North Carolina Colony

1655–1763

North Carolina Colony facts about the history, geography, and people of Colonial North Carolina, which was one of the 13 Colonies that declared independence from Great Britain. North Carolina was founded in 1712, after having been part of the larger Carolina Colony. It is also closely linked to the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island.

North Carolina Colony, Blue Ridge Mountains, NPS

The Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. Image Source: National Park Service.

North Carolina Colony Facts

The North Carolina Colony was officially founded in 1712, after having been part of the Carolina Colony since 1663. The earliest attempts to settle the region, including the Roanoke Island Colony, were failures. However, the successful establishment of Jamestown led to growth and expansion, and Virginia colonists migrated south into North Carolina. In 1663, King Charles II issued the charter for Carolina Colony to a group of men known as the Lords Proprietors. Following Bacon’s Rebellion, the northern district of Carolina, known as Albemarle Province, experienced growth and was separated from the southern district, known as Clarendon Province, in 1712. By 1729, King George II had purchased nearly all the rights to land in North Carolina, and it transitioned from a Proprietary Colony to a Royal Colony.

Throughout its history, North Carolina has been known as Carolina, Albemarle Province, the Province of North Carolina, the Colony of North Carolina, and the North Carolina Colony.

Carolina Colony Map, 1695, North Carolina and South Carolina
This 1695 map of Carolina shows North Carolina as Albemarle County. Image Source: History of North Carolina by Samuel A. Ashe, 1908, Archive.org.

Early European Settlements in North Carolina

The earliest settlements that were made in present-day North Carolina were first established in a territory under the control of the Virginia Colony. 

Due to a lack of conflict with Native American Indians in the early decades of settlement, there was little need for the protection of large settlements. Because of this, towns were slow to form.

It is believed the first permanent English settlement in present-day North Carolina was made in 1655 when a home was built beside Salmon Creek at the western end of the Albemarle Sound for Nathaniel Batts on land he bought from the Yeopim Tribe. 

On August 4, 1661, George Durant bought land from Cisketando, a Yeopim chief. Soon after, on March 13, 1662, Durant bought more land. The deed for the purchase still exists, and the land is part of present-day Durant’s Neck.

Charles Town was established on the Cape Fear River in 1665 by Sir John Yeamans and immigrants from Barbados. The town was abandoned in 1667.

By 1691, people were referring to Carolina by its geographical divisions of North Carolina and South Carolina. North Carolina was connected with the Virginia immigrants and the Cavaliers who supported the Crown. South Carolina was linked to immigrants from Barbados, who founded the second Charles Town — present-day Charleston, South Carolina — in 1670. 

In 1700, a trading post was established on Alligator Creek called Fort Landing.

Settlers spread out around Fort Landing along the Scuppernong River and Kendrick Creek. 

Settlers also spread out and moved up the Alligator River in the southeastern part of present-day Tyrell County.

North Carolina’s first town, Bath, was established in 1705 by French Huguenots from Virginia.

In 1710, New Bern was established by a group of Swiss and German immigrants led by Baron Christoph von Graffenried from Bern, Switzerland.

Growth and Expansion of North Carolina Colony

From 1691 to 1712, the division between North Carolina and South Carolina grew. During these 30 years, each of them started to gain their own identity, which was based on their unique cultural makeup, economic opportunities, and religious affiliations. North Carolina was officially separated from South Carolina in 1712.

  • Edenton was established in 1715 and was originally known as the “towne on Queen Anne’s Creek.”
  • Beaufort was officially established in 1722 when it was given status as a seaport for collecting customs duties. Before 1722, it was known as “Fish Town.”
  • Hertford was established in 1722 as Perquimans Court House.
  • Brunswick Town was established along the Cape Fear River in 1726 by Englishmen who moved from Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Wilmington was laid out in 1733 as New Carthage. It was across from Brunswick Town.

From 1733 to 1775, at least 49 towns are known to have been established in North Carolina, including Cumberland Court House (1754), Hillsborough (1754), Salem (1766), Winton (1768), Charlotte Town (1768), Exeter (1768), and Martinsville (1775).

North Carolina Colony Government and Charters

From 1663 to 1712, North Carolina, or Albemarle Province, was part of the Carolina Colony. The charters that were issued to Carolina applied to North Carolina and South Carolina. When the colony was established, the Lords Proprietors intended it to be one colony, with one government. Over time, the geographic and economic differences between the regions created a need for separate governments, leading to the division of Carolina into two colonies, with separate governments.

King Charles II, Crowned at Westminster Abbey
King Charles II. Image Source: Wikimedia.

1663 Carolina Charter

Date Granted — King Charles II granted the charter for the Carolina Colony on March 4, 1663.

Recipients of the Charter — The charter was granted to Edward Earl of Clarendon, George Duke of Albemarle, William Lord Craven, John Lord Berkley, Anthony Lord Ashley, Sir George Carteret, Sir William Berkley, and Sir John Colleton. Collectively, these men are known as the Lords Proprietors.

First Government — The charter granted the Lords Proprietors the authority to defend the colony, appoint public officials, establish courts, and establish towns. Under the charter, Carolina was free to govern itself, as long as its laws were based on English law at the time, and were given the “consent of the free people there.” 

The charter itself did not specify the structure of the government, but that was outlined by the Lords Proprietors in their Declaration and Proposals that were issued after the charter was granted.

