North Carolina Colony: History & Facts

Instructor: Jeremy Battista
One of the original thirteen colonies, North Carolina is rich in history. We will explore some of this history, touching on the more important points as we go.

Pre-Colonial Period

As is the case for all of North America's lands, the original settlers of North Carolina were Native Americans. Many different tribes called the various regions of North Carolina home, a long time before any European ever set foot on the land. Many early American explorers sailed near or into North Carolina in the 1500's. The European first credited with landing in North Carolina was Giovanni da Verrazzano, who landed in 1524. He was an Italian explorer that was hired by France to do the exploration. Over a period of time, many other explorers came into and around North Carolina.

The first Europeans to establish a foothold in North Carolina were the Spanish, first under Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón and then under Juan Pardo. Ayllón's group ran into problems when one of their ships was sunk while attempting to land. The surviving colonists tried to stick it out, but within a few months Ayllón was dead and the remaining 150 decided to leave and head back to Hispaniola.

Juan Pardo's group achieved greater success. In 1567, he created an permanent North Carolina settlement by building Fort San Juan. He traveled about the region and created five other forts; but unfortunately for Juan Pardo, these forts didn't even make it two years before local Indian tribes destroyed the forts, killing those that remained inside.

Sir Walter Raleigh, the financier of Roanoke
Sir Walter Raleigh

The first real, somewhat successful colony came in the English colony of Roanoke. Commissioned and financed by Sir Walter Raleigh, it became a minor success. You might remember it from elementary school as the 'Lost Colony;' that's because Roanoke essentially disappeared in 1587, just three years after it was established. Until then, it thrived modestly, and even saw the first English child ever born in North America, Virginia Dare.

It seems that North Carolina was difficult to settle for pilgrims who crossed the Atlantic. During the middle 1600s however, many English settlers migrated south from Virginia into the area of North Carolina to establish colonies. In fact, by around 1663, North Carolina became a colony: Carolina, settled by the English and chartered by King Charles II. It was originally bought and run by eight proprietors, who agreed to help King Charles retain his throne in exchange for the colony.

Colonial Period

Map of North and South Carolina, ca. 1747
Colonial Map

The stream of settlers from northern colonies seemed never-ending. As more came into the colony, it became a bit of an afterthought that the colony was too large. At the time, the colony 'Carolina' included both present-day North and South Carolina, and extended out into much of what is current day Tennessee. An extra governor was appointed in 1691, allowing one for the north and one for the south. In 1710, the land was divided to become North and South Carolina, two separate colonies. Technically speaking, North Carolina only became a royal colony in 1729, after the British government bought out the original proprietors. It was also during this time - 1718, to be exact - that North Carolina had a famous visitor who was killed off of Okracoke Island: Mr. Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard the pirate.

Blackbeard the Pirate
Blackbeard

With the Royal Proclamation of 1763, King George III limited the westward expansion of the colonies. This was not well received by those in North Carolina, as the hostile Indian tribes there had been removed or stopped via the French and Indian Wars. This stifling of Indian tribes would have allowed settlers to branch out into the region of modern Tennessee. In fact, some frontiersman - such as Daniel Boone - would continue to venture out past the proclamation line, with some establishing small settlements out beyond the line.

Conflict

During much of the colonial era of North Carolina, there was conflict. The first settlers of the area had many armed conflicts with the natives; armed conflicts occurred even during the 1700s, including some natives-versus-settlers conflicts. Many others were simply proxy wars fought in the name of European powers, mainly England, France, and to a degree, Spain.

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