Iredell County was formed in 1788 by an act of the North Carolina State Legislature. The county was formed out of Rowan County and was named for James Iredell who was appointed as one of the original Justices of the United States Supreme Court on Feb. 10, 1790 by President George Washington.
James Iredell was born on Oct. 5, 1750 in Lewis, England and was the son of an English merchant. Iredell served as a North Carolina State Supreme Court Justice 1777-1778 and as attorney general of North Carolina from 1779-1781. He was appointed to the first United States Supreme Court in February of 1790 and served on the court for nine years.
Ironically, Iredell never set foot in the county he is named for as he made his home in Edenton, N.C. He was however pleased at having a county named after him. In a letter to his aide John Steele he wrote, “Few things have happened to me with greater surprise and pleasure, I am sure, than the unexpected honor of having a new county, which has been formed out of Rowan, called by my name.”
He and his close friend William R. Davie fought for ratification of the Constitution and the founding of the University of North Carolina. Like James Iredell, William R. Davie would later have a county named after him when Davie County was carved out of Rowan County. Iredell and Davie County border each other standing side by side on a map just as their namesakes once stood side by side.
Iredell died on Sunday, Oct. 20, 1799 at the age of 48 leaving a wife and family. His son James Iredell Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps and later served as Governor of North Carolina and as a U.S. Senator.
The Local History Room collection includes