Washington County, North Carolina

Year Established

County Seat

Significance of County Name

Population (2010)



George Washington


Legislative Act Creating County

First Settled / By

County Evolution by Decade

Official County Website

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~1700 / Virginians

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Historical Post Offices

American Revolution

American Civil War

Significant Education Events

Alphabetical / Date Started


Coming Later

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Airports in Washington County

Maps of Washington County

Books on Washington County

Genealogy Sources

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A History of Washington County

Roanoke River Lighthouse

Washington County was created in 1799 from Tyrrell County. It is named after President George Washington. The courts were ordered to be held at Lee's Mill until a court house could be constructed. Plymouth, already in existence when the county was established, was incorporated in 1807. In 1823, the court house was moved from Lee's Mill to Plymouth. In 1873, the General Assembly authorized that the county seat be moved from Plymouth to McKey's Ferry provided the people approved the same by popular vote. Apparently, they did not. Plymouth has been the county seat ever since.

This was the second incarnation of Washington County in North Carolina, the first of which was established during the Revolutionary War and later became part of Tennessee.

Somerset Place

Somerset Place is a representative state historic site offering a comprehensive and realistic view of nineteenth-century life on a large North Carolina plantation. Originally, this atypical plantation included more than 100,000 densely wooded, mainly swampy acres bordering the five-by-eight mile Lake Phelps, in present-day Washington County. During its eighty years as an active plantation (1785-1865), hundreds of acres were converted into high-yielding fields of rice, corn, oats, wheat, beans, peas, and flax; sophisticated sawmills turned out thousands of feet of lumber. By 1865, Somerset Place was one of the upper South's largest plantations.

From Somerset's earliest days through the end of the American Civil War, people of different races, legal, and economic status lived on the property. A labor force of almost 200 men, women, and children was assembled before 1790. They were black and white, enslaved and free. Over the life of the plantation, three generations of owners, around fifty white employees, two free black employees, and more than 850 enslaved people lived and worked on the plantation.

By the mid-nineteenth century, more than fifty buildings were clustered on the northeast rim of Lake Phelps, serving as the industrial complex and residential community. Included were barns, saw and gristmills, stables, a hospital, an Episcopal chapel, a kitchen complex, and 26 houses for members of the enslaved community. Homes for overseers, tutors, ministers, and the owner's family (shown above)—along with a kitchen/laundry, dairy, storehouse, and smoke and salting houses—also stood here.

On many maps between 1775 and 1800, a small town called Pleasant Grove is identified in what is present-day Washington County, North Carolina. This small town continues to exist to this day in northern Washington County, North Carolina, but I have yet to locate any significant historical information pertaining to the town.

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