The first people in Banner Elk were the Cherokee Indians. Cherokee artifacts indicate that the tribe used the land around the Elk River Valley as hunting grounds. The first white settlers to the area were Delilah Baird and John Holtsclaw, who made their home on 480 acres of land in 1825. During the next few decades, the area was settled by many people who came from various European countries. In 1911, the town was incorporated by the North Carolina General Assembly and officially became called Banner Elk.
Early settlers were farmers and some fur traders. Today agriculture is still a large part of the economy of Banner Elk, as the area is known as the “Christmas tree capital of the world." For many years, Banner Elk was comprised of a few small, locally owned and operated businesses. In the early 1900’s people started coming to Banner Elk for vacations and short visits to the mountains. In 1892, the Banner Elk Hotel was built to accommodate the vacationers, and today Banner Elk is the premier place to visit in the Blue Ridge Mountains for a great vacation.
Banner Elk has always been, and continues to be, a close knit community offering visitors and residents scenic views and outdoor adventures.
The first human inhabitants of the Banner Elk area were the Cherokee Indians. The Cherokee used the Elk River Valley as hunting grounds, but evidence of a permanent settlement has never been discovered (Cooper, 1964). The first white settlers of Banner Elk were Delilah Baird and John Holtsclaw, who came to the Big Bottoms of Elk in 1825, and settled on a tract of land containing 480 acres. This land included the Whitehead farm and extended to the present site of Grandfather Home for Children situated near Wildcat Lake. John and Delilah's first child, Alfred B. Baird, was the first white child born in what is now the Banner Elk Township (Banner Elk Development Plan, 1967). Martin L. Banner established the first permanent settlement in 1848. Although the Banner family originally came from Wales, Martin Banner moved from Forsyth County located in the piedmont region of North Carolina. Eventually, the Banner family grew to 55 members, and the area where they lived became known as Banner's Elk (Heritage, 1976). Other early settlers include the Moody, Dugger, Abrams, Von Canon, Keller, Smith, Lineback, and Foster families. The early settlers of the area were the people of northern European stock from what may be called the yeoman class:
English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, German, and Dutch (Cooper, 1964). The community changed its name to Banner Elk when the North Carolina General Assembly incorporated the town in 1911.