“While the Pamlico-Neuse region of North Carolina can boast of the state's oldest towns, it cannot claim the oldest permanent settlements. The cradle of North Carolina lies in the Albemarle Sound area where settlements, about Salmon Creek in present-day Bertie County and along the many south-flowing rivers which empty into the Sound, were begun sometime in the latter part of the 1650's.” 

“By 1655 Nathaniel Batts, the first known permanent settler in...
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Bath 1705

Detail from 1737 Province of North Carolina [i1]
“Since 1705, the town of Bath has nestled on the point of land between Bath Creek and Back Creek facing out on the beautiful little bay which opens into the Pamlico River. For hundreds of years before 1705, however, a town had stood on the same spot facing the bay, for the red men, who once roamed the shores of the Pamlico River and its tributaries, favored Bath as the site of one of their villages.

“Not until 1585 does the story of these Indian inhabitants of Bath and the Pamlico areas first find its way into recorded history. In that year the first of the Raleigh colonies was planted on Roanoke Island. Led by Captain Ralph Lane, a soldier of fortune, and Sir George Grenville, one of the foremost of the Elizabethan mariners, the colonists carried out extensive explorations of the Carolina sound region. They found the region about Pamlico Sound occupied by an Indian tribe or confederation to which they gave the name, Secotan. Behind the Secotan, roughly within the area of present day Beaufort County, lay another tribe which the Raleigh colonists called the Pomouik (or Pamlico).  
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New Bern 1710

Plan of New Bern 
Von Graffenried 1710 [i1]
Colonial Records[i2]
Craven House Sept 3rd 1709.

Present: His Grace the Duke of Beaufort for himself and the Palatin, The Honble Maurice Ashley Esqre, Sir John Colleton Barrt, John Danson Esqre 

A Proposal was read from Christopher de Graffenried and Lewis Michel Esqre  It was agreed that a Warrant be prepared to the Surveyor General of North Carolina to admeasure and set out 10,000 Acres of land to the sd Christopr de Graffenried and his Heirs and that grants be passed accordingly.
To the 2nd Proposal relating to the poor Palatines that shall be transported into North Carolina, It was resolv’d that their Lordships will not undertake to provide them with all provisions they shall want but they will give directions to their Receiver General to supply the Palatines with such provisions as he shall have of their Lordships in his hands and may be spared from the necessary use of the government at the same rates he received them the sd Christopr de Graffenried and Lewis Michel paying their Lordships for the same in sterling money in London...
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Edenton 1712

First Map for Lords Proprietors - 1671 [i1]
“We cannot say for sure just when the first English came into the Albemarle to stay. A Virginian named Nathaniel Batts had a house built for himself in 1654 on the neck of land between Roanoke River and the mouth of Salmon Creek. Perhaps he was our first real settler. Certainly, however, there were a number of families living around the mouth of Chowan River by 1663. In that year King Charles II granted to eight proprietors authority over an immense region south of Virginia. Within a year the proprietors ordered the governor of Virginia to appoint a governor and six-man advisory council ‘for Albemarle river.’ The province of Carolina was born.  

“The Albemarle sound country held attractions in those days only for the most adventurous or discontented of the colonists to the north. Good land was plentiful and cheap. But one would not want to try to live there unless he had a special knack for getting along with the Indians. He must know how to make or procure with his own hands practically all the necessities of life…

Beaufort 1713

Detail from Mercator-Hondius Map 1610 [i1]
“The Indians who inhabited the Core Sound area before the white settlers arrived were of the Coree tribe. Most likely they were of the Iroquoian family, as were their more numerous Tuscarora neighbors. Little is definitely known about the tribe. It may be assumed that they were once a rather numerous group, but by the time of the arrival of settlers into their area, their number had been reduced by intertribal conflicts to the extent that John Lawson, surveyor-general of North Carolina, described them as having only twenty-five fighting men during the first decade of the eighteenth century. 

“Before white settlers entered their area, the Coree had two villages. One of these was located on the north side of the Straits of Core Sound which separates Harkers Island from the mainland, a location not more than seven miles east of the present site of Beaufort nor more than eight miles north of Cape Lookout. The other village was located on the west side of Newport River, but the exact spot cannot be given…READ COMPLETE POST...

