Eighteenth-Century North Carolina Timeline
The Chowanoc and Weapemeoc peoples have gradually abandoned their lands. Some have become slaves or indentured servants, and others have migrated south to join the Tuscarora. Only about 500 American Indians remain in the Albemarle region.
An escaped slave serves as an architect in the construction of a large Tuscarora Indian fort near the Neuse River.
Anglicans in England grow concerned that their church does not have a significant presence in North Carolina. The Reverend Daniel Brett becomes the first Anglican minister to serve in the colony. Brett’s disorderly behavior causes him to be called “the Monster of the Age.”
The first public library is established at Bath with books sent from England by the Reverend Thomas Bray.
Settlers begin moving west and south of the Albemarle area.
The Vestry Act divides North Carolina into Anglican parishes and requires all citizens to pay taxes for the support of Anglican priests. Non-Anglicans (also called Dissenters) object. The Lords Proprietors reject the act in part because it does not provide enough funding for the clergy.
December 15: Chowan Parish is organized, followed by Pasquotank and Perquimans Parishes.
The Vestry Act passes, requiring members of the General Assembly to be members of the Church of England and to take an oath of allegiance to Queen Anne. Subsequent governors and assemblymen ignore these requirements.
Parliament passes the Naval Stores Act in an effort to cut British dependence on foreign sources of tar, pitch, and other commodities badly needed for sailing ships. The act subsidizes the production of naval stores in the colonies by paying premiums of four pounds sterling per ton on tar and pitch, and six pounds per ton on hemp. North Carolina benefits substantially from this act, and the production of naval stores becomes one of the coastal area’s prime industries.
Charles Griffin, the first schoolteacher in North Carolina, operates a school in Pasquotank County. He later moves to Edenton and runs a school there for several years. The only other known school in operation during the Proprietary period is at Sarum, in Gates County.
Bath becomes the first incorporated town in North Carolina.
Thomas Cary is appointed governor in 1708. Quakers protest his heavy-handed actions and send John Porter to England to petition for his removal. The Proprietors agree to remove Cary as governor, but through a complicated chain of events, he retains his office into 1711. In that year, Edward Hyde becomes deputy governor and de facto governor. A brief rebellion by Cary’s followers is put down with the aid of forces from Virginia. Cary is sent to England for trial but is ultimately released.
Surveyor John Lawson, who began a thousand-mile journey through the colony at the end of 1700, publishes A New Voyage to Carolina. It describes the colony’s flora and fauna and its various groups of American Indians. Lawson also publishes a map of Carolina.
Baron Christoph von Graffenried, a leader of Swiss and German Protestants, establishes a colony in Bath County. The town, called New Bern, is founded at the junction of the Trent and Neuse Rivers, displacing an American Indian town named Chattoka.
June 8: Tuscarora Indians on the Roanoke and Tar-Pamlico Rivers send a petition to the government of Pennsylvania protesting the seizure of their lands and enslavement of their people by Carolina settlers.
Early September: Tuscarora capture surveyor John Lawson, New Bern founder Baron von Graffenried, and two African slaves. Lawson argues with the chief, Cor Tom, and is executed. The Indians spare von Graffenried and the slaves.
September 22: The Tuscarora War opens when Catechna Creek Tuscaroras begin attacking colonial settlements near New Bern and Bath. Tuscarora, Neuse, Bear River, Machapunga, and other Indians kill more than 130 whites.
October: Virginia refuses to send troops to help the settlers but allocates £1,000 for assistance.
In a series of uprisings, the Tuscarora attempt to drive away white settlement. The Tuscarora are upset over the practices of white traders, the capture and enslavement of Indians by whites, and the continuing encroachment of settlers onto Tuscarora hunting grounds.
January: South Carolina sends assistance to her sister colony. John Barnwell, a member of the South Carolina Assembly, leads about 30 whites and some 500 “friendly” Indians, mostly Yamassee, to fight the Tuscarora in North Carolina. A battle takes place at Narhantes, a Tuscarora fort on the Neuse River. Barnwell’s troops are victorious but are surprised that many of the Tuscarora’s fiercest warriors are women, who do not surrender “until most of them are put to the sword.”
January 24: Edward Hyde is commissioned as governor. North Carolina and South Carolina officially become separate colonies.
April: Barnwell’s force, joined by 250 North Carolina militiamen, attacks the Tuscarora at Fort Hancock on Catechna Creek. After ten days of battle, the Tuscarora sign a truce, agreeing to stop the war.
Summer: The Tuscarora rise again to fight the Yamassee, who, unsatisfied with their plunder during earlier battles, remain in the area looting and pillaging. The Tuscarora also fight against the continued expansion of white settlement.
