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Home North Carolina Burke County City of Valdese Historical Markers Waldenses


Main Street, Valdese, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 35° 44' 29.6772", -81° 32' 59.928"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"A religious body dating from the Middle Ages. The town of Valdese was founded by members of this group in 1893."
     The Waldenses, or Waldensians, are a Christian sect founded in the 12th century by Peter Waldo. For many years the group was confined to a rugged area in the Cottian Alps along the boundary between Italy and France. During the 19th century many Waldenses emigrated to North and South America to form missionary colonies—not because of religious persecution but because their small strip of land in the Alps was overcrowded.

     The largest North American Waldensian colony is Valdese, in Burke County, where the first settlers arrived on May 29, 1893. In June, organizers led by Charles Albert Tron formed the Valdese Corporation, including Waldenses and American investors, and purchased 10,000 acres of land. Due to the undesirable layout of the land and the independent nature of the Waldenses, the corporation was an unpopular arrangement. It was dissolved the following year when the Rev. Barthelemy Soulier arrived in Valdese to replace the leadership lost when Tron returned to Italy to recruit more colonists.

    In 1895 the Waldensian Church in Valdese united with the Presbyterian Church, which shared similar structure and theology. The Waldensian Hosiery Mill was established in 1901 and the yarn factory, Valdese Manufacturing Company, in 1913. Valdese became a hub of the American textile industry. Valdese was incorporated on February 17, 1920. Since 1967 an outdoor drama, From this Day Forward, has been performed each summer by Valdese’s Old Colony Players. The saga features authentic costumes and folk dances that highlight the heritage of North Carolina’s Waldensian settlers.

Edward W. Phifer Jr., Burke: The History of a North Carolina County (1977)
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)—essay by Lala Carr Steelman
George B. Watts, The Waldenses of Valdese (1965)
Maxine McCall and Kays Gary, What Mean These Stones?: A Centennial Celebration of Valdese, North Carolina (1993)
Randall Cotton and others, Historic Burke: An Architectural Sites Inventory of Burke County (1987)
Waldenses Historical Marker Location Map, Valdese, North Carolina