Southmountain was founded in 1903 in rural Rutherford County, NC by Emily Pruden as Golden Industrial Institute and is one of only two remaining institutions started by her, (the other being Phieffer College). Miss Emily founded the Institute to provide basic education and industrial skills to the children of rural Rutherford, McDowell, and Burke counties. However, during the era of the Great Depression, the focus of the Institute changed to that of an orphanage to provide care for children who had either lost their parents or whose parents could not afford to care for them. About the same time, the name of the Institute was changed to "Southmountain" to reflect the beautiful mountain range surrounding its location. Poor facilities and overcrowded conditions soon required the agency to look for a more appropriate location and, in 1935, the agency moved to its present home near Lake James, in Western Burke County, NC.
While our location has stayed the same since 1935, our programs of care and our facilities have continued to develop to meet the ever-increasing needs of our changing society.
Over the last few decades, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of children coming into care from extremely violent home situations; most have been severely physically, sexually, and emotionally abused and scarred. With these children as our main population, our overall goal is to begin a healing process for them in a loving environment supported by a wide array of self-esteem building, remedial education, and life skills enhancement programs. In addition, we provide services to families to facilitate reunification or adoption whenever possible. We also provide services geared towards child advocacy and child abuse prevention including child abuse investigation and intervention coordination.