September 8: Governor Hyde dies of yellow fever, during an outbreak that kills many white settlers.
March 20–23: Another force from South Carolina, consisting of 900 Indians and 33 whites, begins a three-day siege on the Tuscarora stronghold of Fort Neoheroka. Approximately 950 Tuscarora are killed or captured and sold into slavery, effectively defeating the tribe and opening the interior of the colony to white settlement. Although a few renegades fight on until 1715, most surviving Tuscarora migrate north to rejoin the Iroquois League as its sixth and smallest nation.
A treaty with remaining North Carolina Tuscarora is signed. They are placed on a reservation along the Pamlico River. The Coree and Machapunga Indians, Tuscarora allies, settle in Hyde County near Lake Mattamuskeet. The land will be granted to them in 1727, and a reservation will be established.
An act of assembly declares the Church of England the established church of the colony and adopts plans to build roads, bridges, ferries, sawmills, and gristmills throughout the colony.
North Carolina adopts its first slave code, which tries to define the social, economic, and physical place of enslaved people.
The General Assembly enacts a law denying blacks and Indians the right to vote. The king will repeal the law in 1737. Some free African Americans will continue to vote until disfranchisement in 1835.
The few Tuscarora remaining in the colony, led by Tom Blount, are granted land on the Roanoke River in Bertie County, near present-day Quitsna. The Tuscarora left their reservation on the Pamlico River because of raids by tribes from the south.
After British authorities drive them from the Bahamas, pirates transfer their operations to the Carolina coast. Most notable are Stede Bonnet and Edward Teach (Blackbeard). Teach locates at Bath, where he boasts that he can be invited into any home in North Carolina.
Blackbeard seizes English and colonial ships along the coast. When the king offers to pardon all pirates who surrender and promise to cease their piratical operations, Teach promptly takes the pardon. Within a few weeks, however, he returns to his old trade. Bonnet continues to operate off the mouth of the Cape Fear River.
January: England, France, and Holland form a triple alliance against Spain, and the resulting war leads to Spanish raids on English colonists in North Carolina.
North Carolina’s first free school, endowed by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, opens at Bath.
November 22: In a battle between British sailors and pirates near Ocracoke Inlet, Lieutenant Robert Maynard kills Blackbeard.
December 10: Stede Bonnet and 29 fellow pirates, captured earlier off the North Carolina coast, are hanged at Charlestown, S.C.
Exports of pitch and tar to Great Britain by way of New England are reported at 6,000 barrels.
Charles Eden, governor since 1714, dies. The Town on Queen Anne’s Creek is incorporated and renamed Edenton in his memory.
Beaufort Town is incorporated.
South Carolina planters settle along the Lower Cape Fear River and begin developing the rice and naval stores industries. They bring large numbers of enslaved people and a large, plantation-style slave system.
Brunswick Town is founded. It will be incorporated in 1745.
Roger Moore builds Orton Plantation House on the Lower Cape Fear.
The Cheraw (Saura) Indians incorporate with the Catawba living near present-day Charlotte.
The first Baptist congregation in North Carolina forms as Shiloh Church, in Chowan Precinct.
Surveyors begin determining where the North Carolina–Virginia line will lie.
The “cotton weevil” is reported.
North Carolina becomes a royal colony when King George II purchases shares from seven of the eight Lords Proprietors. Only Earl Granville refuses to sell.
Between 1743 and 1746, an area equaling one-eighth of the original land grant is surveyed and marked off as the Granville District, in order to differentiate between areas of royal and Proprietary control. The district consists of a 60-mile-wide strip along North Carolina’s border with Virginia and contains some of the most densely settled areas in the colony.
Small quantities of iron are shipped to England.
North Carolina’s population numbers about 35,000, but a new wave of immigration is beginning.
Virginia ends the ban on importation of North Carolina tobacco.
Cherokee leaders visit London and confer with the king. They pledge friendship to the English and agree to return runaway slaves and to trade exclusively with the British.
Welsh immigrants living in Pennsylvania come to North Carolina and settle mainly along the Northeast Cape Fear River (in present-day Pender County), in an area that becomes known as the Welsh Tract.
Brunswick flourishes, and 42 vessels carrying cargo sail from the port in one year.
Highland Scots begin immigrating to North Carolina and settling in the Cape Fear backcountry. Thousands will eventually come to this area.
Saint Thomas Episcopal Church, now the oldest church building in the state, is constructed in Bath.
The first tobacco market in North Carolina opens in Bellair, Craven County.
Scots-Irish immigrants begin coming to North Carolina in large numbers, settling mainly in the Piedmont. Most are second-generation colonists moving south down the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, but a few come directly from Northern Ireland.
Surveyors begin defining the North Carolina–South Carolina border.
