West Jefferson was incorporated in 1909. At one time, West Jefferson had the distinction of having the only cheese factory in the southeastern United States. For many decades West Jefferson was served by the Norfolk and Western Railroad, better known as the "Virginia Creeper". The railroad was the primary reason for the creation of West Jefferson, as the town became a major stop on the railway. With the decline of the railroad and the loss of textile factory jobs to foreign markets, West Jefferson's economy is increasingly devoted to the tourism industry. The town's location in the Appalachian Mountains has led to a large number of tourists visiting the area each year, and many out-of-state tourists have begun to build cabins and housing developments around the town.
The West Jefferson Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
West Jefferson is situated in the Appalachian Mountain chain, in a valley between Mount Jefferson (to the east) and Paddy Mountain (to the west).
West Jefferson is located at 36°23′43″N 81°29′30″W (36.395181, -81.491742).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 2.1 square miles (5.4 km2), all of it land.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,081 people, 527 households, and 290 families residing in the town. The population density was 619.2 people per square mile (238.5/km²). There were 601 housing units at an average density of 344.3 per square mile (132.6/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 94.73% White, 0.37% African American, 1.57% Native American, 0.28% Asian, 0.19% Pacific Islander, 2.04% from other races, and 0.83% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.27% of the population.
There were 527 households out of which 22.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.4% were married couples living together, 11.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.8% were non-families. 41.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.02 and the average family size was 2.69.
In the town, the population was spread out with 19.3% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 25.2% from 25 to 44, 23.5% from 45 to 64, and 23.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 87.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.0 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $24,479, and the median income for a family was $35,000. Males had a median income of $22,800 versus $18,819 for females. The per capita income for the town was $19,799. About 11.2% of families and 18.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.0% of those under age 18 and 16.9% of those age 65 or over.
West Jefferson is the home of soda manufacturers West Jefferson Dr Pepper (WJDP). The company is known for producing all their non-diet products with cane sugar, most of which are Dr Pepper Snapple Group (formerly Dr Pepper/Seven Up) products but also include Mountain Dew. WJDP is one of only two non-Pepsi franchises existing in the United States that is allowed to produce Mountain Dew.
The company does not ship outside its contracted territory, but several websites sell the product at a premium price. The premium price has been justified by the fact that WJDP is one of the last bottlers in the U.S. to use cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.
Ashe County has two newspapers. The oldest covering West Jefferson and Ashe County is the Jefferson Post, which publishes twice weekly and is distributed throughout the county via subscription and newsstand sales. It is owned by Civitas Media, which operates a large chain of small-town newspapers. www.jeffersonpost.com
The second newspaper is the "Ashe Mountain Times",known as the newspaper of content publishes once a week and is distributed through subscription and newsstand sales.It is the largest newspaper in Ashe County according to US Postal filings. It is owned by Jones Media publishing company and is a sister publication of the Watauga Democrat in Boone, North Carolina.