The charter gave the inhabitants the ability to conduct trade and specified that customs duties were to be paid, which would be per the Navigation Acts. It also granted religious freedom.

In 1664, Sir William Berkeley, the Governor of Virginia, organized a government for Albemarle District, in the northern part of the colony. He appointed William Drummond as the Governor. 

Governor William Berkeley, Virginia
William Berkeley. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

In 1665, John Yeamans received a commission as the Governor of Clarendon. However, the Clarendon settlement did not prosper and the county was dissolved in 1669.

In 1670, Yeamans appointed William Sayle as the first Governor of Charles Town.

Type of Charter and Colony — Because the charter was granted to a group, it was a Proprietary Charter, which made Carolina a Proprietary Colony.

Key Provisions of the 1663 Charter

  1. The Lords Proprietors were identified and given permission to establish a colony in “parts of America not yet cultivated or planted, and only inhabited by some barbarous people, who have no knowledge of Almighty God.”
  2. The charter was granted to the Lords Proprietors because they intended to help enlarge the Kingdom of England and spread Christianity.
  3. The charter gave the Proprietors broad powers to enact laws, enforce them, and impose penalties. However, all laws had to conform to English law.
  4. The Proprietors were allowed to designate authority to “deputies, lieutenants, judges, justices, magistrates, officers and members” and were allowed to choose them on their own.
  5. The charter did not require a General Assembly.
  6. Religious freedom was allowed for people did not conform to the Church of England.

Declaration and Proposals of the Lord Proprietor of Carolina

The Declaration and Proposals were finalized by the Lords Proprietors on August 25, 1663. The key points were:

  1. The colony would be established on the Charles River, near Cape Fear.
  2. The colonists were permitted to fortify the entrance to the river.
  3. The colonists were instructed to identify 13 people and the Lords Proprietors would choose a Governor and Governor’s Council. The Council would include six people.
  4. A General Assembly was authorized to make laws, which had to be approved by the Lords Proprietors.
  5. Freedom of religion was established.
  6. A modified version of the Headright System was established. Indentured servants were granted land when their contracts were completed. Men who owned a musket were to be granted 50 acres of land. Women were to be granted 30 acres. Men who did not provide a musket were to be given 10 acres.
  7. Taxes were set at one-half penny for every acre and were to be used to build courthouses and public meeting houses.

Concessions and Agreements of the Lords Proprietors

In 1665, a group of English immigrants from Barbados, led by Major William Yeamans, wanted to settle in Carolina. The Lords Proprietors worked out an agreement with Yeamans known as the “Concessions and Agreements” that applied to the entire Carolina Colony and was intended to encourage immigration. 

The Concessions and Agreements made modifications to the 1663 Declaration and Proposals, including:

  • The establishment of three counties — “Countye of Clarendine the County of Albermarle and the County which latter is to bee to the southward or westward of Cape Romania all within the Province aforesaid.” The third county was eventually called Craven County.
  • There was to be a Governor for each county and the Governor had the authority to appoint a Governor’s Council of 6-12 people.
  • Each county was instructed to keep accurate and organized records of public affairs. Land transactions were required to include oaths of at least two witnesses.
  • All government officials were required to swear an Oath of Loyalty to the English monarch. Freemen had to swear an Oath of Loyalty to the Crown and be faithful to the Lords Proprietors.
  • Government officials and Freemen were allowed religious freedom. Further, the General Assemblies were allowed to appoint ministers and determine their compensation.
  • A General Assembly was established and given the right to levy taxes.

North Carolina’s Second Charter

In 1665, another charter was granted to the Lords Proprietors by King Charles II. The second charter altered the boundaries of the province, which were made to be 36’ 30’ on the north and 29’ on the south. The change moved the Albemarle Region within the colony’s boundaries.

The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina

In 1669, the Lords Proprietors issued the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina. Also known as the “Grand Model,” it created a new government structure for Carolina that set up a nobility and diminished the power of the General Assembly. The Constitutions was controversial. It was modified several times and suspended from 1693 to 1698. The Proprietors created the Constitutions to help protect their interests and keep the government from developing into a democracy. Most of the provisions were never fully implemented or they were simply ignored.

Facts About Nature in North Carolina Colony

Geography — The North Carolina Colony was located on the East Coast. To the North was Virginia. To the South was South Carolina. The territory of North Carolina stretched West to the Pacific Coast.

Terrain — The terrain of North Carolina was dominated by the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont Region, and the Appalachian Mountains. The Coastal Plain includes the Outer Banks. Moving inland, the Albemarle Sound and Pamlico Sound lead to relatively flat terrain with fertile soil. The terrain transitions to the Piedmont Region, which features rolling hills that extend to the Appalachian Mountains and their foothills. In this region are smaller mountain ranges, including the Great Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, Great Balsam Mountains, Pisgah Mountains, and the Black Mountains.

The Appalachian Mountains. Image Source: National Park Service.

Climate — The Southern Regions of Colonial America were the warmest of the three regions. Along the Coastal Plain of North Carolina, the Atlantic Ocean helped maintain mild winters and moderate summers, however, the Coastal Plain received the most rain. The Piedmont Region was less humid and had less precipitation, leading to hotter summers and colder winters. The mountain regions were by far the coldest area of the colony, and winters experienced heavy snowfall and subfreezing temperatures. The climate in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont Region was good for farming.

