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Albemarle County

by Laura Young Baxley and William S. Powell, 2006.

Homann, Johann Baptist. 1700s. "Virginia, Marylandia et Carolina: in America septentrionali Brittannorum industria excultae." North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Online in the NC Maps Collection.The name "Albemarle" was applied to the section or region of northeastern North Carolina that was the earliest permanently settled part of the colony. Settlers began moving there about the middle of the seventeenth century, settling along the northern shore of the sound that was first called the Sea of Roanoke (1609) or Roanoke Sound (1657) and, for a very short time, Carolina River (1663). It is known today as Albemarle Sound. In 1664 a county of 1,660 square miles with imprecise boundaries was created and named Albemarle for George Monck, duke of Albemarle, one of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina. The county was divided into Chowan, Currituck, Pasquotank, and Perquimans Precincts in 1668. Albemarle County ceased to exist as a unit of government in 1689, and the precincts came to be recognized as counties. In time additional counties were created in the region, but the northeastern corner of North Carolina is still referred to as the Albemarle region.

Although the Albemarle region of North Carolina was by the 1660s the site of the only structured government in the colony, there were several factors that slowed its development. Communication with other colonies, except Virginia, was virtually impossible for the area. The Outer Banks prevented direct navigation. The waters surrounding the Albemarle region would not support large ships, which further inhibited growth. Also, many of the Lords Proprietors focused their energies and finances on the easier-to-settle southern part of the colony, blaming the Albemarle residents for a lack of interest in development.

Government leaders of the Albemarle region attempted to overcome these serious obstacles in a number of ways. Several laws were enacted in an effort to entice new settlers to the region. A proclamation by the governor brought land ownership laws into accord with Virginia's, making movement from one colony to another easier and encouraging migration. To distribute land ownership more equally (and probably to prevent speculating), ownership by one party of more than 660 acres was prohibited, except by direct grant from the Lords Proprietors. Trading privileges with the Native Americans in the area were reserved for official residents of the colony, which stimulated the economy and encouraged traders to make Albemarle a permanent home.

The legislature approved acts that excused new settlers from taxes for one year and also pardoned new settlers from paying any debt accrued inside or outside the colony for five years. These measures allowed new settlers to establish themselves and their families before burdening themselves with large debt payments. Some Virginia authorities, however, viewed the law as encouraging only debtors to settle in the Albemarle region.

There were few religious leaders in Albemarle, yet the government wanted to encourage family development and settlement. As a result, the legislature also approved licenses for civil officials to perform marriage ceremonies. This unconventional measure, along with the region's reputation as a haven for ne'er-do-wells of all sorts, provoked insulting epithets from Albemarle's Virginia neighbors, the most popular being "Rogue's Harbor."


William S. Powell, ed., Ye Countie of Albemarle in Carolina (1958).

Image credit:

Homann, Johann Baptist. 1700s. "Virginia, Marylandia et Carolina: in America septentrionali Brittannorum industria excultae." North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Online at



How can I see a copy of the North Carolina land grant to William Baxley, I believe in Robeson Cty, NC?



One way is to go to and click on query and enter the name. Images cannot be saved. If you want a copy of the original, you will need to use information from that website to request it from the State Archives of North Carolina at


Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library


Thank you for the information about Albermarle and its' "offspring" counties. Do we know if the first settlers came directly to the county from Europe OR came via the Virginia colony (Jamestown, et al) that may have been too crowded when they arrived OR both? Thank you for your help!



Great question! It may have been somewhat of a mix, but I think the best way to learn is to look through land records for the county. Often in deeds, sometimes court records, or land grants, when a person was new to the area, it may say something like "John Doe, formerly of [place]". There are 2 ways you can look at land grants from home to see what they tell you. 

  • DOC is a catalog of some records of the State Archives, including all land grants, but all you will likely find in the catalog is who the grant was for and where, however, it's worth a look -
  • The NC Land Grant Images and Data is a personally owned website, but includes images of land grants from the state. If you find a grant in DOC you want more information for, I suggest you then head over to this site to see the image and find more details.

Hope that helps! 

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

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