The North Carolina colony establishes an Indian Trade Commission to regulate trade with native peoples.
Mail is first carried regularly through North Carolina on the post road that runs from Boston to Charlestown, S.C.
A smallpox epidemic decimates the Indian population in North Carolina, especially in the eastern part of the colony. The epidemic decreases the number of Cherokee by 50 percent.
The Reverend George Whitefield, a Methodist missionary and one of the earliest circuit-riding preachers, makes his first foray into North Carolina.
England calls on the colonies to support a war against the Spanish in South America. North Carolina sends four companies of 100 men each. They participate in a failed attack on a Spanish fort at Cartagena, Colombia. Many are killed or die of disease, and only 25 of the 400 men return to the colony. The Spanish attack shipping off the North Carolina coast for the next eight years.
Waxhaw Indians, decimated by smallpox, abandon their lands in present-day Union County and join the Catawba. The vacated lands are taken up by German, English, Scottish, and Welsh immigrants.
Aaron Moses witnesses a will, becoming the first Jewish person on record in North Carolina.
The privilege of performing marriage ceremonies is restricted to clergy of the Anglican Church and, in lieu of such, any lawful magistrates.
A law is enacted requiring newly freed slaves to leave North Carolina within six months.
Physician and naturalist John Brickell lists the colony’s religious groups, including Quakers, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Anabaptists, and “many Sectaries.”
Assembly delegates choose New Bern as the colonial capital and vote for equal representation among the counties. Delegates from the Albemarle region, absent because of bad weather, protest these decisions. Many people in their districts refuse to pay taxes for several years.
April 20: The first liquor control law adopted by the colonial assembly levies a fine on any tavern keeper who allows a person “to get drunk in his home on the Sabbath.”
A new wave of Highlanders begins arriving in North Carolina after the failed revolt in Scotland in 1746. Forced from their Scottish homelands, these immigrants settle mainly in the Cape Fear Valley.
During King George’s War, the Spanish attack Beaufort and Brunswick. In the so-called Spanish Alarm, they sack settlements before local militia can drive them away.
People of German descent begin migrating in large numbers from Pennsylvania and resettle throughout the western Piedmont.
James Davis installs North Carolina’s first printing press in New Bern. His first publications are government documents.
Squire Boone settles with his family, including his son Daniel, near present-day Mocksville.
Armed conflicts arise between the Cherokee and colonists, who continue to expand areas of settlement further into the western part of the colony.
James Davis begins publishing the North Carolina Gazette, the colony’s first newspaper, in New Bern. He also prints North Carolina’s first book, A Collection of All the Public Acts of Assembly, of the Province of North Carolina, Now in Force and Use.
The first monthly meeting of Friends (Quakers) in central North Carolina begins in Alamance County.
Orange County is established in an area of heavy immigration. It encompasses all or parts of the present-day counties of Alamance, Caswell, Chatham, Durham, Guilford, Orange, Person, Randolph, Rockingham, and Wake. Its county seat, Hillsborough, will become known as the “capital of the backwoods.”
Moravians from Pennsylvania purchase a 100,000-acre tract in present-day Forsyth County from Earl Granville. They name the area Wachovia, which means “peaceful valley.” They establish the settlement of Bethabara in November.
The colony reports exports of pitch, tar, and turpentine at 84,012 barrels.
The French and Indian War is fought between England and France all along the frontier of North America. North Carolina troops serve both in North Carolina and in other colonies.
Salisbury is founded as the county seat of Rowan County, created from Anson County in 1753 to accommodate increasing numbers of German and Scots-Irish settlers in the area.
The Reverend Shubal Stearns leads a group of 15 Separate Baptists from Connecticut to Orange County and establishes Sandy Creek Baptist Church, the “mother of Southern Baptist churches.”
The Indian population in eastern North Carolina is estimated at around 356. Most of these are Tuscarora who have not moved north.
The colonial governor approves a proposal to establish an Indian academy in present-day Sampson County.
October 14: The assembly awards a contract for the first postal service to James Davis, public printer. Davis is authorized to “forward public dispatches to all parts of the province.”
Fort Dobbs, built near Statesville to house settlers during times of war, is completed. The Moravians build a fort around the village of Bethabara.
North Carolina militia and Cherokee assist the British military in campaigns against the French and Shawnee Indians. The Cherokee decide to change sides after receiving ill treatment by the English, and they return home, where they eventually attack North Carolina colonists.
The Moravians establish Bethania in present-day Forsyth County.
The French and Indian War intensifies as the Cherokee raid the western Piedmont. Refugees crowd into the fort at Bethabara. Typhus kills many refugees and Moravians there.
A second smallpox epidemic devastates the Catawba tribe, reducing the population by half.
