Seventeenth-Century North Carolina Timeline


King James I grants a charter to the Virginia Company of London for the region that includes present-day North Carolina.

Jamestown, the first successful English colony in the New World, is established in Virginia. The colonists begin using tobacco as a cash crop for export to England.

Jamestown leader John Smith sends expeditions to the Roanoke Island area to seek information about the Lost Colony. His men find nothing conclusive.

Because of Spain’s rivalry with England, the Spanish government develops an alliance with the Tuscarora people to monitor the Jamestown colony.

A Dutch ship arrives at Jamestown carrying 20 captive African natives. Apparently these Africans are treated as indentured servants and work in tobacco fields. Their introduction into Virginia sets the stage for African slavery to develop in English America.

An expedition from Jamestown, led by John Pory, explores the Chowan River region.


October 30: King Charles I grants land south of Virginia to Sir Robert Heath. Charles names the region Carolina, or Carolana, for himself.

White settlers begin to move into Indian lands along the coastal sounds and rivers of North Carolina.

The area of present-day North Carolina serves as a haven for runaway slaves. Many flee to the Great Dismal Swamp, and some establish communities.


September–October: Edward Bland travels from Virginia to explore Carolina and publishes a description of the region entitled The Discovery of New Brittaine.

Virginia legislator Francis Yeardly hires fur trader Nathaniel Batts to explore the Albemarle Sound region as an area of possible settlement. Yeardly agrees to purchase land from the Roanoke Indians but dies before his settlement is established.

July: The Virginia Assembly grants lands along the Roanoke and Chowan Rivers to Roger Green, who has previously explored the region.

ca. 1655 
Batts settles along the Chowan River in a building that serves as both his home and a trading post. He trades with local Native Americans and becomes the area’s first permanent white settler.

March 1: King Kilcocanen of the Yeopim Indians grants land to George Durant in the earliest grant on record in the colony.

King Charles II grants Carolina to eight supporters called Lords Proprietors. The region, which includes present-day North and South Carolina, stretches from Albemarle Sound in the north to present-day Florida in the south and west to the Pacific Ocean. The Proprietors divide this land into three counties: Albemarle, Clarendon, and Craven. Scottish merchant William Drummond is appointed governor of Albemarle County, the only one of the three counties with colonists.

Tobacco becomes a major export crop, although lack of a deepwater port prevents shipment of goods directly to England.

Colonists from Boston and Barbados attempt to settle in the Cape Fear region, but no settlements last long. Settlers continue to enter the colony from the north, but the Cape Fear region will not have permanent colonists until 1725.

June 30: The Lords Proprietors’ charter is amended to include settlements in the Albemarle region previously considered a part of Virginia.

The Albemarle County Assembly, North Carolina’s earliest legislative assembly, meets for the first time.

Peter Carteret, assistant governor of Albemarle County, grants a license to three New England men to hunt whales along Carolina’s northeast coast. This is the earliest known document indicating commercial whaling in the colony.

August 27: A severe hurricane sweeps along the coast, destroying settlements in the Cape Fear and Albemarle regions.

May 1: The Great Deed of Grant from the Lords Proprietors permits Albemarle settlers to hold lands under same terms as colonists in Virginia.

Laws reducing the land tax and giving settlers five years’ immunity from suits over former debts encourage immigration.

In an attempt to tighten their control over unruly Albemarle colonists, the Lords Proprietors issue the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, written by John Locke. This document increases the power of appointed officials, decreases the power of elected officials, and makes ownership of 50 acres of land a requirement for voting.

The County of Albemarle is divided into Currituck, Pasquotank, Perquimans, and Chowan Precincts.

The Ashley River settlement (present-day Charleston, S.C.) is founded. Its excellent port makes it easy for people there to ship goods to England.

George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers), and missionary William Edmundson visit Albemarle and convert many colonists to Quakerism. Edmundson preaches the first sermon in the colony near the site of Hertford. Quakers will become the first religious body to obtain a foothold in Carolina and the only communion of importance before 1700.

The Plantation Duty Act requires that all colonies trade directly with England or face heavy duties on goods. Albemarle colonists resist because their lack of an adequate harbor requires them to ship goods to northern colonies before they can be shipped to England. Albemarle governor John Jenkins refuses to enforce the act.

Chowanoc Indians attack white settlements in Carolina. The uprising is quelled with the "loss of many men."

Factionalism emerges in the colony between newer residents, who favor Proprietary rule, and older settlers, who disagree with the way the Proprietors rule Albemarle. Two leaders of the Proprietary faction, Thomas Eastchurch and Thomas Miller, clash with Governor John Jenkins, a leader of anti-Proprietary sentiment. Jenkins jails Miller for “treasonable utterances” and attempts to dissolve the assembly. The majority of that body disagrees with Jenkins, however, and he is deposed and jailed.


By March, Jenkins is released and resumes the post of governor. Eastchurch and Miller go to England to try to sway the Lords Proprietors in their favor. The Proprietors side with Eastchurch and appoint him governor. But Eastchurch delays his return to Carolina and, without authority to do so, appoints Miller as acting governor.


Albemarle settlers market 2,000 hogsheads of tobacco, receiving £20,000 for the year’s crop.

Thomas Miller rules Albemarle harshly and raises tobacco taxes, becoming increasingly unpopular with the inhabitants.

December: John Culpeper and George Durant lead “Culpeper’s Rebellion” against Miller and take over the government for eighteen months, until the summer of 1679. Eastchurch threatens to retake control but dies in 1678 before he can reach Albemarle.

The de facto government of Carolina sends Culpeper to England to negotiate with the Lords Proprietors. Miller beats him there, however, and Culpeper finds himself charged with treason and embezzlement. He agrees to face trial and, with the support of several Proprietors, is acquitted. The court agrees that there was no regular acting government in the colony at the time of the rebellion, and therefore the rebels did not act in a treasonous manner.

The Proprietors appoint John Harvey as the colony’s next governor. Harvey is well liked by the colonists but dies within a year.

October 10: Virginia bans the importation of Carolina tobacco on the grounds that "the importation of trash greatly injures the reputation of the Virginia manufacture." However, Carolina tobacco still goes to Virginia.

John Jenkins is reappointed governor for one year. Seth Sothel holds the office next and becomes known as a corrupt and oppressive governor.

February 27: Considering "the great damage that does arise in his Majesty’s service by harboring and encouraging pirates in Carolina," the Committee for Trade and Plantations sends a “Draught of the law now in force in Jamaica against Pirates and Privateers,” with instructions that it take effect as a statute of Carolina.

The 1669 law exempting persons in the colony from prosecution for debts contracted abroad is repealed.

Found guilty of 13 charges, including tyranny, extortion, and bribery, Governor Seth Sothel is removed from office by the Lords Proprietors.

The Proprietors appoint Philip Ludwell governor of Albemarle and all of the colony “north and east of the Cape Feare.” This splits Carolina into two political entities—"North" Carolina and "South" Carolina.

Cherokee traders establish trade agreements with the English at Charles Towne (present-day Charleston, S.C.).

Governor Ludwell is sent south to Charles Towne to govern all of Carolina. A deputy governor is appointed to manage the area known as North Carolina.

Albemarle County establishes a new settlement south of Albemarle Sound on land taken from the Pamlico Indians. This settlement becomes Bath County.


Henry White, a prominent Quaker in Perquimans Precinct, writes the first known poem in North Carolina. It is a long, untitled religious poem about the "fall of man" and his "restoration by Jesus Christ."