It was named for Thomas Burke, then serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress (1777 to 1781).
He was later elected as Governor of North Carolina, serving from 1781 to 1782.
Indigenous peoples inhabited the interior as well as the coastal areas for thousands of years.
Native Americans of the Mississippian culture inhabited the county long before Europeans arrived in the New World.
The largest Mound Builder settlement was at Joara, a 12-acre (49,000 m In 1567, a Spanish expedition arrived and built Fort San Juan, claiming the area for the colony of Spanish Florida.
They had been sent by the governor at Santa Elena (Parris Island) in South Carolina.
In 1841, parts of Burke and Wilkes counties were combined to form Caldwell County.
Burke County citizens participated in the Battle of Kings Mountain, which pitted Appalachian frontiersmen against the Loyalist forces of the British commander Ferguson at Kings Mountain, SC in the American Revolution.
of 2000, there were 89,148 people, 34,528 households, and 24,342 families residing in the county.
The population density was 176 people per square mile (68/km²).
3.57% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 34,528 households out of which 31.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.90% were married couples living together, 11.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.50% were non-families.