An act of assembly permits North Carolinians serving against Indian allies of the French to enslave captives.
February: Cherokee attack Fort Dobbs and white settlements near Bethabara and along the Yadkin and Dan Rivers.
June: An army of British regulars and American militia under Colonel Archibald Montgomerie destroys Cherokee villages and saves the Fort Prince George garrison in South Carolina but is defeated by the Cherokee at Echoe.
August: Cherokee capture Fort Loudoun in Tennessee and massacre the garrison.
June: An army of British regulars, American militia, and Catawba and Chickasaw Indians under Colonel James Grant defeats the Cherokee and destroys 15 villages, ending Cherokee resistance.
December: The Cherokee sign a treaty ending their war with the American colonists.
King George III issues a proclamation that demarcates the western edge of settlement. This “proclamation line” through western North Carolina is meant to separate the Native Americans and the colonists.
A group of white men from Edgecombe, Granville, and Northampton Counties petitions the General Assembly to repeal a 1723 law that heavily taxes free African Americans upon marriage. The petitioners state that the tax leaves blacks and mixed-race people “greatly impoverished and many of them rendered unable to support themselves and families with the common necessaries of life.”
February: The Treaty of Paris ends the Seven Years’ War in Europe and the French and Indian War in North America.
The New Bern Academy, chartered by the assembly, opens. The academy receives support from the church and a provisional tax: in return for the tax revenue, the school will educate 10 poor children without charge. The academy will operate until it is incorporated into the New Bern public school system in the 1920s. It is the oldest public-supported educational institution in North Carolina.
Parliament passes the Stamp Act. It requires that paper items such as licenses, playing cards, wallpaper, newspapers, pamphlets, and almanacs be stamped with a tax. Colonial assemblies protest.
October: Two public protests over the Stamp Act take place in Wilmington.
After November 1, with no stamped paper available, ships cannot clear North Carolina, and newspapers cease publication. Governor Tryon reports that “all Civil Government is now at a stand.”
The Moravians establish Salem in present-day Forsyth County.
The North Carolina Assembly appropriates £5,000 for the construction of a governor’s mansion in New Bern. Previously, the seat of government has not been permanent but has moved up and down the coast with the governor. The assembly, controlled by wealthy coastal landowners, chooses New Bern over Hillsborough, the site preferred by residents of the backcountry.
February: North Carolina “Sons of Liberty” offer armed resistance to the Stamp Act at Brunswick. They coerce officials to reopen the port.
March: The Stamp Act is repealed.
The Reverend David Caldwell opens a school, later known as Caldwell’s Log College, in present-day Guilford County. The school, which serves as an academy, a junior college, and a theological seminary, becomes the most important one in the colony. It is coeducational and eventually instructs approximately 50 to 60 students per year.
Construction of the governor’s residence at New Bern begins under the direction of Governor William Tryon. It becomes known as Tryon’s Palace because of its extravagance.
Chowan County Courthouse, now the oldest standing courthouse in the state, is constructed in Edenton.
Parliament passes the Townshend Act, which imposes duties on imported glass, paper, lead, pigments, and tea. Calls to boycott these goods circulate throughout the colonies.
March 15: Andrew Jackson, the future seventh president of the United States, is born in or near Union County. The precise place of his birth is in dispute.
Farmers in Orange County organize the Regulator movement, which spreads to surrounding counties. The movement protests excessive taxation and abuses by public officials. Edmund Fanning is considered the most corrupt official. Herman Husband and William Butler lead the protest. Over the next two years, the Regulator movement gains strength in the Piedmont.
A committee of the assembly votes to join other colonies in a “nonimportation association” and to vow that after January 1770, no “slaves, wine, nor goods of British manufacture” will come into the colony.
Tryon’s Palace is completed in New Bern.
Regulators storm the Hillsborough Superior Court and assault several public officials, including Edmund Fanning. The assembly passes reform measures designed to address some of the Regulators’ concerns. It also passes the Johnston Riot Act, authorizing the governor to put down the Regulators by military force if necessary.
Iron is being mined and ironworks are established on Troublesome Creek, in present-day Rockingham County.
The assembly charters Queen’s College in Charlotte as the colony’s first full-fledged college. A bill to collect taxes to support the college passes, and classes begin before the colony learns that King George III refuses to approve the charter. The Crown does not approve of the college because most of the pupils will be Presbyterians or Dissenters of some sort rather than members of the Church of England.
May 16: North Carolina militiamen under the command of Governor Tryon defeat the Regulators at the Battle of Alamance in Orange County, ending the Regulator movement.
Joseph Pilmoor preaches the first Methodist sermon in the colony at Currituck Courthouse.
Approximately 4,000 Highland Scots arrive to settle along the Cape Fear River, bringing the total Scottish population in the colony to 20,000.
