The Royal Colony of North Carolina

The English Settlers During the Royal Period (1729 to 1775)

As the predominant group in both North Carolina and South Carolina, the English made up more than 50% of the population at the start of the Royal Period; by the end of British rule their dominance was a mere few percentage points versus the Scots-Irish. As during the rule of the Lords Proprietors, the English group effectively includes those of Welsh heritage since it is very difficult to distinguish the two ethnicities, at least based on surnames and claimed background, with only few exceptions. Those exceptions are spelled out in the separate section within this website for specific groups of Welsh who made it easy for historians to identify and track.

At the time of the first United States census, 1790 (only fifteen years after the end of this period, when the most accurate enumerations were available), the English made up 40.6% of the total North Carolina population, slightly higher than the 36.7% as recorded in South Carolina in that same year. Everyone thinks of the mid-1700s as when the Scots-Irish overwhelmed everyone else by their mass immigration into the Carolinas, but most folks are quite surprised to find out that the English actually outdid the Scots-Irish prior to the American Revolution.

There were many factors that brought the large numbers of immigrants to the Carolinas, both external to the colony as well as events within the colonies that lured new settlers. The external factors are discussed in a separate section in this website. The primary contibuting factors from within North Carolina were: cheap, fertile land with a moderate climate, relative freedom to pursue one's desired lifestyle, and an abundance of natural resources with which to gainfully use, employ, or consume.

The English pretty much settled in all areas of North Carolina, with very few exceptions. Not all areas were settled along with the other ethnic groups in the same location, but sooner or later the English found their way into the same places. The English were very tolerant of all the other groups, and in most cases this was reciprocated. So, those who got along lived together. In very rare instances did specific ethnic groups avoid each other.

Of course, there were conflicts among all of the groups in North Carolina, but most of these conflicts were not particularly caused by ethnic tensions - most were due to idealogical or religious reasons, no matter the groups' country of origin.

Prior to 1729, during the rule of the Lords Proprietors, most of the coastal lands of North Carolina had already been settled, however, most seacoastal areas were mostly very sparsely populated. Crops could not be grown very effectively near the Atlantic Ocean, so the early settlers aimed for the tidal areas along the sounds, rivers, and creeks, which are quite prolific in eastern North Carolina. As indicated in the section covering the Lords Proprietors' rule from 1663 to 1729, the settlement of North Carolina was slow and steady, and it originated in the Albemarle region, then trickled south, down the coastline towards the Cape Fear River area.

Moving inland was not particularly easy, nor without much travail. Shallow-draft boats were specially built by ingenuous settlers who wanted to be "away from the maddening crowd" of the seacoast, and intrepid settlers went as far up the few navigable rivers as they possibly could, as early as the 1690s. But, there were Native Americans who were not too happy with this and they let the colonists know about it during the Tuscarora War of 1711-1715. When this was over, the "west" began to open up once again.

In the 1720s, the English began settling along the Cape Fear River. Landgrave Thomas Smith II had been granted approximately one hundred thousand acres in what is now Brunswick County and New Hanover County in 1713, but settlement did not begin immediately. Settlement only started in 1725, when North Carolina Governor George Burrington began to distribute land along the Cape Fear River for colonization. Many of the new settlers came from South Carolina because of the lower taxes in North Carolina. Maurice Moore founded Brunswick Town on his grant on the west bank of the river and by June of 1726 a map of the town was filed with the Secretary of the Province.

The next year a ferry was in operation across the river. A letter of Governor Burrington dated 1723 says he sent out Indian Guides and some of his men to mark a road to the middle of this Province from Virginia to Cape Fear Province River and to discover and view the land lying in those parts until then unknown to the English.

Most of the South Carolinians that settled along the Cape Fear were English, from the Charles Town and Goose Creek area, and they arrived in the 1720s and 1730s in great numbers.

In the 1720s and 1730s, the English made their way up the Cape Fear River to what is present-day Bladen County and Columbus County. Also in the 1730s, they went up the Northeast Cape Fear River and the Black River and they began to settle what is present day Pender and Duplin counties.

In the 1740s, the English moved into what is today Gaston, Mecklenburg, Lincoln, and Catawba counties in the Piedmont region, more than 125 miles from the seacoast. Along their way, some stopped and made their homes in what are present-day Robeson and Cumberland counties.

Heading in a slightly different direction, and coming from many points of origin - such as the mother country, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and even South Carolina - the English also settled what are present-day Sampson, Wilson, Wayne, Moore, and Nash counties in the 1740s.

By the 1750s, they made it to what are present-day Wake and Warren counties. And finally, in the 1760s, the English created settlements in Yancey and Burke counties, at the base of the Appalachian mountains.

The author of this website has not been able to track the English into EVERY North Carolina county that had been settled prior to the American Revolution, but it does not mean they weren't there. Perhaps they weren't - yet, but they would be eventually. I just haven't found any credible evidence of their existence to date. If it comes to light then this page will be updated.

© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved