The discovery of artifacts in the area attests to the presence of Native Americans 10,000 years before European settlement. European colonization began along the banks of the Pee Dee River in the 1700s. In 1780, John Kirk, a Scotch-Irish settler, established a public ferry, linking the area to a major roadway. Local legends recount the passage of noted people, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Jefferson Davis.
Development of the park began in the 1930s through the efforts of a local committee interested in establishing a state park in the area. By 1937, more than 3,000 acres of land had been acquired, much of it donated by the citizens of Stanly County. The park was opened to the public in the summer of 1939.
Early development of park property was a cooperative effort between state and federal governments. Work crews of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Work Projects Administration constructed many of the facilities from 1937 to 1942. Additional facilities were added with state funds in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, the park covers 4,742 acres.
The 1800s are still alive at Morrow Mountain. History buffs will enjoy a visit to the homestead of Dr. Francis Kron, which is located at the foot of Fall Mountain. Dr. Kron, who was born in Prussia and emigrated to America in 1823, is recognized as the first medical doctor to settle and practice medicine in the southern piedmont of North Carolina. Dr. Kron traveled long distances to care for those in the area, practicing medicine until after the age of 80. A noted horticulturist, he was also actively involved in education. His home, doctor's office and infirmary, and greenhouse were reconstructed in the 1960s and appear today much as they did in 1870.