Natural Resources — North Carolina Colony primarily thrived as an agricultural plantation economy that emphasized the cultivation of cash crops, including tobacco. Other important crops were corn, vegetables, grain, fruit, and eventually cotton. However, livestock, especially hogs and cattle, were popular in North Carolina. The colony also made use of the forests, especially pine trees, to produce lumber, tar, pitch, and turpentine, which were exported to England for use by the Royal Navy.

Facts About the Society in North Carolina Colony

Religion — When Carolina was founded, colonists were given religious freedom. All the Lords Proprietors were members of the Church of England, but Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, was an advocate of religious freedom. North Carolina was a haven for Protestant sects, such as the Quakers, who were labeled as “Dissenters” by the Anglicans. Several times the General Assembly declared the Church of England as the official church of North Carolina, which led to political disagreements with the Dissenters. Following the division of Carolina into two colonies in 1712, there was more tolerance for different religious groups.

Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, 1672, Portrait
The First Earl of Shaftesbury. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Industry — Besides agriculture, the main industry in North Carolina was the the production of what were called “naval stores.” This included tar, pitch, turpentine, and other items used to build sailing ships. These items were manufactured from pine trees, and North Carolina had an abundance of Longleaf Pine Trees in the Colonial Era. The growth of the Naval Stores industry in North Carolina was aided by the 1705 Naval Stores Act, which required the British Royal Navy to purchase items from the American Colonies at inflated prices.

Economy — The economy of the colony was dependent on the Triangular Trade System and the Transatlantic Slave Trade because plantation owners needed to acquire a workforce. North Carolina’s economy was also dependent on trading goods and natural resources with other colonies, including Virginia, and the production of Naval Stores for the British Royal Navy.

Slavery — Slavery was part of society in North Carolina from its earliest days, as it was a common practice among the Indian tribes living in the region. Slavery was also practiced by European settlers, however, the isolation of early settlements kept North Carolina from being heavily involved in the Transatlantic Slave Trade until the 18th Century. Once Wilmington was established at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, it became a port that was accessible to the ships of slave traders and a destination for ships crossing the Middle Passage. It is estimated that there were 40,000 enslaved people in North Carolina in 1767.

Slave Auction, South Carolina
This illustration depicts a slave auction in Charleston, South Carolina. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Interesting Facts About North Carolina Colony

North Carolina Colony was Geographically Isolated

North Carolina was less prominent due to its isolation. The Outer Banks were treacherous for ships and created limited access to the ocean. Only the Cape Fear River provides access to a deepwater port.

North Carolina had Strict Slave Codes

Like the other colonies, North Carolina enacted laws known as “Slave Codes” that restricted the rights of all slaves. It was common in Colonial America for people of European descent to fear slave uprisings, and the Slave Codes were meant to keep slaves from planning rebellions. The laws were typically aimed at keeping slaves from moving about freely, congregating, or having access to weapons. 

The first Slave Codes were passed in 1714:

  • Slaves were required to carry a pass with them when they were away from their owner’s property. The pass had to include where they were from, where they were going, and why they were traveling.
  • Slaves were also prohibited from gathering for any reason, including religious services.
  • Whites were also required to help hunt down escaped slaves and return them to their owners.

The second set of Slave Codes was passed in 1741:

  • Slaves were prohibited from raising their own livestock.
  • Slaves were prohibited from carrying guns unless they had permission from their owners.
  • The codes allowed escaped slaves to be shot if they refused to give themselves up.

These Slave Codes allowed owners to “manumit” or free slaves, but it required approval from the county court. If a slave was freed, they had six months to leave North Carolina.

North Carolina Had Laws Against Witches

Like the other colonies in the Colonial Era, North Carolina had incidents of witchcraft. On December 3, 1679, a law was enacted directing local juries to investigate “felonies, witchcraft, enchantments, sorceries, and magick arts, among other crimes.” Despite the law, only a handful of court cases are documented:

  1. In 1680, a woman in Perquimans Precinct was charged with witchcraft and jailed.
  2. In 1703, Deborah Bouthier accused Susannah Evans of witchcraft. Evans died a month later and Thomas Bouthier filed a lawsuit against Evans on charges of witchcraft. The jury included someone who was familiar with the Salem Witch Trials and ruled Evans was not a witch. In fact, the jury ridiculed Bouthier by saying, “We of the jury find no bill and the person [Bouthier] Ignoramus. It is ordered that the said Susannah Evans be acquitted.”
  3. Mary Rookes was accused of witchcraft by two people in 1706. She was acquitted on all charges and her accusers were fined by the court.

North Carolina Colony Timeline

Before 1500

Before 1500, North Carolina was home to Native American Indian communities. 

Small tribes lived along the East Coast and they were connected because they spoke Algonquian dialects. Some of the tribes were the Roanoke, Hatteras, Secotan, Weapemoac, and Chowan.

East Central North Carolina was dominated by the Tuscarora but was also home to smaller tribes such as the Merrin and Wateree. These tribes spoke Iroquian dialects. 

To the north and south of the Tuscarora were smaller tribes that spoke Siouan dialects. Some of the northern tribes were the Occaneechi and Eno. Some of the southern tribes were the Cape Fear, Woccon, and Waccamaw.

