The Royal Colony of North Carolina


Overview of the Royal Period

Seal of the Province of North Carolina - 1739 to 1767

On May 14, 1729, the Crown took over control of the colony of North Carolina. King George II had taken the Crown merely two years earlier, and he would live until 1760, when his son, King George III, ascended to the throne. King George III lived until 1820 and he watched as all of his American colonies evaporated and became the independent nation of the United States of America in 1783.

During the Royal Period, North Carolinians observed a minimalistic royal management of their colony, with very little interference from the Crown and the British Parliament until the mid-1760s, at the end of the French and Indian War (1756-1763). In the Carolinas, this was called the Cherokee War. Britain had borrowed great sums from the Dutch to finance this war and many in the home country felt that the colonists should contribute a greater portion to repay the debt since it was the colonists that reaped most of the rewards.

The system of Landgraves, Cassiques (Caciques), and Baronets that had been in place during the rule of the Lords Proprietors is never mentioned again during the Royal Period. The last acknowledgement of them is around 1715, but they most likely continued until the Lords Proprietors finally signed over their interests in the Carolinas in 1728.

In the mid-1760s, this homeland sentiment was quickly adopted by those in power and the British Parliament passed many laws that the American colonists truly believed were unjust. These new laws affected each American colony in different ways since each colony had their own separate economies as well as their own interests. For example, the Sugar Act (1764) dealt a terrible blow to Massachusetts, however, this new law had virtually no impact on either of the two Carolinas.

Seal of the Province of North Carolina - 1767 to 1775

External influences were not as significant as had been experienced during the rule of the Lords Proprietors. King George's War (1739-1748) brought with it a prolonged harassment by French and Spanish privateers along the North Carolina coast, but rarely did this harassment result in the loss of its citizens' lives.

During the Royal Period, North Carolina added eighteen (18) new counties, which were usually created several years behind the westward expansion that occurred during the entire period. The settling of North Carolina was not merely east to west, nor was it consistent or evenly distributed. Except for small groups in the Albemarle region, most of the coastal inhabitants did not want to go west; they were quite content where they were. At that point in time, they had the choicest of all lands along the major waterways.

Newcomers found little land available along the seacoast during the Royal Period, except for the very early years when there were still some lands available along the Cape Fear region. These were quickly taken in the 1720s and early 1730s. So, the new arrivals accepted the next-closest lands to the coast, and so forth and so forth. Settlement did expand from the coast inland and westward, but it was with newcomers, who did not always get along with the older, more-established folks -- and the feeling was mutual.

In the 1730s, newcomers also said to heck with the coast and proceeded directly much further inland - primarily because the lands were excellent for farming, but also to be far away from the arrogant "old-timers." Most made their way inland via the few navigable rivers, such as the Cape Fear, the Northeast Cape Fear, the Black, the Neuse, and the Tar. Roads were virtually non-existent into the interior, and if the newcomers needed to travel via land their only choice was to follow the existing Indian Paths that had served the Native Americans so well for centuries.

The King's Highway was constructed in North Carolina between 1732 and 1734, with a good part of it adopting the only existing "highway" in the colony - the Neuse-Cape Fear Road - which had been completed in 1724. In 1732, this road was widened and extended to the Virginia border in the north and to the South Carolina border in the south. Those living in the Albemarle region could now trade with the relatively new folks in the burgeoning Cape Fear region.

Click Here to view/download an Adobe PDF file of the small booklet, entitled "An Account of the Cape Fear Country 1731," by Hugh Meredith, published in 1922.

Rising tensions, that would eventually lead to the French and Indian War, began to be felt all throughout the British colonies with increased Indian attacks along the frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia in the 1740s. This started the "great migration" into North Carolina along the Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia through Maryland and Virginia into the Piedmont area. With the addition of the Fall Line Road and the Upper Road, both from Fredericksburg, Virginia down to different parts of the North Carolina Piedmont, in the 1750s, the "great migration" continued well into the American Revolution.

In the late 1740s, the newcomers began to settle the Piedmont from the north instead of from the coast. By 1760, the base of the Appalachian Mountains were beginning to be settled. The central and western parts of the colony were growing faster than the coast for the first time in the young colony's history. Settlement was spotty, but by the end of the Royal Period most of the Piedmont up to the Appalachian Mountains was fairly well inhabited, and the land was virtually covered from seacoast to mountains by people of various ethnicities and points of origin.

1746 brought the end of the Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland, and soon thereafter many Scots found their way to North Carolina, settling along the Cape Fear River in what is now Cumberland County.

