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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:

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.



Dear Sina,

By doing a quick search, I was able to find that Elisha (Elizah) Murphy and Sina Murphy are the parents of Fannie Elizabeth Murphy Crisp. Come to the Government & Heritage Library and continue the research.

Francesca Evans, State Library of North Carolina


My gggggggfather John Potter was b 1705 in River, Cleveland, NC
Would like to see any information you might have.


Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia.I am going to forward your request to our reference team at the Government & Heritage Library.


Francesca Evans, Government & Heritage Library


Her comment is the same for me and I would appreciate any information to also be forwarded to me.


Hi Brent,

I have forwarded your request to the reference team.


Francesca Evans, Government & Heritage Library


I suspect the parents of my 5Xgreat grandfather Matthew Nugent migrated from Virginia into North Carolina sometimes prior to 1724 when in was born in Brunswick County. Three questions... (1) are there any publicly available electronic records --other than those on Ancestry-- that might shed light on his parentage? Matthew, his wife, and their adult children and spouses seem to have left North Carolina suddenly at some point between 1771 and the start of the Revolution. (2) Was this sort of mass family migration common in this area at this time? (3) If uncommon, were there any events in the Brunswick County area in that time frame that might have prompted an entire family to leave the area? Thank you very much for your time and any information you may be able to share with me.


Got to I found tons of info on my heritage there.


I am searching for information on the Etycheson family. Possible residence in Rowan. Last names could be spelled Etchison, Atchison



Thank you for visiting NCpedia and posting your question. I am going to connect with librarians at the Government and Heritage Library at the State Library of NC and see if they can connect you to information. YOu may also contact them directly at 

Good luck!

Kelly Eubank, Government & Heritage Library


Daniel Travis, whose wife was Susannah (probably King), died at a young age in Perquimans Co. ca 1694. It is thought that their son was Dr. Edward Travis, who settled in Bath, Beaufort Co., in 1717. However, we have been unable to find proof of any children born to them. Susannah married, secondly, Francis Delamare, and they were named administrators of Daniel's estate, where there was no mention of any child. Would appreciate any info on this family.

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