Various Sioan-speaking tribes populated West Central North Carolina, including the Tutelo, Saponie, and Waxhaw. The most prominent tribe in the region was the Catawba.

Western North Carolina was dominated by the Cherokee, another Iroquian-speaking tribe.

1524 — Giovanni da Verrazano

The first European explorer of North Carolina was Giovanni da Verrazano, commissioned by King Francis I of France to find the Northwest Passage. In 1524, Verrazano saw land near Cape Fear and went ashore around March 21 at a place he called “Selva di Lauri,” meaning Forest of Laurels. Verrazano sailed further south to present-day Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras. He named the land there “Annunciata.” Verrazano believed the land was an isthmus separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Pacific Ocean. After leaving North Carolina, Verrazano explored the coasts of New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Maine.

1526 — Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón

In 1526, Spanish official Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón, inspired by Verrazano’s expedition, tried to establish a colony near the mouth of the Cape Fear River. The area was a poor choice because it was marshy and infested with mosquitos. The expedition, which included roughly 500 men and women, including Friars and slaves, struggled from the start. Ayllón’s settlement was plagued by Indian attacks, dissension, and disease. Ayllón himself died after contracting a fever. The settlement was abandoned within a year and the 150 survivors returned to Santo Domingo.

1540 — Hernando De Soto in North Carolina

From 1539 to 1543, Hernando De Soto, a Spanish Conquistador, led an expedition through what would become the southwest United States. De Soto intended to conquer the region and bring it under Spanish control. The expedition crossed the North Carolina mountains en route to Tennessee and beyond. De Soto kept a detailed journal during his expedition, which is a valuable written account of the time. The expedition ultimately failed. De Soto died in Louisiana and was buried in the Mississippi River. His men returned to Spanish settlements in Mexico.

1584–1590 — Raleigh’s Expeditions and the Lost Colony

Starting in 1585, Sir Walter Raliegh financed expeditions that tried to establish a colony on Roanoke Island. See “The Lost Colony — England’s First Colony in North America on Roanoke Island” for the history of Raleigh’s expeditions and the Roanoke Island Colony.

Lost Colony, Roanoke Island, Croatoan Carving
This illustration depicts John White finding the word “Croatoan” carved into a tree on Roanoke Island in 1590. Image Source: Wikipedia.

1590

Theodore De Bry published an illustrated edition of Thomas Hariot’s “A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia.” This edition contains engravings based on John White’s watercolor maps of the North Carolina coast that he made during one of the Raleigh Expeditions.

1607–1620 — Jamestown and Virginia Exploration

Between 1607 and 1620, Jamestown was established and survived, making it the first permanent English settlement in America. Over time, Jamestown sent expeditions out to explore the area, including North Carolina. The expeditions made contact with Indian tribes throughout North Carolina and led to the slow expansion of the Virginia Colony southward into North Carolina.

Landing at Jamestown, Illustration
This illustration depicts the colonists landing in Virginia in 1607. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

1629 — Sir Robert Heath and Carolana

In 1629, King Charles I claimed the region south of Virginia and named it “Carolana.” Charles granted the territory to Sir Robert Heath, a member of the  Council of the Virginia Company, who also owned land in Virginia. Carolana was between 31 degrees and 36 degrees North latitude in the New World. It was bout thirty miles north of the present-day Florida state line to the southern side of Albemarle Sound in North Carolina. Other than Roanoke Island, it did not include the territory already explored by Virginians since 1607. Heath was unsuccessful in establishing any settlements in the area and eventually lost his property rights during the English Civil Wars.

1650

Around 1650, Virginia officials started granting land to settlers in North Carolina. These early settlements were established by Virginians in the area around present-day Albemarle Sound. Growth in the area was slow. By 1663, it is estimated only 500 people were living in these settlements.

1651

Puritans in England removed Sir William Berkeley as Governor of Virginia and replaced him with Richard Bennett. Some Virginians, upset by the change, decided to move south to North Carolina.

1655 — Nathaniel Batts, First Permanent English Settlement in North Carolina

The first permanent settlement in North Carolina was made by Nathaniel Batts beside Salmon Creek at the western end of the Albemarle Sound for Nathaniel Batts on land he bought from the Yeopim Tribe.

1660 — Stuart Restoration

In 1649, Parliament abolished the monarchy and executed King Charles I. His son, the future Charles II, fled to France for safety. For the next 11 years, Oliver Cromwell ruled England and its growing empire. When Cromwell died in 1658, his government started to collapse and the English nobles, known as “Royalists,” helped restore the monarchy and Charles II became King of England in 1660. This event is known as the “Stuart Restoration.”

Oliver Cromwell, Portrait
Oliver Cromwell. Image Source: Wikipedia.

1662

In August 1662, William Hilton Jr. sailed from Charlestown, Massachusetts to North Carolina on his ship Adventurer. He explored the coast of North Carolina and gathered information that helped Nicholas Shapley draw a detailed map of the Cape Fear Area.

Sir William Berkeley notified settlers in North Carolina who purchased lands from Indians that they also needed to obtain a grant for the same land from Virginia. Berkeley was the Governor of Virginia and one of the Lords Proprietors. This created conflict between some settlers regarding land ownership. For example, George Catchmaid was given a grant by Virginia for the land occupied by George Durant.

