|In 1709 John Lawson noted failed 1764/65 Charles Town [i1]|
"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.
"After the failure of the Clarendon colony, the Cape Fear region fell into disrepute and nearly fifty years passed before a permanent settlement was planted there. Four causes contributing to this delay were the character of the coast at the mouth of the river, the pirates who sought refuge there in large numbers, the hostility of the Cape Fear Indians, and the closing of the Carolina land-office by the Lords Proprietors.
|Detail from Moseley's 1733 Map [i2]|
"They laid off their claims, cleared their fields, and built their cabins with utter disregard of the formalities of law. When Governor Burrington saw that they were determined to take up lands without either acquiring titles or paying rents, he decided that the interests of the Lords Proprietors would be served by his giving the one and receiving the other. At his suggestion, therefore, the Assembly petitioned the governor and Council to reopen the land office in Carolina, and the governor and Council finding officially what they already knew personally that 'sundry persons are already seated on the vacant lands for which purchase money has not been paid nor any rents,' granted the Assembly's prayer.
| St. Philip's Church (1741) Ruins|
Brunswick Town [i3]
"The first permanent settlement on the Cape Fear was made by Maurice Moore, who, while on his campaign against the Yamassee Indians in 1715, had been attracted by the fertility of the lower Cape Fear region and determined to lead a settlement there. This plan he carried into execution sometime prior to the year 1725, accompanied by his brothers, Nathaniel and Roger Moore.
|Sauthier's Map of Brunswick 1769 [i4]|
"After these leaders had cleared the way, they were joined by numerous other families from the Albemarle, from Barbados, and other islands of the West Indies, from New England, from South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, and from Europe.
|Detail - 1747 Map by Emanuel Bowen [i5]|
"To encourage the growth of the town, Maurice Moore donated sites for a church and graveyard, a courthouse, a market-house and other public buildings, and a commons ‘for the use of the inhabitants-of the town.’ The town was laid off into building lots of one-half acre each to be sold only to those who would agree to erect on their lots, substantial houses. Moore then made a bid for royal favor by naming his town Brunswick in honor of the reigning family. But the career of Brunswick did not commend it to the favor of crowned heads or their representatives; it never became more than a frontier village, and in the course of a few years, during which, however, it played an important part in the history of the province, it yielded with no good grace to a younger and more vigorous rival sixteen miles farther up the river, which was named in honor of Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington.
|Mitchell-Anderson House circa 1738 |
...see image notes [i6]
"Large tracts of forest land had been converted into beautiful meadows and cultivated plantations; comfortable, if not elegant, houses dotted the river banks; and two towns had sprung into existence. The forest offered tribute to the lumberman and turpentine distiller; a number of saw mills had been erected while some of the planters were employing their slaves chiefly in ‘making tar and pitch.’ A brisk trade in lumber, naval stores, and farm products had been established with the other colonies, the West Indies, and even with the mother country, and before the close of the decade the governor was able to declare that the Cape Fear had become ‘the place of the greatest trade in the whole province.’ The collector's books at Brunswick showed that during the year 1734 forty-two vessels cleared from that port. At that time the population of the Cape Fear settlement numbered about 1,200; by 1740 it had increased to 3,000.
|Burgwin-Wright House circa 1770 |
...see image note [i7]
"Farther up the river came then and later a succession of celebrated plantations. Forty miles above Brunswick on the east bank of North East River stood Lillington Hall, the home of Alexander Lillington, who led the Cape Fear militia at Moore's Creek Bridge in 1776. On the opposite bank were Stag Park, the Cape Fear estate of Governor Burrington; the Neck and Green Hill, the residences of Governor Samuel Ashe and General John Ashe; Moseley Hall, where lived Sampson Moseley, afterwards a delegate to the famous Halifax convention of 1776; and Rocky Point, the estate of Maurice Moore, described by an English visitor in 1734 as ‘the finest place in all Cape Fear.’
