About North Carolina

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About North Carolina

Image courtesy of Mark Clifton 

North Carolina Early History

At the time of the first European contact, North Carolina was inhabited by a number of native tribes sharing some cultural traits. The major tribes were: The Cherokee were located in the mountains on the western boundaries of the state. Located primarily in the Piedmont area, or central portion, of the state ,were the Cape Fear, Catawba, Cheraw, Sugaree, Waccamaw, Wateree and Waxhaw. The tribes represented the southernmost extension of Northeastern Woodlands were located entirely in the tidewater area of the state. These were the Chowan, Hatteras, Pamlico, Secotan, and Weapomeoc.

The Catawba was one of the Siouan-speaking tribes of the piedmont area of the Carolinas at the time of the first European contact. Little is known of their culture and life style at that time, since contact was few and sporadic and little was documented of their culture. What is known, is based largely on the writings of John Lawson, who explored the piedmont territory and visited the Catawba in 1701. Not only is little known about the Catawba culture, there is also confusion as to exactly who the Catawba were. The Catawba Nation was actually a military alliance of several Siouan tribes and remnants of tribes or bands decimated by war and disease who joined the Catawba. In the historical records, they have been known by several different names: the Spanish referred to them as the Issa, the Ysa, or the Usi and the 17th century Virginians called them the Usheree or Ushery. After the Yamasee War they became known as the Catawba, which means “cut off,” apparently referring to their being cut off from other Siouan tribes. Their name for themselves was I Ye Ye, “people,” or Nieye, “real people.” At the time of contact, there were approximately 6,000 Catawbas. The only larger tribe was the Cherokee.

Cherokee – At the time of their first contact with Europeans, in the mid-16th century, the Cherokee lived in the isolated hills and valleys of the highest portions of the Southern Appalachians. Related linguistically to the Iroquois to the north, some scholars believe that successive groups of Cherokee were driven southwards in pre-Columbian times until they settled in the Southern Appalachians. By the beginning of the 18th century, the Cherokee territory had expanded to include Allegheny County in southwestern Virginia, western North Carolina, northwestern South Carolina, eastern Tennessee and northern Georgia and Alabama. Abundant in natural resources, this area provided over 800 species of plants used for food, medicines, and crafts. A wide variety of trees in the dense forests was available for fuel, weaving fibers, twine, medicinal barks and the framework and covering of dwellings, while plentiful animals provided food, clothing, shelter, and medicine.

Catawba and Cherokee of The Carolinas (1927)

Coastal North Carolina was the scene of the first attempt to colonize America by English-speaking people. Two colonies were begun in the 1580’s under a charter granted by Queen Elizabeth to Sir Walter Raleigh. The first colony, established in 1585 under the leadership of Ralph Lane, ended in failure. A second expedition under the leadership of John White began in the spring of 1587 when 110 settlers, including seventeen women and nine children, set sail for the new world. The White Colony arrived near Hatteras in June, 1587, and went on to Roanoke Island, where they found the houses built by Ralph Lane’s expedition still standing. Two significant events occurred shortly after the colonist’s arrival: two “friendly” Indians were baptized and a child was born. Virginia Dare, as the baby was named, became the first child born to English-speaking parents in the new world. The colonists faced many problems. As supplies ran short White was pressured to return to England for provisions. Once in England, White was unable to immediately return to Roanoke because of an impending attack by the Spanish Armada. When he was finally able to return in 1590, he found only the remnants of what was once a settlement. There were no signs of life, only the word “CROATAN” carved on a nearby tree. Much speculation has been made about the fate of the “Lost Colony,” but no one has successfully explained the disappearance of the colony and its settlers.