1663

A group of people from New England attempted to establish a settlement on Old Town Creek, about halfway between Wilmington and Brunswick. on land they bought from the local Indians. Virginians living in the area were upset because they had already settled in the area and claimed the land. The settlement was quickly abandoned after it was attacked by local Indians.

1663 — The Lords Proprietors of Carolina Colony

In 1663, King Charles II rewarded eight nobles who helped restore him to the throne with a charter for a new colony, “Carolina.” The nobles, known as the Lords Proprietors, were given extensive authority over the colony, which was similar in size to Heath’s Carolana. The northern border was near the present-day border of Virginia and North Carolina. The southern was south of Spanish St. Augustine. It was a “sea to sea” charter, so the colony stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Afterward, the Lords Proprietors issued the “Declaration and Proposals of the Lord Proprietor of Carolina” which organized the government and implemented a modified version of the Headright System that was used by Virginia and Maryland.

1663

William Hilton was hired by a group of businessmen to explore the coast of North Carolina for a second time. Hilton explored the area from October to December. The following year, he published a book called “A Relation of a Discovery Lately Made on the Coast of Florida.”

1664 — First Counties in Carolina

By 1664, there were three regions in Carolina. They are typically referred to as counties but sometimes are referred to as provinces, indicating they were viewed as separate colonies with the territory of Carolina.

  1. Albemarle County included all lands that were settled by Virginians along the Albemarle Sound
  2. Clarendon County was the area around the Cape Fear River in what is present-day Brunswick County. It was here that John Yeamans established Charles Town in 1665. 
  3. Craven County included all lands south of Clarendon County to present-day northern Florida. This county also included most of most of present-day South Carolina.

The boundaries for these counties were never surveyed.

1664 — Charles Town in North Carolina

The businessmen who hired Hilton to carry out his 1663 expedition disagreed over where to establish settlements and split. One group, led by John Vassall, favored a site along the Cape Fear River. The other, led by John Yeamans, preferred Port Royal in present-day South Carolina.

Vassall moved ahead with his plan and the first settlers landed on May 29, 1664. They disembarked on the Cape Fear River and established their settlement on the west bank, north of Town Creek. They called it “Charles Town,” in honor of King Charles II.

1665 — Second Carolina Charter

By this time, there were approximately 200-500 Virginians living in the Albemarle Sound Region. Most of them were Anglicans who did not tolerate religious dissenters, such as Quakers.

The Lords Proprietors asked King Charles II to modify the original charter and expand the northern border of Carolina so it included the territory around Albemarle Sound. The northern boundary of the colony was moved a half degree north.

1665 — Concessions and Agreements

In 1665, the other group, led by Yeamans, brokered an agreement with the Lords Proprietors known as the “Concessions and Agreements,” for the Port Royal settlement. The agreement applied to the entire Carolina Colony and was intended to encourage immigration.

Yeamans was appointed Governor of Clarendon County, but his jurisdiction included Vassall’s settlement on the Cape Fear River.

In October, Yeamans visited Charles Town on his way to Port Royal and found the colonists in desperate need of supplies. He sent a supply ship to Virginia, but it was wrecked on the return trip. Yeamans left Charles Town in December and never returned.

Charles Towne continued to struggle and was neglected by the Lords Proprietors. A hurricane struck the East Coast in 1667, and Charles Towne suffered significant damage. The inhabitants decided to abandon the settlement and went to places like Barbados, the Albemarle settlements, and Virginia.

For the next 50 years, no serious attempt to settle the area was made, due to the indifference of the Lords Proprietors and threats from Indians and pirates.

1669 — Fundamental Constitutions

In 1669, the Lords Proprietors drafted the Fundamental Constitutions in an attempt to establish a better government for Carolina. The Fundamental Constitutions were heavily influenced by John Locke, who is historically given credit as the author. Under the Fundamental Constitutions, Carolina was supposed to transition to more of a Feudal System and even included a social structure that included nobility with Barons. The Fundamental Constitutions were met with significant opposition. Despite being modified several times, they were essentially ignored, however, the authority of the General Assembly was limited while the Fundamental Constitutions were in place.

1670s — George Durant

George Durant led a political faction that opposed the Lords Proprietors. Durant also lobbied against restrictions on shipments of tobacco from the Albemarle Region to Virginia, which were part of the Navigation Acts. Durant and other merchants in Albemarle turned to smuggling to avoid paying customs duties on shipments of tobacco to ports in New England and Europe. These disagreements contributed to Culpeper’s Rebellion, which started in 1677.

1672 — Fox Visits Batts

In 1672, George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers), visited Carolina and met with Nathaniel Batts at his plantation. According to Fox, Batts was a “rude…desperate man. Fox also referred to Batts as the “Governor of Roanoke” and said that Batts referred to himself as the “Old Governor.”

1676 — Bacon’s Rebellion

Bacon’s Rebellion (1676–1677) took place primarily in Virginia. It was the first rebellion in 17th Century Colonial America.

According to an early historian of the rebellion, Robert Beverley, the establishment of Carolina was one of the causes. Beverley said, “The Splitting the Colony into Proprieties, contrary to the original Charters; and the extravagant Taxes they were forced to undergo, to relieve themselves from those Grants.”

During the rebellion, William Drummond allied himself with Nathaniel Bacon. Following Bacon’s death, the rebellion collapsed. Drummond was one of the men executed by order of Sir William Berkeley, the Governor of Virginia and one of the Lords Proprietors.