September 25: Frontiersman Daniel Boone leaves his Yadkin River home to begin exploring Kentucky.
December 16: The Boston Tea Party takes place in Massachusetts.
Scottish heroine Flora MacDonald, who helped Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) escape from British forces in 1746, immigrates to North Carolina. In accord with her forced oath to the Crown, she remains a staunch Loyalist during the Revolutionary War. Her husband is captured by Patriots early in the war, and she returns to Scotland in 1779.
August: The First Provincial Congress meets in New Bern. It adopts a resolution criticizing the acts and policies of the British government. In addition, the members adopt a nonimportation and nonexportation agreement and elect delegates to the First Continental Congress.
August 4: Rowan County freeholders adopt resolutions opposing Crown taxes and duties, favoring restrictions on imports from Great Britain, and objecting to the “African trade.”
September–October: The First Continental Congress issues a “Declaration of Rights and Grievances” against Great Britain.
October 25: The Edenton Tea Party takes place at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth King. The 51 women in attendance resolve to support American independence.
North Carolina has a population estimated at 250,000, making it the fourth most populous mainland British colony. Between 10 and 30 percent of the backcountry population is of German descent, and most other white settlers in the region are Scots-Irish. Eastern North Carolina is populated mostly by English colonists and enslaved African Americans.
The Treaty of Sycamore Shoals (now Elizabethton, Tenn.), between Richard Henderson of the Transylvania Company and the Cherokee people, is signed. It opens for settlement the area from the Ohio River south to the Watauga settlement. The Shawnee people, who inhabit the lands, refuse to accept the terms of the treaty.
April 8: Royal governor Josiah Martin dissolves the last North Carolina colonial assembly.
April 19: The first battles of the American Revolution take place at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts.
May 24: Governor Martin goes from the capital at New Bern to Fort Johnston on the Cape Fear River for safety.
May 31: A committee of citizens from Mecklenburg County meets at the courthouse in Charlotte and adopts the Mecklenburg Declaration.
The declaration protests acts of the British government, voids all British authority in the colony until abuses are corrected, and calls for the election of military officers by the people.
June 19: Patriots burn Fort Johnston on the Cape Fear, and Governor Martin escapes to a British warship.
August 24: The North Carolina Provincial Congress declares that the people of the colony will pay their due proportion of the expenses of training a Continental army. The delegates appoint a committee to devise a system of government for the province.
November–December: Virginia’s royal governor, the earl of Dunmore, calls upon slaves, indentured servants, and other Loyalists to assist in suppressing the rebellion of American colonists. Hundreds of African Americans from Virginia and North Carolina join his Royal Ethiopian Regiment. At the Battle of Great Bridge, Virginia and North Carolina colonials defeat Dunmore’s forces.
The first German Baptist (Dunker) congregation in the state forms near Muddy Creek in present-day Forsyth County.
The Coharie, Catawba, and ancestors of the Lumbee join the Patriot cause; the Cherokee decide to support the British.
Washington, N.C., becomes the first town in the United States named for George Washington. Laid out in 1771, it was originally called Forks of the Tar River. It will be incorporated in 1782.
The Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers) denounces slavery and appoints a committee to aid Friends in emancipating their slaves. Forty slaves are freed, but the courts declare them still enslaved and resell them.
The British recruit enslaved and free African Americans along the North Carolina coast to form the Black Pioneers and Guides, a regiment of guides and laborers. This unit serves throughout the Revolutionary War.
February 27: North Carolina Patriots defeat North Carolina Highland Scots Loyalists at the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge. The victory emboldens the Patriots and prevents the Loyalists from reaching Wilmington, the site of a planned rendezvous with a British naval expedition.
April 12: In the Halifax Resolves, the North Carolina Provincial Congress, meeting at Halifax, authorizes North Carolina delegates to attend the Continental Congress to “concur in independency.”
April 24: The Provincial Congress orders that a saltworks be established in Carteret County for use in the cause of independence.
May–June: Cherokee village councils discuss going to war against the American colonists. The Cherokee decide to fight, knowing that the consequences are enormous. However, the Cherokee are fighting to protect the existence of their society, so they ignore the overwhelming odds against them.
June: White settlements in Watauga and South Carolina are raided by the Cherokee, allies of the British, who have promised to protect the Indians from encroachments by colonial borders.
July 29–November: General Griffith Rutherford with 2,400 men invades Cherokee country, destroying 32 towns and villages. Rutherford is joined by Colonel Andrew Williamson with South Carolina troops and Colonel William Christian with Virginians. This expedition breaks the power of the Cherokee and forces them to sue for peace.
