South Midland, and African American Vernacular English being the most common.
Early 20th century local legends claimed that the Indians of Person County (recognized by the state as a tribe in 1911) were descended from the first British colonists of North America, the Elizabethan-era settlement of Roanoke Island, often called the Lost Colony. No verifiable links to the Roanoke Colony have been documented. In 2003 the Indians of Person County changed their name to Sappony, to indicate descent from the historical Saponi, a Siouan -related nation once thought to be extinct in the East.
Ancestors of the Sappony in the area in the 19th c. included many of multiracial ancestry, one of a number of frontier communities which anthropologists classified as a tri-racial isolate. Later 20th c. research has shown that many of these people migrated from Virginia, descendants of people of color free in Virginia before the American Revolution. Most of these free families originated in marriages between white women and African or African-American men, as Paul Heinegg has documented. Free Native Americans who adopted English customs married into African-American communities as well. Free people of color migrated with European settlers to frontier regions of Virginia and North Carolina. They sometimes established relatively isolated communities where they could evade racial strictures of the plantation areas. Sometimes later generations married white and assimilated to the majority; other members chose African-American partners; and others identified as more exclusively Indian. Late 20th c. researchers have documented that 80 percent of the people listed as free people of color in the NC censuses of 1790-1810 could be traced to African Americans free in Virginia before the Revolution.
The county was named for General Thomas Person, a Revolutionary War Patriot, who made significant contributions to Person County and surround areas. He was a trustee of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, donating large sums of money to the institution and being recognized by the construction of Person Hall.
Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Moore (fondly bestowed the title of General) was another Revolutionary War hero of note, commanding troops in Person County. The story is told of his riding to the top of hill, admiring the beauty of the view and vowing to return to his "Lost Eden" after the war. In 1793 he purchased property in the southern part of the county and named it Mt. Tirzah (Mount Beautiful) or "General Moore's Mountain." The old home is still located at its original site and owned by a descendant. The front porch overlooks the same inspiring view. Moore was buried on a nearby hill.
During the Civil War, Person County supplied 800 to 1000 soldiers to the Confederate cause. A granite monument on the Person County Courthouse lawn honors E. Fletcher Satterfield, who advanced the Confederate flag at Gettysburg. After the war, the area's large plantations were divided into many small farms.
J.A. Long, W.W. Kitchin, A.R. Foushee, J.S. Bradsher, J.C. Pass, W.F. Reade, and R.E. Long were key leaders who helped make a transition to a more diversified economic base after the Civil War. The arrival of the Norfolk and Western Railroad was a major influence around 1890, facilitating the addition of tobacco processing plants and warehouses. Although the processing plants disappeared many years ago, a few of the warehouses still stand.
J.A. Long established Peoples Bank in 1891 and the Roxboro Cotton Mills in 1899, later known as Tultex Yarns. Long died in 1915 but was succeeded by his son, J.A. Long, Jr., who began attracting new business to Roxboro. Baker Company opened here in 1923, making textiles a major contributor to the local economy. Baker was merged with Collins and Aikman Corporation (C&A), becoming a major industry in Person County for several decades before closing in August 2006.
Dewey Jones (D), Sheriff
Johnny M. Lunsford (D), County Commission Chair
Larry Bowes (D), County Commissioner
Larry Yarborough (R), County Commissioner
Kyle Puryear (R), County Commissioner
Jimmy Clayton (D), County Commissioner
Gordon Powell, School Board Chairman
Jimmy Wilkins, School Board Vice-Chairman
Pecolia Beatty, School Board Member
Ronnie P. King, School Board Member
Vickie L. Nelson, School Board Member
Person County contains parts of three major river basins: the Neuse, the Roanoke and the Tar, providing essential clean drinking water to the south and east of the state. The origin of the Tar River is in SE Person County. In the northwest section of the county is Hyco Lake, with Mayo Reservoir in the northeast section. Both lakes are used for electrical power generation and recreation. Near the western border with Caswell County is Lake Roxboro. Part of the Neuse begins here with the Flat River, where it combines with the Little and Eno rivers to go into Falls Lake and create the Neuse.
The Uwharrie Mountains part of North Carolina's easternmost mountain range are the oldest mountain range in North America and are the lowest mountain range in the state. The Uwharries begin in Montgomery County and terminate in the hills of Person County.
The county is largely covered by rolling hills divided by farmlands and forest. The area's ridges are not narrow and sharp like those in much of the Piedmont, and the gullies and ditches are not as abrupt. The northern part of the county between the lakes is skirted by a plateau. The highest point of the county is a prominent hill in Roxboro, where the county seat has located its water reservoir tank. Person County claims two small mountains — Hager's Mountain, north of Roxboro, and Mt. Tirzah in the southern part of the county. The geology of the county is dominated by igneous formation, overlaid by a variety of soils, with granite boulders strewn across the county.
Roxboro is the county seat, and located roughly at the center of the county.
There were 14,085 households out of which 31.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.8% were married couples living together, 13.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.2% were non-families. 24.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 2.95.
In the county the population was spread out with 24.0% under the age of 18, 7.4% from 18 to 24, 30.6% from 25 to 44, 24.2% from 45 to 64, and 13.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 93.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.2 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $37,159, and the median income for a family was $44,598. Males had a median income of $30,970 versus $22,804 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,709. About 9.4% of families and 12.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.9% of those under age 18 and 17.3% of those age 65 or over.
Person County is home to two industrial parks: Person County Business and Industrial Center Park (PCBIC) located on Durham Road (US 501) and North Park located north of Roxboro on North Park Drive.
Person County is also part of North Carolina's Research Triangle, home to numerous high-tech companies and enterprises.
Person County offers a strategic location for business and industry, as it is within an hour’s drive of North Carolina's two major economic centers, the Research Triangle Park (Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh) and the Piedmont Triad (Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point), and a two-hour drive of Richmond, Virginia.