Following Bacon’s Rebellion, migration from Virginia to North Carolina increased.

1677 — Culpeper’s Rebellion

Culpeper’s Rebellion, which took place in 1677–1678, was a short-lived revolt against taxation and oppressive government in the Albemarle Sound region of the Province of Carolina. It was the second rebellion in 17th Century Colonial America. The rebels controlled the colony for about two years before the government was restored to control of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina. See “Culpeper’s Rebellion — Carolina Rebels Against the Navigation Acts” for the history of Culpeper’s Rebellion and a list of key people who were involved.

1679 — Seth Sothel

Seth Sothel was commissioned as the Governor of Albemarle County after he became one of the Lords Proprietors. Sothel bought out Henry Hyde, the 2nd Earl of Clarendon, who had inherited his share from his father Edward Hyde, the 1st Earl of Clarendon and one of the original Lords Proprietors. However, on his journey to North Carolina, Sothel was captured by Turkish pirates. 

In place of Sothel, George Durant governed the colony, even though he did not hold the official title of Governor. Durant restored order and granted pardons to the people involved in Culpeper’s Rebellion. He also enforced the Navigation Acts and the collection of customs duties.

1683

Sothel arrived in North Carolina in 1683, however, he was corrupt. The General Assembly removed him from office and banished him. This led to a period of instability, which ended in 1691 when Philip Ludwell was appointed governor. North Carolina was relatively stable until 1711 when Cary’s Rebellion took place.

1696 — Bath Founded

By 1696, the population had increased enough on the south side of Albemarle Sound that a new county was created — Bath County. The town of Bath was settled in 1705 and incorporated in 1706.

1700 — Reverend Daniel Brett

Due to concerns that the Church of England does not have a strong presence in North Carolina, Reverend Daniel Brett is sent to the colony.

1701 — Church of England Established by the Vestry Act

In 1701, the Vestry Act was passed. It divided the colony into parishes for the Church of England and required people to pay a tax to support priests and build churches. Although “Dissenters” such as the Quakers were still allowed to worship as they saw fit, they objected to the tax. The disagreement led to a battle between Quaker and Anglican factions for control of the government.

1705 — Naval Stores Act

In 1705, Parliament passed the Naval Stores Act, which increased the production of tar, pitch, turpentine, rosin, hemp, and masts in the American Colonies for the Royal Navy. To encourage colonists to produce these products, the act required the Navy to pay inflated prices. 

Carolina was able to take advantage of the act, because pine forests were abundant, and were used to make these products.

When the act was first passed, most naval stores were produced in areas that would become part of South Carolina. By 1720, enough people moved into the Cape Fear Region that the production of naval stores increased. The production of naval stores became one of the main industries in North Carolina’s coastal region.

This contributed to the growth and development of new settlements and ports, including Brunswick and Wilmington.

1705

Charles Griffin, the first schoolteacher in North Carolina, started a school in Pasquotank County.

1708

Thomas Cary was appointed Governor. The Quakers do not approve of him and sent John Porter to England to petition for his removal. Eventually, the Lords Proprietors agreed to remove Cary, however, he retained his office until 1711.

1710 — New Bern Founded

In 1710, Baron Christoph von Graffenried, a Swiss nobleman, was permitted to settle 650 Swiss and Germans on 17,500 acres of land along the Neuse River. He called his settlement Neuse-Bern, which was later called New Bern. Although von Graffenreid bought the land from the Tuscarora, the tribe still carried out attacks and raids on the settlement. However, the settlement survived and eventually became the first capital of North Carolina.

1710

Tuscarora people living on the Roanoke River and Tar-Pamlico River sent a petition to the government of Pennsylvania protesting the seizure of their lands and enslavement of their people by settlers in Carolina.

1711 — The Tuscarora War Begins

Baron von Graffenried, surveyor Jon Lawson, and two African slaves were captured and taken as prisoners by the Tuscarora in early September. Lawson was eventually executed.

On September 22, the Tuscarora carried out a series of surprise attacks along the Neuse, Pamlico, and Trent Rivers. The Tuscarora took between twenty and thirty prisoners and killed approximately 130 to 140 settlers. 

Retaliatory attempts by the settlers only led to more death and destruct, and Bath County was nearly abandoned during the Tuscarora War.

1711 — Cary’s Rebellion

After George Fox established a Quaker Meeting House in Albemarle County, the Quakers grew in North Carolina. By the early 18th century, they held many important political positions, which upset Anglicans. 

In 1702, Queen Anne ascended the English throne, requiring oaths of allegiance from all royal officeholders in England and the colonies. Due to their religious beliefs, the Quakers refused the oath but promised their loyalty. Anglican leaders rejected this and removed the Quakers from their positions.

In 1705, Thomas Cary was appointed Governor and favored the Anglicans. Quakers responded by asking the Lords Proprietors to replace him, which they did. However, Cary changed his views and sided with the Quakers. 

The new Governor, Edward Hyde, arrived in 1711, and Cary refused to give up power. Hyde organized a small army of 150 supporters and tried to capture Cary, but failed. After Virginia sent troops to help Hyde, Cary was taken prisoner and sent to England to stand trial before the Lords Proprietors.

When no one went to London to testify against him, Cary was released and returned to North Carolina, where he lived until his death in 1720.