August 2: North Carolina’s Continental Congress representatives, Joseph Hewes, William Hooper, and John Penn, sign the Declaration of Independence.
December 18: The Provincial Congress adopts the first North Carolina state constitution and elects Richard Caswell as governor.
Halifax, Hillsborough, Fayetteville, Smithfield, and Tarboro serve at various times as the state’s capital.
North Carolina recognizes settlements in what is now Tennessee as Washington County, and in 1783 Davidson County, including present-day Nashville, is formed in the Cumberland River valley.
The first paper mill in the state is built in Hillsborough to help reduce the paper shortage brought on by the war.
April: An exodus of British sympathizers (mostly Highland Scots) to England, Scotland, Canada, Nova Scotia, Florida, and the West Indies follows the enactment of punitive laws by the assembly.
June–September: Some 90 men from Martin, Bertie, and Tyrrell Counties form a conspiracy under the leadership of John Lewelling to resist North Carolina’s militia draft and loyalty oath. The conspirators, some of them Loyalists, fear that an independent state would lead to increased secularization of government, the weakening of the Anglican Church, and increased influences from overseas French-Catholic powers. The conspiracy is broken when Lewelling’s plans to start a slave rebellion become known.
July 20: By the Treaty of Long Island of Holston, the Cherokee cede territory east of the Blue Ridge and along the Watauga, Nolichucky, Upper Holston, and New Rivers (the area east of present-day Kingsport and Greenville, Tenn.).
October 4: Brigadier General Francis Nash is mortally wounded while leading the North Carolina Brigade at the Battle of Germantown, Pa.
A list of blacks in the Continental army shows that 58 African Americans served in the North Carolina Brigade. According to some historians, at times as much as one-tenth of George Washington’s Continental army consisted of African American men.
April 24: North Carolina ratifies the Articles of Confederation.
June 29: North Carolina Continentals in General Washington’s American army fight in the Battle of Monmouth, N.J.
November 15: The Continental Congress adopts the Article of Confederation, uniting the colonies in the war against Great Britain and toward a unified government.
December: North Carolina Continentals begin a harsh winter encampment as part of General George Washington’s army at Valley Forge, Pa. They remain there until spring.
December: African American John Chavis from Halifax County joins the Fifth Virginia Regiment of the Continental army. Chavis remains in the army for three years and will go on to become a prominent teacher and minister. In 1832 Chavis will write to Senator Willie P. Mangum: “Tell them if I am Black, I am [a] free born American & a revolutionary soldier & therefore ought not to be thrown out of the scale of notice.”
November: North Carolina Continentals are transferred from Washington’s army to General Benjamin Lincoln’s American army at Charlestown, S.C. They arrive there in March 1780.
May 12: The British capture Charlestown, S.C., and a large American army. Among those who surrender are 815 Continental troops and 600 militia from North Carolina. Loyalists across the backcountry are emboldened as the British army approaches North Carolina, and significant Loyalist groups form in Anson, Rowan, Tryon, and Surry counties. Local Patriot forces defeat most of them, but 800 men under the command of Samuel Bryan reach the main British army.
June 20: In the Battle of Ramseur’s Mill, near present-day Lincolnton, North Carolina Patriots defeat North Carolina Loyalists who are attempting to join British commander Lord Cornwallis’s approaching army.
July: North Carolina partisans defeat Loyalists in three small battles in the western Piedmont of North and South Carolina.
August 16: The new American commander of the South, General Horatio Gates, and his army, including 1,200 North Carolina militia, are surprised and defeated at the Battle of Camden, S.C. North Carolina general Griffith Rutherford is captured, and 400 North Carolinians are killed.
September: The town of Charlotte defends itself against approaching British troops. The ferocity of resistance causes Cornwallis to call the area a “hornet’s nest.”
October 7: Americans defeat Loyalists at the Battle of Kings Mountain, just south of the North Carolina–South Carolina border. This battle ends Cornwallis’s first invasion of North Carolina.
December 2: General Nathanael Greene takes command of the American army at Charlotte.
North Carolina enacts legislation that provides lands in present-day Tennessee to Revolutionary War veterans.
Bishop Francis Asbury preaches Methodism throughout the state.
January–February: After a futile chase across North Carolina, known as the Race to the Dan, Cornwallis does not catch the American army led by Greene. Cornwallis occupies Hillsborough, hoping that local Loyalists will join him, but few do.
January–November: British troops occupy Wilmington. From there British and Loyalists conduct raids into the countryside. Cornelius Harnett, chairman of the committee that issued the report that became known as the Halifax Resolves, is captured, and New Bern is raided.
January 17: A British force under Colonel Banastre Tarleton attacks Americans under General Daniel Morgan at Cowpens, S.C., but is badly defeated.