"Across the river farther down came a series of places, the most historic of which were Castle Haynes, owned by Hugh Waddell, who is buried there, and the Hermitage, owned by John Burgwin, for many years clerk of the Council and private secretary to the governor, which was one of the most celebrated homes in the Cape Fear country for a hundred years. ‘The great majority of these residences were wooden structures, some of them being large, with wide halls and piazzas, but without any pretence to architectural beauty, and some being one story buildings, spread out over a considerable space.’ A few were of brick, but none of stone, as there was no building stone within a hundred miles; but all, whether of brick or wood, were comfortable and the seats of unbounded hospitality.’
|The Road from Orton Plantation to Brunswick Town . Louis T. Moore [i8]|
|“King” Roger Moore’s grave in the burial ground at Orton Plantation . Louis T. Moore [i9]|
|DuBois-Boatwright House circa 1760 |
...see image note [i10]
“Returning to Brunswick from his trip up the river, the English visitor ‘lay that first night at Newtown, in a small hut.’ With this slight mention he dismisses the place from his narrative, but had he returned twenty years later he would doubtless have given it as much as a paragraph in a revised edition. Today a visitor describing the Cape Fear section might possibly mention Brunswick for its historic interest, but Newtown, though masquerading under another name, would form the burden of his story. The former, in spite of its name, was not popular with the royal governors who threw their influence to the latter, and the rise of Newtown was followed by the decline of Brunswick.”1
“’…in the first session of the General Assembly following his arrival in 1731 he [Governor Burrington] called for legislation to create a town along the Cape Fear River. The response from the General Assembly was a message, signed by Edward Moseley, speaker of the lower house, stating, 'there is a Town already Established on the Cape Fear River called Brunswick.’
|Gabriel Johnston Bookplate [i11]|
“Joining Watson and Wimble in the enterprise were Michael Higgins and Joshua Grainger, Sr. Soon after Wimble’s purchase, Watson sold fifty acres north of and adjoining Wimble’s land to Higgins, listed as a merchant and tavernkeeper, and to Grainger, a merchant. 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 (October–December) of that year, ‘Newton’ was used almost exclusively. That term received general approbation in 1737 from a new plan 'of the town of Newton...'" 2
“Newtown was laid off just below the confluence of the two branches of Cape Fear River. It consisted originally of two cross streets called Front and Market, names which they still bear, while the town itself for lack of a better name was called Newtown. From the first, Brunswick regarded Newtown as an upstart to be suppressed rather than encouraged. Rivalry originating in commercial competition was soon intensified by a struggle for political supremacy. The chief factor in this struggle was Gabriel Johnston, who, in 1734, succeeded George Burrington as governor. The new governor became one of the most ardent champions of Newtown and used not only his personal influence but also his official authority to make it the social, commercial and political center of the rapidly growing province. Encouraged by his favor, Newtown in March, 1735, petitioned the governor and Council for a charter, but the prayer was refused because it required an act of the Assembly to incorporate a town. To the Assembly, therefore, Newtown appealed and as a compliment to the governor asked for incorporation under the name of Wilmington, in honor of Johnston's friend and patron, Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington, afterwards prime minister of England.
|Plantations of Lower |
Cape Fear 1725-1760 [i12]
Plantations of the Lower Cape FearContemporary Copy 
“Brunswick did not accept defeat gracefully, nor did Wilmington bear the honors of victory magnanimously. The feelings aroused by the long struggle and the manner in which it was finally brought to a close strained their commercial and political relations and embittered their social and religious intercourse for many years.”3
Saturday October 2d 1736/37An Act for establishing and confirming a Town in New Hanover Precinct by the name of Wilmington at a place now called Newton; and for erecting a Court House and holding a Court there, the first time and passed.4
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 &c
Order’d the same be Engross’d
His Excellcy the Govr sent a Message to this House commanding their immediate Attendance
Mr Speaker with the House waited on his Excellcy the Govr & presented the following Acts Vizt An Act prescribing the method of proving Book debts, An Act for appointing a Treasurer for the several Counties therein mentioned, An Act for Erecting the Village called Newton in New Hanover County into a Town & Township by the Name of Wilmington & for Regulating & ascertaining the Bounds thereof which were read three times in open Assembly and compared:
To which his Excellency assented & ordered the great Seal of the Province to be affixed thereto; Then his Excellcy was pleased to Order this House to Return and proceed on further Business.5
|1769 Sauthier Plan of Wilmington [i14]|
Our Assembly which met here on the fifth of Febry is just now prorogued. They behaved with decency and parted in very good humour (a thing not very common here) after passing some Laws. At present I shall only take notice of one which is an Act to erect a Village called Newtown on Cape Fear River into a township by the name of Wilmington The situation of this town is mighty convenient being at the meeting of the two great Branches of Cape Fear River, its Road capable of receiving Vessels of great burthen and extremely safe in the most violent storms and there is a most easy access to it from the remotest heads of the River by the smallest Vessels. I always looked upon the want of a Town with a Convenient Port as one of the greatest Obstacles to the Improvement of the Trade of this Country and the polishing its Inhabitants. I hope this impediment is now removed, and don’t despair in a few years to prevail on the Assembly to build offices and other places fitt for the dispatch of Publick business, the want of which has been a great clog to all affairs ever since I came here. GAB: JOHNSTON 6
|R.D.W. Conner [i15]|
Footnotes:1 R.D.W. Connor (Secretary North Carolina Historical Commission), History of North Carolina, Volume I, Lewis Publishing Company, 1919.