Ralph Lane – Return to Roanoke

Colonial Period

The first permanent English settlers in North Carolina were immigrants from the tidewater area of southeastern Virginia. These first of these “overflow” settlers moved into the Albemarle area of northeast North Carolina around 1650. In 1663, Charles II granted a charter to eight English gentlemen who had helped him regain the throne of England. The territory was called Carolina in honor of Charles the First (“Carolus” is the Latin form of “Charles”). In 1665, a second charter was granted to re-clarify territorial boundaries. Between 1663 and 1729, North Carolina was under the control of the Lords Proprietors and their descendants, who commissioned colonial officials and authorized the governor and his council to grant lands in the name of the Lords Proprietors. In 1669, John Locke wrote the Fundamental Constitutions as a model for the government of Carolina. Although the Albemarle Region was the first permanent settlement in the Carolina area, another region was developed around present-day Charleston, South Carolina. Because of the natural harbor and easier access to trade with the West Indies, more attention was given to developing the Charleston area than her northern counterparts. For a twenty-year period, 1692-1712, the colonies of North and South Carolina existed as one unit of government. Although North Carolina still had her own assembly and council, the governor of Carolina resided in Charleston and a deputy governor appointed for North Carolina.

In 1729, seven of the Lords Proprietors sold their interests in North Carolina to the Crown and North Carolina became a royal colony. The eighth proprietor, Lord Granville, retained economic interest and continued granting land in the northern half of North Carolina. All political functions were under the supervision of the Crown until 1775.

The Colony of North Carolina

Revolutionary War to Civil War

In early December, 1776, delegates to the Fifth Provincial Congress adopted the first constitution for North Carolina. On December 21, 1776, Richard Caswell became the first governor of North Carolina under the new constitution. In 1788, North Carolina rejected the United States Constitution because of the lack of necessary amendments to ensure freedom of the people; however, on November 21, 1789, the state adopted the constitution, becoming the twelfth state to enter the federal union.

North Carolina has had two permanent capitals, New Bern and Raleigh, and there have been three capitol buildings. Tryon Palace in New Bern was constructed in the period 1767-1770, and the main building was destroyed by fire February 27, 1798. The first capitol in Raleigh was completed in 1794 and was destroyed by fire on June 21, 1831. The present capitol building was completed in 1840.

During the years between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, North Carolina developed a system of state and local government to meet the needs of its people. During this same period, two North Carolina natives were elected to the presidency of the United States: Andrew Jackson, the seventh president (1829-1837), and James K. Polk, the eleventh president (1845-1849).

Although there was much division in the state concerning secession, North Carolina did secede on May 20, 1861. North Carolina was not considered a wealthy state, but during the Civil War North Carolina supplied more men and materials to the Confederate cause than any other state. The state also suffered the largest number of losses than any other Confederate state during the war. General Joseph Johnston surrendered the last major Confederate Army to General William Sherman near Durham on April 26, 1865.

North Carolina was readmitted to the Union in 1868. Serving as president during much of the difficult period of Reconstruction was Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth president (1865-1869), another North Carolina native. The years of reconstruction and the decades following were characterized by courageous readjustments.

North Carolina Civil War History Center

The Twentieth Century

In 1901 Governor Charles B. Aycock introduced a far-reaching program of education throughout the state, an event which marked an important turning point in the history of North Carolina. In 1903 the Wright Brothers made the first successful powered flight by man at Kill Devil Hill near Kitty Hawk. The Wright Memorial at Kitty Hawks now commemorates their achievement.

In the 1920’s a pioneer road building program was instituted which ultimately caused the state to be known as the “Good Roads State.”

In recent years the state has emphasized education, industry, and agricultural technology and in each area has achieved many notable successes. Established in 1959 to enhance North Carolina’s economic growth, the Research Triangle Park is a unique complex for organizations engaged in institutional, governmental, and industrial research. Three major research universities–Duke University in Durham, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill–are both the base and the capstone of the Research Triangle Park.


North Carolina’s population in the 1990 census was counted as 6,632,448, which made us the tenth most populous state in the United States. The state’s population is currently projected by the North Carolina Office of State Planning to be 7,733,097 when the 2000 census is taken.

North Carolina consists of 48,843 square miles of land and 3,826 square miles of inland water. Our total area of 52,669 square miles ranks North Carolina twenty-ninth in area among the states. The Old North State lies on the Eastern Seaboard with half of the population of the United States living within a 500-mile radius of the state. The state’s temperate climate has four distinct seasons and is highly acclaimed for its year-round living comforts. Rainfall is adequate and dispersed over the entire year.