February 25: En route to join Cornwallis’s army near Burlington, a force of some 400 Loyalists led by Colonel John Pyle is massacred by Patriots. This event becomes known as Pyle’s Hacking Match.
March 15: The largest armed conflict in North Carolina during the war, the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, results in a costly narrow victory for Cornwallis’s British troops. Cornwallis retreats to Cross Creek (present-day Fayetteville) and then to Wilmington. His army marches north and occupies Halifax briefly before moving into Virginia.
May–June: A bloody civil war between Loyalists and Whigs erupts in eastern and central North Carolina. It becomes known as the Tory War. Loyalist successes during the confrontations end with the British evacuation of Wilmington later in the year.
September 12: Loyalist troops under the leadership of David Fanning capture Governor Thomas Burke at Hillsborough and set out to take him to Wilmington.
September 13: Whig forces attack Fanning’s army in an attempt to free Governor Burke and other prisoners. The Battle of Lindley’s Mill, which results from this attack, is one of the largest military engagements in North Carolina during the war. Fanning is injured, but his column continues. Burke is given over to the British, who imprison him at Charlestown, S.C.
October: North Carolina militia under General Rutherford sweep through the Cape Fear region clearing out Tory opposition. As they reach Wilmington, the British abandon the city.
October 19: Cornwallis surrenders a large British force at Yorktown, V.A., effectively ending large-scale hostilities. North Carolina Loyalists are among those who surrender.
May: David Fanning escapes from North Carolina, marking the end of the Tory War in the state.
November: The British evacuate Charlestown. With them go more than 800 North Carolina Loyalist soldiers (some will later be joined by their families) and perhaps as many as 5,000 African Americans, many of them runaway slaves from North and South Carolina. Some of the Loyalists go to England, but most disperse to other British possessions, including Florida, Bermuda, Jamaica, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Ontario.
Despite the Indian treaty of 1777 fixing the boundary at the foot of the Blue Ridge, the assembly declares lands open for settlement as far west as the Pigeon River.
The North Carolina General Assembly passes the Act of Pardon and Oblivion, offering amnesty to some North Carolinians who remained loyal to Britain during the Revolution. Many notable Loyalists, such as David Fanning, do not receive amnesty. The state continues to sell confiscated Loyalist property until 1790.
Cross Creek, which merged with Campbellton in 1778, is renamed Fayetteville in honor of the marquis de Lafayette, a French general who helped Americans win the war.
June 18: Governor Alexander Martin proclaims July 4 “a day of Solemn Thanksgiving to Almighty God.” This is the earliest known proclamation of the observance of July 4 as Independence Day.
September 3: Great Britain and the United States sign a treaty that officially ends the American Revolution and recognizes the independence of the former British colonies.
Methodist circuit riders, or traveling preachers, cover the North Carolina backcountry. Some Methodists are “Republican Methodists” who denounce slavery, and many circuit riders bar slaveholders from communion.
The State of Franklin secedes from western North Carolina, but Congress refuses to recognize it. Statehood by Franklin collapses.
April 19: The first North Carolina conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church takes place in Louisburg.
November 28: By the Treaty of Hopewell, S.C., the Cherokee cede additional territory reaching to a line east of present-day Marshall, Asheville, and Henderson. They also cede a strip along the south bank of the Cumberland River in present-day middle Tennessee. The treaty delineates the boundaries of Cherokee territory.
December 29: The General Assembly enacts a law requiring free and enslaved African Americans to wear badges in the towns of Edenton, Fayetteville, Washington, and Wilmington. A slave must wear a leaden or pewter badge in a conspicuous place. A free black must wear a cloth badge on his or her left shoulder with the word free in capital letters.
In Bayard v. Singleton, Elizabeth Bayard attempts to recover property confiscated because her father was a Loyalist. Spyers Singleton has purchased the property from the state. Judges declare the Confiscation Act, passed by the General Assembly during the American Revolution, unconstitutional. The decision is the first in the United States to declare an act passed by a legislature as contrary to a written constitution.
The banjo, an African musical instrument, is first mentioned in a journal by a visitor to Tarboro.
After a period of study in Salisbury, Andrew Jackson, future seventh president of the United States, is admitted to the bar in Rowan County.
September 17: William Blount, Richard Dobbs Spaight, and Hugh Williamson sign the United States Constitution for North Carolina.
North Carolina lawyers Andrew Jackson and Colonel Waightstill Avery engage in a duel in Jonesboro, now in Tennessee. Neither man is injured, and they leave the field as friends.
The assembly encourages ironworks by offering 3,000 acres of vacant land for each set of works placed in operation.
August 2: Delegates to the constitutional convention at Hillsborough, unsatisfied with the document’s lack of a bill of rights to ensure personal freedoms, protest by choosing to neither ratify nor reject the United States Constitution.