North Carolina Four Pence Note - 1748

The largest group that came to North Carolina was the Scots-Irish. First to settle along the Pennsylvania and Virginia frontiers, they were also the first to be attacked by the French-inspired Indians in the 1740s and 1750s. Hard-working and industious, the Scots-Irish brought a lot of fresh ideas and new ways of doing things to North Carolina, settling mostly in the Piedmont, but also spread out into almost every county by the end of the Royal Period.

Also caught up in the "great migration" were the Germans, Moravians, and a good number of French Huguenots. These groups tended to congregate only with their own for many years, but eventually all had to get along with the large numbers of English who found their way to every corner of North Carolina. Many Welsh made North Carolina home during the Royal Period, mostly along the Cape Fear River and the Northeast Cape Fear River.

North Carolina Eight Pence Note - 1754

As mentioned above, the British government pretty much left everyone alone until after the expensive French and Indian War when the government needed to raise money to pay off its war debt. In the mid-1760s, the new laws made it very clear to the people of North Carolina that they much preferred to govern themselves, therefore the seeds were sown that certainly led to the Revolution just a decade later.

Internally, the people were exhausted. With the constant threat of Indian hostilities that lasted almost a decade and all of the newcomers arriving and taking lands "next to mine" led to many conflicts among the new settlers. Most of these conflicts were between themselves - the newcomers - but, some were conflicts with the "older, more-established" coastal folks. These two groups never got along. In the 1760s, a wild bunch of newcomers arrived that were - quite simply - brigands and thieves.

This group traversed the newly-settled areas looking for easy targets, and it never took long to find opportunities. Soon however, the law-abiding newcomers took it upon themselves to solve this problem, and a small group became known as The Regulators - those who enforced the laws on their own and hunted down and captured many of the petty thieves. Of course, this vigilante group caused more problems. This group grew stronger and were finally stopped in 1771 with a large force led by Governor William Tryon.

Click Here to view/download an Adobe PDF file of the book, entitled "Informations Concerning the Province of North Carolina Addressed to Emigrants from the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland by an Impartial Hand," printed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1773.

At the beginning of the Royal Period there were approximately 36,000 (total population) people living in what is now North Carolina. By the end of the Royal Period, there were more than 250,000 (total population) people in the colony, and it was growing more each year. In 1729, there were only seven permanently-settled towns in the colony - Bath, New Bern, Fort Settlement, Edenton, Perquimans C.H., Beaufort, and Brunswick Town. By 1775, there were fifty-three (53) more towns added to total sixty (60) permanently-settled towns in North Carolina.

Tarrburgh (later renamed to Tarboro) was established in 1730 along the Tar River. Tar Landing (later renamed Williamston) was also founded in 1730. Elizabeth (later moved three miles and renamed Elizabethtown) was settled in 1738. New Carthage was established in 1733, then renamed New London, again then renamed New Town, shortened to Newton, then given the name of Wilmington in 1740. Brook Field was established in 1737; Woodstock was founded in 1738; Enfield was founded in 1740; Northampton Court House was established in 1741; Johnston became the County Seat of Onslow in 1744; Sarecta was established in 1744; Harrisburg was established in 1746, and, Tyrrell Court House was established in 1748.

Mint Hill was founded in 1750; Cashy became the County Seat for Bertie in 1751; Hinton's Quarter was settled in 1752; Bethabara and Portsmouth in 1753; Cumberland Court House in 1754; Hillsborough in 1754; Williamsborough, Salisbury, Anson Court House, Currituck Court House, and the first Duplin Court House in 1755; Halifax, New Garden, and Wantland's Ferry in 1757; Dobbs Court House, Edgecombe Court House, Relfe's Point, and Hertford in 1758; and Bethania in 1759.

Next were Campbellton and Kinston in 1762; Buffalo Rice Path became the County Seat of Bute in 1764, Granville Courth House was established in 1764,Cross Creek and Winfield in 1765; Salem and Winton in 1766; then Exeter, Windsor, and Charlotte Town (called Charlotte's Burg by some, later shortened to Charlotte) in 1768. The village of Littleton was founded in 1770 in Bute County, later to become Warren County, and in 1840 was within Halifax County.

In the 1770s, Bloomsbury became the first County Seat for Wake and the towns of Smithfield and Martinsborough (later renamed to Greenville) were established in 1771; Friedberg was established in 1773; Martinsville was founded in 1775 and named the county seat of Guilford County. Red Springs in Robeson County was founded in 1775 by Sailor Hector MacNeill. Lexington was created in Rowan County (now Davie) in 1775, and finally Tryon Court House was erected in 1775.

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