Shelby is a city and county from Cleveland County, North Carolina, United States. It is located near the western edge of the Charlotte United Statistical Area. The population according to the 2010 census was 20,323 people. Shelby is located between Charlotte and Asheville, and has become a well-known tourist and wedding destination in West North Carolina. The temperate climate, affordable life and the growing need for industrial workers are attracting immigrants here.
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The area was originally inhabited by the Catawba and Cherokee peoples and was later settled around 1760. The city was founded in 1843 and named after Colonel Isaac Shelby, hero of the Battle of King's Mount (1780) during the American Revolution. Shelby was engaged in agriculture until the railways spurred Shelby's development in the 1870s. The textile industry later became its main industry in the 1920s, when cotton production in Cleveland County grew from 8,000 to 80,000 bales a year. Cotton production peaked in 1948 when Cleveland County produced 83,549 bales, making it North Carolina's premier cotton county. In the 1930s, Shelby was known as "the leading shopping center between Charlotte and Asheville." People from the surrounding counties came to Shelby to shop, as there were many local and chain stores. By 1947, Shelby was a truly thriving city with one of the highest factory wages in the South. In the 1950s, droughts, insect infestations, and government control over crop areas led to a decline in cotton as the main crop in Cleveland County.
Shelby's architecture is notable for the fact that despite being in the countryside, there are magnificent houses and buildings with a unique character. Some buildings are county landmarks, such as the Campbell Historic Building and others are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Bank House, Joshua Beam House, Shelby Central Historic District, Cleveland County Courthouse, East Marion Belvedere Park Historic District, James Hayward Hull House, Masonic Temple Building, Dr. Victor McBryer House, George Sperling House and Outbuildings, Joseph Suttle House, Webbley, and West Warren Street Historic District.
Shelby was home to a group of political leaders in the first half of the 20th century that became known as the "Shelby Dynasty." These people exercised power through local, state and federal governments. The most famous people in Shelby's political leadership were the brothers James L. Webb and Edwin Yates Webb, O. Max Gardner, and Clyde R. Howie. As governors, North Carolina representatives and a U.S. congressman, the group has influenced Shelby's life and Shelby's reputation throughout the state.
In 1916, Thomas Dixon Jr., author of Clan Member: A Historical Novel of the Ku Klux Klan, planned to erect a monument to his uncle Leroy McAfee in the courthouse square. The project was initially greeted with enthusiasm until it was announced that Dixon wanted McAfee to wear a Ku Klux Klan mask in the statue. The Confederation Monument still stands on the west side of the courthouse square, while the monuments to foreign wars on the north and south sides.
The city gained international attention when it became the site of the Arrest Church Shooting in Charleston criminal, Dylan Roof, in June 2015.