August 15: The assembly orders the state capital located within 10 miles of Isaac Hunter’s plantation in Wake County.
August 26: An iron mine and forge operate in Lincoln County.
November: The Synod of the Carolinas of the Presbyterian Church forms at Centre Church in Iredell County.
John Wallace and John Gray Blount establish a “lightering” complex at Ocracoke Inlet. It includes warehouses, docks, a gristmill, a chandlery, and a lighthouse—the first on the coast. The area will become known as Shell Castle Island and Harbor.
November 21: The convention at Fayetteville votes to accept the United States Constitution, which now contains the Bill of Rights, making North Carolina the 12th state to ratify.
December 11: The state’s first university, called for under the 1776 constitution, is chartered.
December 22: North Carolina’s western lands are ceded to the United States, forming what will become the state of Tennessee.
The federal government takes the first census of the United States.
North Carolina Census Data:
Free white persons: 288,204
All other free persons: 4,975
Henry Evans, a free black shoemaker and Methodist minister, is credited with starting the Methodist church in Fayetteville.
The Dismal Swamp Canal, designed to connect the Chesapeake Bay with the Albemarle Sound, is chartered.
February 10: President George Washington appoints North Carolinian James Iredell a justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Wilmington exports about 3,000 hogsheads of flaxseed. Flax and hemp are important in the economy of backcountry farms.
April–June: George Washington visits several North Carolina towns on his southern tour.
July 2: The Cherokee sign the Treaty of Holston, by which they cede a 100-mile tract of land in exchange for goods and an annuity of $1,000.
Joel Lane sells 1,000 acres of land on his Wake County plantation as the site of North Carolina’s new capital. The city is named Raleigh after Sir Walter Raleigh.
Approximately 1,200 African Americans living in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, many formerly from the Carolinas, resettle in Sierra Leone, Africa. Former North Carolina slave Thomas Peters leads the party. Peters left his Wilmington-area plantation in 1776 to join the Black Pioneers and eventually attained the rank of sergeant in the regiment.
Eli Whitney invents the first commercially successful cotton gin near Savannah, G.A. The cotton gin eventually changes the agricultural face of North Carolina by making cotton a profitable cash crop.
Work begins on the Dismal Swamp Canal, which will link South Mills in Camden County with waterways in Virginia. Constructed with slave labor, the canal is the oldest man-made waterway in the United States.
April 22: President George Washington issues a proclamation of neutrality to keep the United States out of war between France and Great Britain, establishing a policy of noninterference in European conflicts.
August: A group of dissenters from the Methodist Episcopal Church, led by North Carolinian James O’Kelly, forms the southern Christian Church in Surry County, V.A. The denomination will evolve into the present-day United Church of Christ.
December 30: The General Assembly convenes for the first time at the new State House in Raleigh.
January 15: The University of North Carolina opens its doors in Chapel Hill. It is the first state university in the nation to open for students.
November 2: James Knox Polk, future 11th president of the United States, is born in Pineville.
John Fulenwider founds the High Shoals Ironworks in present-day Gaston County.
The Bald Head Lighthouse, the state’s first permanent lighthouse, is erected in Brunswick County. In 1817 it will be replaced by the current structure, which will operate until 1935.
The Buncombe County Courthouse and the village around it are renamed Asheville in honor of Governor Samuel Ashe.
Because of an aversion to increased taxation, public lotteries, authorized by the assembly, are a popular way of raising funds for academies, churches, bridges, canals, and other public works. Between 1797 and 1825, the state lotteries raise $150,000 for educational purposes alone.
North Carolina–born William Blount, a United States senator from Tennessee, becomes the only member of Congress to be impeached by the House. He is impeached for conspiring with the British to launch a military expedition of frontiersmen and Indians to help Great Britain take New Orleans, L.A., and Florida away from Spain. The Senate expels Blount and later dismisses the impeachment charges.
The General Assembly takes a stand against the Alien and Sedition Acts, which allow the federal government to jail or deport individuals who speak out against the president or Congress.
October 2: By the Treaty of Tellico, the Cherokee cede a triangular area with its points near Indian Gap, east of present-day Brevard, and southeast of Asheville.
Gold is discovered on John Reed’s farm in Cabarrus County, starting North Carolina’s gold rush. North Carolina becomes the primary supplier of gold for the United States until 1849.
Joseph Rice kills the last bison, or buffalo, seen in the Asheville area.
May 20–June 28: The North Carolina–Tennessee boundary is first surveyed.
December: North Carolinian Alfred Moore is appointed a justice of the United States Supreme Court.
December 16: The North Carolina Medical Society holds its first meeting in Raleigh. The organization will continue until 1804.