North Carolina Tour

Agriculture and Business

The Tarheel state continues to rank number one in the production of tobacco with an approximate annual farm income of $788.7 million dollars. In 1999, North Carolina flue-cured tobacco farmers raised 200,000 acres with an average yield of 2,183 lbs. per acre. Burley tobacco farmers in the state raised 8,200 acres for an average yield of 1,650 lbs. per acre. There are approximately 286,500 tobacco farms with assigned quota in the United States with North Carolina having 40,829 tobacco farms with quota. According to the 1997 census there are 89,706 tobacco farmers in the United States and 12,095 tobacco farmers in North Carolina. Employment relating to tobacco is 662,400 in the United States and 255,000 in North Carolina. The tobacco industry’s estimated spending-induced impact on America’s GNP was over $64.0 billion. North Carolina’s tobacco economic impact is over $7.0 billion.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings, Inc. is the parent company of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, founded in Winston Salem, NC. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company is the second-largest tobacco company in the United States, manufacturing one of every four cigarettes sold in the domestic market. Reynolds Tobacco’s product line includes four of the nation’s ten best-selling brands: Winston, Camel, Salem, and Doral.

North Carolina is a golfer’s paradise, an Internet search found 577 golf courses in North Carolina. Great Smoky Mountain Golf Trails is played in the Highlands where Western North Carolina meets East Tennessee. Here, the Great Smokies weave in and out of the Blue Ridge, creating the stage for a great game of golf. The Sandhills of North Carolina’s unique characteristics inspired Donald Ross, the legendary golf course architect, to say that this area reminded him of his Scottish homeland. The golf villages of Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen, Foxfire, Woodlake and Seven Lakes_ make up the “Sandhills” and are about 100 miles from north Carolina’s coast. The “Sandhills” offer some of the most beautiful and some of the finest golf courses in the world.

The Sandhills is so named because it is an area where mountainous Piedmont meets the coastal plain. this area if famous for the evergreen longleaf pine forests and a unique climate that enables golf to be played virtually year round. The most consistent characteristic is the rich soil’s sandy base, but at a sudden turn, the hills of the piedmont can be seen in the undulation of a rolling fairway designed by some of the greatest golf course architects in the world. As great as the sandhills resorts and the coastal golf is hard to beat. There are hundreds of courses along the NC & SC coast.

North Carolina Agriculture Region by Region


Many consider the area a vacation paradise, owing to its wide sandy beaches, unspoiled natural terrain, abundant clean water, and warm temperatures. Aside from the beach allure, recreational activities include swimming and water sports, the best surfing on the East Coast, world-class sport fishing, and world-class golf. And, since the town of Kitty Hawk is home to the world’s first powered flight, the area is a magnet for aviators. It’s a place where adventure is still possible, where romance thrives, and where tide charts, sea gulls, and wild ponies take precedence over convention and pretense.

Cape Lookout National Seashore seashore is a 56 mile long section of the Outer Banks of North Carolina running from Ocracoke Inlet on the northeast to Beaufort Inlet on the southeast. The three undeveloped barrier islands which make up the seashore – North Core Banks, South Core Banks and Shackleford Banks – may seem barren and isolated but they offer many natural and historical features that can make a visit very rewarding.

Venture to Bear Island, part of Hammocks Beach State Park, and be rewarded with vivid memories of one of the most beautiful and unspoiled beaches on the Atlantic. Where loggerhead sea turtles come ashore under cover of darkness to nest above the tide line. Where adventuresome explorers discover marine life in tidal creeks and mudflats. Accessible only by private boat or passenger ferry.

The narrow strand of barrier islands known as North Carolina’s Outer Banks stretches for more than 90 miles along the coast from Virginia’s border down through Ocracoke and Portsmouth islands. Bordered by bodies of brackish water on the west (known as “sounds”) and by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, these fragile islands are accessible by plane, boat, or by driving over one of only two bridges that provide links to the mainland. At the narrowest points, the islands are less than a half-mail wide, and in some areas, they extend out more than 20 miles east of the North Carolina mainland. Despite the apparent inaccessibility, the Outer Banks has historically been an alluring destination. Although today’s year-round population barely tops 46,000 people, the area draws nearly 250,000 people each week during the height of the summer season. A must while visiting the Outer Banks is the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Top 20 North Carolina Beaches

Located in the historic Cape Fear Region on the border of North and South Carolina, The USS North Carolina lies minutes from Wilmington and the beautiful Southeastern North Carolina beaches and northern South Carolina Beaches such as the ever-popular Myrtle Beach, SC. Millions of visitors come to our area each year for outdoor splendor and cultural enrichment.

