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: http://ncatlasrevisited.org

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 more information on James Elliott/Elet/Elliot, born 1770 in Scotland, UK.
Settled Fork community on Beaver Dam Creek, Montgomery CO. His wife Margaret and he had appx. 600 acres of land now covered mostly by Badin Lake. Died in March 1842. Looking for trail back to when he migrated to US.


His wife's name was Margret.


Hi Jeffrey,

Thanks for vising NCpedia and taking time to ask your question.  

Genealogical Services and our reference librarians here at the State Library will be able to help you get started in this search for more information on James Elliott.

Please go to this link on the State Libary website to find our contact information. http://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/contact.html

Good luck with your research!

Kelly Agan, NCpedia Staff


I would like to know what info NC has on the Garrison family that are and were located in Northern Alamance. I know they came from Delaware back around 1768-1770 and settled near Stony Creek, Alamance Co. Back then it was Orange County. They are known as the Stony Creek Garrisons or Delaware to NC Garrisons. They moved down with a number of Swedish families from Delaware. They were part of the Holy Trinity Church (Old Swedes) located in Wilmington Delaware. Some of these Garrisons and families moved to Burke Co NC back around the late 1770's. These Garrisons that stayed in Alamance are buried in Stony Creek Presbyterian Church and Bethel Church, both located in northern Alamance County. Thanks! Mike Garrison, Burlington NC


Hi Michael,

Thanks for visiting NCpedia and taking the time to leave your comment and question.

By separate email, I will connect you with our reference staff at the Government & Heritage Library who will be able to help you find additional resources to answer your questions about the Garrison family.

Good luck!

Kelly Agan, NCpedia Staff


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: http://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/contact.html

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?

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