1712 — North Carolina and South Carolina Officially Divided

In January, Edward Hyde was commissioned as Governor of North Carolina. North Carolina was officially separated from South Carolina.

1712 — South Carolina Retaliates Against the Tuscarora

South Carolina organized an expedition that included 30 men and 500 Indian allies, mostly Yamasees. The expedition was led by Colonel John Barnwell.

Barnwell and his men marched through the North Carolina countryside, capturing Narhantes, a Tuscarora fort, demolishing more than 350 Tuscarora homes, and setting fire to fields of corn. Barnwell was surprised to find out that some of the fiercest Tuscarora warriors were women. Many of the survivors of the attack were captured and enslaved by the Yamasee.

Next, Barnwell’s army laid siege to the Tuscarora stronghold called Hancock’s Town. Barnwell was able to negotiate a truce with the Tuscarora and end hostilities. However, during the return march to South Carolina, Barnwell and his allies captured more Tuscaroras and enslaved them. Outraged, the Tuscarora resumed their attacks against English settlements and Yamasee villages in the summer.

1712

On September 8, During an outbreak of yellow fever, Governor Hyde died.

1713

In 1713, another South Carolina expedition, commanded by Colonel James Moore, consisting of 33 whites and 1,000 Indian allies, including Cherokees, attacked the Tuscarora at Fort Nohoroco on March 25. An estimated 950 Tuscarora — men, women, and children, are killed or captured. Most captives were sold into slavery. The defeat effectively ended Tuscarora resistance to English expansion in North Carolina. Many Tuscaroras decided to leave North Carolina entirely and relocate to New York, where they joined the Iroquois Confederacy.

In 1715, the Cape Fear Indians numbered approximately 206 people in five towns along the river. Following the defeat of major tribes in North Carolina, the Cape Fear Indians fled south.

1715

North Carolina signed a treaty with the remaining Tuscarora, who agreed to live on a reservation along the Pamlico River.

The General Assembly declared the Church of England to be North Carolina’s official church.

The first Slave Codes were adopted, placing limitations on the rights of enslaved people. Minorities, including blacks and Indians, were denied the right to vote by the General Assembly.

1715 — Yamasee War Starts

In April, the Yamasee and their Indian allies carried out attacks on white traders and their families in South Carolina, killing around 90 settlers. 

North Carolina sent a small expedition of 100 men — settlers and Tuscarora — to help. The expedition was led by Colonel Maurice Moore and Colonel Theophilus Hastings. Marching overland, Moore attacked towns belonging to the Waccamaw Tribe and Cape Fear Tribe.

See Yamasee War (1715—1717) for more information.

1718 — The End of Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet

By 1718, the pirate Edward Teach, famously known as “Blackbeard,” had established a base of operations near Bath. From there, he threatened all ships — foreign, English, and colonial. In November, Blackbeard was killed in combat off Okracoke Inlet, by Lieutenant Robert Maynard. 

Around the same time, Major Stede Bonnet, known as the “gentleman pirate,” was captured and hanged in December.

The following year, young Benjamin Franklin who was 12 or 13, wrote a poem about the death of Blackbeard called “The Taking of Teach the Pirate.”

1718

The first free school in North Carolina opened in Bath.

1727

The first Baptist congregation in North Carolina, Shiloh Church, was established in Chowan Precinct

1728

Surveyors start work to determine where the border between North Carolina and Virginia.

1729 — North Carolina becomes a Royal Colony

In 1729, the Lords Proprietors yielded to King George II and sold their interests in North Carolina. It transitioned into a Royal Colony, falling under the rapidly expanding British colonial bureaucracy. The Crown focused on matters related to the empire as a whole, while the colonial legislature turned its attention to local concerns. British and colonial officials would go on to clash multiple times before the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War.

1730

Virginia ended its ban on the importation of tobacco from North Carolina.

A group of Cherokee leaders traveled to London and met with King George II. They acknowledged their friendship with the English and promised to return escaped slaves to their masters. They also agreed to trade exclusively with the English and end trade with competitors such as the French, Spanish, and Dutch.

1730s

At the start of the decade, around 30-35,000 people were living in North Carolina. This included roughly 6,000 enslaved Africans who primarily worked on tobacco plantations.

During the 1730s, a substantial influx of people from other North American colonies and Europe settled in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Predominantly Scots-Irish, with a notable minority of Germans, these immigrants primarily originated from Pennsylvania, although other groups arrived from New Jersey, Virginia, and Maryland. 

The Welsh Tract along the northeast Cape Fear River was established when Welsh immigrants moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.

North Carolina was attractive because there was an abundance of land available for settlement.

1731 — Road Linking Cape Fear to Virginia

In 1731, the completion of a road linking Cape Fear to Virginia, utilizing the guidance of Native American guides and the labor of white workers, had a profound impact. It opened up Cape Fear to a surge in white settlement and facilitated trade between North Carolina and Virginia.

1732–1733 — Influx of Highland Scots

Between 1732 and 1733, Highland Scots started receiving land grants along the Cape Fear River, in the area that would become Bladen County. Having lived in harsh conditions in the Scottish Highlands, they found in North Carolina a place where timber was readily available, allowing them to build large homes. They also maintained strong cultural ties through the use of the Gaelic language and traditional Scottish clothing.

1736

North Carolina established an Indian Trade Commission to regulate trade with the Indian tribes.