USS North Carolina Documentary


Discover Lake Norman, the largest man-made lake in the state and enjoy swimming, boating and camping. Fish populations here are among the best in North Carolina. Enjoy beautiful views of Lake Norman as you hike more than six miles of nature trails.

Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, located in Greensboro, NC. The battle fought here on March 15, 1781, was the largest, most hotly-contested action of the Revolutionary War’s climatic Southern Campaign. The serious loss of British manpower suffered at Guilford Courthouse foreshadowed final American victory at Yorktown, seven months later.

North Carolina is known for its decades of furniture design and manufacturing. Over 60% of all furniture manufactured in the U.S. is made within a 200 mile radius of central North Carolina. Each year thousands of visitors tour the numerous discount stores, galleries, and home furnishings centers.

The N.C. Transportation Museum at Historic Spencer Shops is located on the site of what was once Southern Railway Company’s largest steam locomotive servicing facility. Begun in 1896 at a point roughly halfway between Washington and Atlanta, Spencer Shops and the town of Spencer, N.C., were both named for Samuel Spencer, the first President of Southern Railway. It now houses examples of a variety of forms of transportation, including an antique automobile exhibit, and a 120,000 square foot locomotive roundhouse that has recently undergone a major restoration.

The only Confederate Prison that was located in North Carolina was in the historic town of Salisbury. The prison was established on November 2, 1861. In this jail 11,000 Union prisoners died. Photos, maps, and diagrams teach a horrible chapter of North Carolina’s Civil War history. Salisbury is also the home of the state veterans hospital and the birth place of Libby Dole, wife of Senator Bob Dole.

Piedmont Region Tourism


Congress established the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on 15 Jun 1934, and turned its stewardship to the National Park Service. Land acquisition continued and on 02 Sep 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially dedicated the park. Great Smoky Mountain National Park has over 4,000 species of plants that grow there. A walk from mountain base to peak compares with traveling 1,250 miles north. Several resident plants and animals live only in the Smokies. It also has a rich cultural history. From the Cherokee Indians, to the Scotch-Irish settlers, this land was home to a variety of cultures and people. There are 9,000,000 visits per year. The National Park Service must balance the needs of the land with the desires of the people both today and for the future. The United States’ National Park Service is proud to steward this world renowned site.

Great Smoky Mountains Documentary

Carl Sandburg, nationally renowned poet, biographer, folk singer, and lecturer moved to North Carolina in 1945 and lived there until his death 22 years later. The Carl Sandburg Home is a beautiful, 264 acre national park.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile recreational motor road that protects the cultural and natural features of the Blue Ridge while connecting Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks. Designed as a “scenic drive”, the Parkway provides both stunning scenery and close-up looks at the natural and cultural history of the mountains.

Nestled among the pines and dogwoods of the Blue Ridge Parkway, yet only a few miles from I-40 and downtown Asheville, the Folk Art Center is the flagship facility of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. The Folk Art Center showcases the finest in traditional and contemporary crafts of the Southern Appalachians.

Growing up in Asheville Documentary

At Mount Mitchell State Park explore miles of hiking trails and reward yourself with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Ascend the highest peak east of the Mississippi, rising to 6,684 feet and watch the world take on a new perspective from the observation tower. Visit the museum and learn about the natural and cultural history of North Carolina’s first state park.

Canoe more than 26 miles of the South Fork of the New River, one of the oldest rivers in the world. The waterway is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River and American Heritage River. Embark upon this gentle river from any of three access points for fishing, picnicking and inspiring mountain scenery in the New River State Park.

Asheville, NC, is home to George Washington Vanderbilt’s estate, the largest house in the US. The Biltmore House and Gardens is open to visitors 363 days per year. Biltmore vineyards produce some of the finest wines North Carolina has to offer.

Biltmore House & Gardens Tour