Person County is part of the four-county Durham-Chapel Hill Metropolitan Area, which has a population of 504,357 as of Census 2010.
The US Office of Management and Budget also includes Person County as a part of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Combined Statistical Area, which has a population of 1,998,808 as of U.S. Census 2012 Population Estimates. Effective June 6, 2003 the Office of Management and Budget redefined the Federal Statistical Areas and dismantled what had been for decades the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, MSA and split them into two separate MSAs even though the region still functions as a single metropolitan area.
The Hyco Lake area and southern portion of the county are the fastest growing with new businesses and subdivisions.
The colonial government established Person County as part of Edgecombe County in 1746. County designations kept changing, as it was part of Granville County from 1746–1752; included in Orange County until 1778; and part of Caswell County until 1791/1792. By dividing Caswell County into two squares–each side measuring approximately twenty (20) miles in length, the settlers formed two counties of each. The county was named after Brigadier General Thomas Person, a Revolutionary War patriot, who made significant contributions to Person County and surrounding areas.
The area was inhabited by indigenous peoples, ancestors of Native Americans, for 12,000 years, over which time they developed varying cultures. The historical tribes later encountered by early Spanish explorers in this area were generally Siouan-speaking, such as the Saponi, Occaneechee and other groups.
European explorers arrived in Person County in the 17th century. European-American settlement, by immigrants of Scots, Scots-Irish, English, French Huguenot, and German ancestry, did not take place until the mid-17th through 19th centuries. In this area, settlers tended to be yeoman farmers, and slaveholding was limited.
Religious affiliation in the county has reflected the early northern European cultural base and been predominantly Protestant. There are fewer people of Catholic and other faiths. Due to the county's proximity to Virginia, the Carolina coast, and the Appalachian foothills, a wide variety of Southern American English dialects can be heard, with Virginia Piedmont, Coastal Southern, South Midland, and African American Vernacular English the most common.
Revolutionary & Civil War
The county was named for Brigadier General Thomas Person, a Revolutionary War patriot, who made significant contributions to Person County and surrounding areas. He was a trustee of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His generous donations were recognized by the construction and naming of Person Hall.
Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Moore, Deputy Quartermaster General of the Hillsborough district, was another Revolutionary War hero of note, commanding Person County troops in the Battle of Camden. He was taken prisoner and placed on the prison ship Torbay. In 1775-1776 he purchased property in the southern part of the county and named it Mt. Tirzah. His house, built in 1778 and still at its original site, has been recently renovated. Moore was buried near the house along with many other family members.
During the Civil War, Person County supplied between 800 and 1000 soldiers to the Confederate Army. A granite monument at the Person County Courthouse honors E. Fletcher Satterfield, who advanced the Confederate flag at Gettysburg.
Late 19th century
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 newly constructed Norfolk and Western Railroad was a major influence around 1890, as it enabled the addition of tobacco processing plants and warehouses to the rural economy. 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 textile manufacturing a major contributor to the local economy for decades. 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. Textile manufacturers have moved to other locations in the US and overseas.
20th & 21st centuries
Residential and commercial development have grown steadily over the past few years in part due to the county's location near the Research Triangle region. The Hyco Lake area and southern portion of the county have had an influx of new home and commercial development in the late 20th and early 21st-century. The county's largest employers are GKN, Eaton Corporation and Georgia-Pacific Corporation.
On the night of March 28, 2010 between 11:55pm and 12:05am EDT, an EF1 tornado packing winds of 70-85 mph struck the Timberlake and Rougemont community. This was one of at least eight tornadoes that hit North Carolina.
On the afternoon of April 16, 2011 at approximately 2:30pm EDT, an EF2 tornado struck the Bethel Hill community.