1739 — The War of Jenkins’ Ear

In 1739, the War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739–1748) started. During the conflict, North Carolina gathered an army of 400 men to join forces with other colonies in an attack on Cartagena, located on the mainland of present-day Colombia. The attack was a failure and British commanders blamed it on provincial forces. Only 25 of the 400 men from North Carolina returned home.

1739 — First Great Awakening

Reverend George Whitefield visited North Carolina during the First Great Awakening.

1740

After being decimated by a smallpox epidemic, the Waxhaw Tribe vacated its lands along the border of North Carolina and South Carolina. This opened the territory up to new settlements that were established by English, German, Scottish, and Welsh immigrants.

1741

Marriage ceremonies were restricted, so they could only be performed by Anglican priests.

Slave Codes were modified so any manumitted or freed slaves had to leave North Carolina within six months.

1744 — King George’s War

The War of Jenkins’ Ear transitioned into King George’s War, as England and Austria fought against France and Prussia. This conflict marked the beginning of cooperation between the Southern Colonies, particularly North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina.

1745

In April, a law was passed that levied a fine on any tavern keeper that allowed a person “to get drunk in his home on the sabbath.”

New Bern was chosen as the capital of North Carolina. Many people protest and refuse to pay taxes.

1746

Following the failed Jacobite Rising of 1745, a new wave of Highland Scots started arriving in North Carolina.

1747–1748

During King George’s War, Spanish forces attacked English settlements along the coast. Known as the “Spanish Alarm,” they attacked Beafort and Brunswick and inflicted heavy damage before they were driven off by militia forces.

1749 — First Printing Press

In New Bern, James Davis started operating the first printing press in North Carolina. His first printings were government documents.

1750–1751

Squire Boone arrived near present-day Mocksville, North Carolina. Boone moved with his family, including his son, Daniel Boone, who would go on to be one of the most famous Frontiersmen in American history and was responsible for blazing the Wilderness Road into Kentucky.

Daniel Boone, Cumberland Gap. Bingham
This painting depicts Daniel Boone leading settlers through the Cumberland Gap. Image Source: Wikipedia.

1751 — First Newspaper

James Davis started publishing North Carolina’s first newspaper, North Carolina Gazette. He also published the first book in North Carolina, A Collection of All the Public Acts of Assembly, of the Province of North Carolina, Now in Force and Use.

1751

The monthly meeting of the Society of Friends in Alamance County started.

1752 — Wachovia Tract

The region named “Wachovia” — meaning “peaceful valley” — was established by Moravian settlers in the Piedmont Region.

1754

The French and Indian War started. North Carolina provincial troops served in the war, both in the colony and in expeditions carried out in other colonies.

1755

In 1755, Benjamin Franklin, the Postmaster-General for the American colonies, appointed James Davis as the first postmaster of the North Carolina colony at New Bern.

Reverend Shubal Stearns established Sandy Creek Baptist Church in Orange County.

1758

A British expedition, including North Carolina Militia and Cherokee warriors, carried out a campaign against the French and their Shawnee allies. After being treated poorly by the British, the Cherokee changed sides, allied with the French, and attacked North Carolina settlements.

1760

The North Carolina General Assembly passed an act that allowed North Carolinians who captured Indians to enslave them.

The Cherokee attacked Fort Dobbs and other settlements along the Yadkin River and Dan River.

Colonel Archibald Montgomerie led an expedition of British regulars and provincial militia that attacked and destroyed Cherokee villages. After rescuing the garrison at Fort Prince George in South Carolina, Montgomerie was defeated at Echoe by the Cherokee.

1761

Colonel James Grant led an expedition of British regulars, provincial militia, Catawba warriors, and Chickasaw warriors against the Cherokee. Grant destroyed 15 Cherokee villages, leading to a peace treaty in December.

1763

King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763, prohibiting settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains.

North Carolina Colony APUSH

Use the following links and videos to study the North Carolina Colony, the Southern Colonies, and the Colonial Era for the AP US History Exam. Also, be sure to look at our Guide to the AP US History Exam.

North Carolina Colony Definition and Significance

The definition of New York Colony for APUSH is a colony established in 1712. It played a significant role in the early history of the United States. North Carolina’s economy was initially based on agriculture, particularly the cultivation of tobacco, and raising livestock. It also produced tar, pitch, and turpentine for building sailing ships. North Carolina was known for its distinct regional identities, with eastern areas relying on cash crops and the western mountains engaging in subsistence farming. Because it was geographically isolated, North Carolina struggled during the Colonial Era, but grew after ports were established at the mouth of the Cape Fear River in the 18th Century.

The significance of North Carolina Colony for APUSH is primarily its connections to the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island, and the growth and development of Virginia and South Carolina. North Carolina rose to prominence as a producer of Naval Stores and a haven for Quakers and Highland Scots. Later, it became one of the Original 13 Colonies and played a significant role in the American Revolution and American Revolutionary War.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title North Carolina Colony
  • Date 1655–1763
  • Author
  • Keywords North Carolina Colony, Carolana Colony, Carolina Colony, Lords Proprietors, Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, Roanoke Island, Lost Colony, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Robert Heath, King Charles II, Nathaniel Batts, Stuart Restoration, Culpeper's Rebellion, Naval Stores Act, Tuscarora War, Yamasee War, War of Jenkins' Ear
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 14, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update May 28, 2024

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