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Early Settlement

by David Goldfield

Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2005.

Reprinted with permission from The North Carolina Atlas Revisited. Managing editor: Alfred W. Stuart.

Development of the Frontier, 1657 - 1835

During the late 17th century, settlement in North Carolina proceeded from Virginia migration, first into the Albemarle region, then into the Pamlico district. By 1710, the new sparsely settled province had a capital at Edenton. But the migration caused growing alarm among the Indian populations resulting in a conflict that raged on and off for four years concluding in 1715 with the decimation of the Indians and the opening up of additional land to white settlement. The key event that affected the colony’s development until the time of the Revolution was King George II’s takeover of North Carolina from the heirs of the Lords Proprietors in 1729. The change generated a land bonanza in the colony as the Crown eased land purchase requirements and sent out the equivalent of real estate agents to drum up business. Their work, and the encouragement of royal governors, touched off a boom in North Carolina that lasted from 1730 to the American Revolution. Forests along the Coastal Plain were leveled for farms, settlers poured into the backcountry, and the line of settlement extended to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Avenues of Early Settlement

The origins of North Carolina’s 18th-century newcomers varied widely. South Carolinians moved north into the Lower Cape Fear region to establish pine plantations with African slave labor. As land grew scarce in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia after 1730, migrants trekked down the Great Wagon road which began near Philadelphia and extended southwestward to the Shenandoah Valley before veering east into the North and South Carolina Piedmont. These newcomers included a variety of ethnic and religious groups, including Quakers, German Lutherans, German Moravians, and Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and Baptists. Settling primarily in the Piedmont, they contrasted with the mostly English and African coastal areas and, in fact, had little contact with those areas. The rivers of the Piedmont flowed into the South Carolina colony and that is the route commerce and communication followed as well. By themed-eighteenth century residents of Piedmont North Carolina had more contacts with Pennsylvania than they did with the coastal district of their own colony.

European and African Settlement in 1730

In 1730, the colony’s population included 30,000 whites and 6,000 blacks, almost all of whom lived along the Coastal Plain; by 1775, the population had grown to 265,000 inhabitants, including 10,000 blacks, and settlement was scattered from the coast to the mountains. By that latter date, North Carolina was the fourth most populous of the thirteen colonies. The population was also among the most diverse with some estimates placing the German population as high as 30 percent.

Figure 4 European and African Settlement

References and additional resources:

North Carolina Atlas Revisited:

Orr, Douglas Milton, and Alfred W. Stuart. 2000. The North Carolina atlas: portrait for a new century. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Powell, William Stevens, and Jay Mazzocchi. 2006. Encyclopedia of North Carolina. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Powell, William Stevens. 1989. North Carolina through four centuries. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.



Looking for information about the William Whiteside Family and his descendants. My line comes from his daughter Sarah who married a Nowlin. any information or about their plantation would be great...thank you!



Thanks for writing! I’ve forwarded your comment along to our Reference Services, who can assist you. Their contact information is here:

T. Mike Childs, NCpedia, N.C. Government & Heritage Library.


I have been researching my four great grandfather John Scott who was born in NC in 1780, died in Arkansas 1849. What records would you suggest that I would research to find out the county where he was born?


Contact our Reference section here: :

and they can help you with your request.

T. Mike Childs, NCpedia, N.C. Government & Heritage Library.


Working on the family history of the Minor family in N.C. I have a Paschal Minor who lived in Davidson Co. N.C. he was born @1796 and died between 1845-50. He was married to Mary Helmstettler she was German. Her father was Peter. But my dead end comes with Paschal, he was born in Va. and was orphaned when young. I have no idea who his father or mother was. Could you HELP ME!! I live in Missouri and I can't come to N.C. to do the research I need to. I have tired to look on the internet but have had no luck. Paschal had one brother and sister. I don't know their names. Paschal and his wife were members of the Sandy Creek Baptist Church in N.C. Any thing you could add would greatly be appreciated. Thanks Judy in Missouri


Hi Judy,

Thank you for taking the time to post your question to NCpedia. I have emailed you to connect you with Reference Services at the NC Government & Heritage Library on this note. Someone will contact you soon about your inquiry. Additional contact information may be found for them at Thanks, and good luck on your research!

Michelle Underhill, Digital Information Management Program, NC Government & Heritage Library


So I get the moving from Albemarle Region to the Pamlico District but who were the migrators and what general establishment did they settle? What general year? This is a bit confusing, please reply as soon as possible, thanks.


Try some of our other articles on the early settlement of North Carolina:

If these don’t help, then contact our reference department here:

Mike Childs, NCpedia, N.C. Government & Heritage Library.


Do you the statistics of the different ethnicities by origin (country) possibly in a graph?


I've sent you an email forwarding your request to Reference Services at the NC Government & Heritage Library. Their direct email address is Additional contact information may be found for them at Someone should be in contact with you shortly. Good luck in your research!


Emily Horton, Government & Heritage Library, State Library of NC

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