Wilmington 1740

Failed 1764/65 settlement of Charles Town [i1]
Though laid out as early as 1733, in 1740 the Assembly in New Bern passed “an Act to erect a Village called Newtown on Cape Fear River into a township by the name of Wilmington.” 

“The first attempt to plant a settlement on Cape Fear River was made without success by some New England adventurers in 1660. Four years later a party of royalist refugees from Barbados established a colony near the mouth of the river, where, in 1665, they were joined by other Barbadians under Sir John Yeamans who had been appointed governor. The settlement [Charles Town], which contained a population of about 800 and extended for several miles up the river, was erected into the county of Clarendon. Its prospects were not good and Governor Yeamans soon abandoned it, returned to Barbados, and later joined the colony which the Lords Proprietors had planted on the Ashley and Cooper rivers of which he was appointed governor. The Lords Proprietors, who directed all their energies toward building up the rival settlement to the southward, took but little interest in the Cape Fear colony, and the settlers, after suffering many hardships, abandoned it in 1667. READ COMPLETE POST...

Chart and Summary


    New Bern being the exception, the other oldest towns were first occupied by a few scattered settlers on patented or un-patented acreage.
    A town was “born” when legislative action, by an “Act of the General Assembly,” officially approved a town be “laid out” or “established”—thus “founding,” “appointing” and naming the town.
    Incorporations had to be approved by the Royal Council (Lords Proprietors) which was done only seven times during the colonial period. Perhaps this is one reason New Bern and Beaufort were incorporated in 1723 during the same session of the General Assembly.

1. 1705 BATH – On March 2, 1705, David Perkins received a patent from Governor Thomas Cary for one hundred and sixty acres of land on Old Town Creek adjoining the land of William Barrow. Six days later, on March 8, 1705, a portion of this grant was incorporated as the township of Bath by the General Assembly. (Herbert R. Paschal Jr., State and Colonial Records)
2. 1710 NEW BERN – The largest and most significant settlement in the Neuse-Trent area was made in 1710 by a colony of Palatines from southwestern Germany, some Swiss, and a few English at a place selected and laid out by John Lawson. The 1710 colony was a result of the promotional activity of a Swiss land company, George Ritter and Company, headed by Baron Christoph von Graffenried and Franz Louis Michel. (William Powell and Colonia Records)
3. 1712 EDENTON – In his research in the Edenton courthouse, Charles L. Paul found a deed for two lots dated August 12, 1714. "According to that deed dated August 12, 1714, for two lots in what later became Edenton, the procedure that led to the establishment of that town started in November, 1712, when the Assembly passed an act entitled 'an Act to Promote ye building a Court House…ye Assembly in, at ye fork of Queen Ann's Creek...in Chowan Precinct...' Among other things, this act empowered Nathaniel Chevin and Thomas Peterson to lay out and sell one-half acre lots to such person 'as shall be willing to build at the afsd fork of Queen Ann's Creek...'" (Charles L. Paul)
4. 1713 BEAUFORT – Though patented by Neuse River resident Farnifold Green in 1707, “Sometime prior to the fall of 1713, permission had been obtained from the Lords Proprietors to lay out a town by the name of Beaufort at this site. On October 2, 1713, then owner of the patent, Robert Turner had Deputy Surveyor Richard Graves, lay out the town. A plat was made of the town by Graves and recorded in the office of the secretary of the colony. Streets were named and lots were offered for sale. Allotments were provided for a church, a town-house, and a market place. "On that date, October 2, 1713, Beaufort came into existence.” (Charles L. Paul and Colonial Records)
5. 1740 WILMINGTON - In 1733 William Gray surveyed the “intended town.” From 1734 to 1736 it was called “New Liverpool” in the county deeds, though by March 1735, in legislation and in gubernatorial directives, it was referred to as “New Town” or “Newton.” During 1736, as early as May, “Newton” began to replace “New Liverpool” in the local records; by the final months of that year, “Newton” was used almost exclusively. That term received general approbation in 1737 from a new plan “of the town of Newton…” Monday the 25th of Febry 1739/40–Recd from the upper House the bill for an Act for erecting the Village of Newton in New Hanover County into a Town & Township by the Name of Wilmington… (Alan Watson and Colonial Records)