2 Alan D. Watson, Wilmington, North Carolina, to 1861, Mcfarland & Co. Inc., 2003.
4 Saunders, Colonial Records, Volume IV.
5 Saunders, Colonial Records6 Saunders, Colonial Records
Images:i1 John Lawson, 1709. To His Excellency William Lord Palatine; The most Noble Henry Duke of Beaufort; The Right Honoble. Iohn, Lord Carteret; The Honoble Maurice Ashley, Esq., Sr. John Colleton Baronet; Iohn Danson, Esq; And the rest of the True and Absolute Lords Proprietors of Carolina in America. This Map is Humbly Dedicated by Ion. Lawson Surveyor General of North Carolina. North Carolina Maps, North Carolina State Archives, North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
i2 Port Brunswick, Inset from Moseley's 1733 map, North Carolina Office of Archives and History.
i3 Ruins of St. Philip's Church, Brunswick Town, 1754, wikipedia.org
i4 Sauthier, Brunswick Town, created 1769. North Carolina Maps, North Carolina State Archives, North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
i5 A New and Accurate Map of the Province of North and South Carolina, Georgia, etc., Emanuel Bowen, 1747. William Patterson Cumming Map Collection, North Carolina Maps, North Carolina State Archives, North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
i6 Mitchell-Anderson House circa 1738 - Oldest surviving structure in Wilmington, Georgian style house built for Edward Mitchell (d. 1744), native of Charleston, SC, carpenter and planter. Purchased in 1828 by Thomas F. Davis (1778-1846), Clerk of New Hanover County Court. Inherited in 1860 by Margaret Anderson Davis (1814-1889), sister of Dr. Edwin A. Anderson (1816-1894), physician and Confederate Army surgeon, who resided here as early as 1850. Remained in family until 1911. Operated as boarding house until 1963 when saved for preservation by Thomas H. Wright, Jr. (1918-1993), president of Wright Chemical Corporation; and wife, Elizabeth Labouisse (1933- ), Founders of Historic Wilmington Foundation, Inc.
i7 Samuel Johnston Bookplate, "Five Royal Governors of North Carolina, 1729-1775" by Blackwell P. Robinson.
i8 Burgwin-Wright House circa 1770, Louis Orr etching. Using the old jail as the foundation, the Burgwin-Wright House was built in 1770 by John Burgwin, planter, merchant, and treasurer of the colony of Carolina. In 1781, "the most considerable house in town" was occupied by Lord Cornwallis as his headquarters shortly before his defeat and surrender at Yorktown, Virginia. In 1799, Joshua Grainger Wright purchased the house for 3500 Spanish milled dollars. BurgwinWrightHouse.com.
i9 The Road from Orton Plantation to Brunswick Town, by photographer Louis T. Moore. Image courtesy LouisTMoore.com.
i10 “King” Roger Moore’s grave in the burial ground at Orton Plantation, Louis T. Moore. (Roger Moore 1654-1751 was the brother of Maurice Moore, son of Charleston, S.C. James Moore. Image courtesy LouisTMoore.com.
i11 DuBois-Boatwright House circa 1760 - Built by John DuBois, merchant and town alderman in 1760. Remained in family until 1842. Inherited by Mrs. Lucy Wright Wooster in 1844. Her descendants, the Boatwrights, continue to own the property. Courtesy BoatwrightGenealogy.com
i12 Plantations of the Lower Cape Fear 1725-1760, "Drawn by H. de W. Rapalje 12-4-09, Southern Map Co., Wilmington, N.C." At bottom left: "Drawn Especially for Waddell's History of New Hanover County," 1916, North Carolina State Archives.
i13 Plantations of the Lower Cape Fear, contemporary copy, waywelivednc.com.
i14 Sauthier Plan of Wilmington, 1769, North Carolina Maps, North Carolina State Archives, North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
i15 R.D.W. Connor, History of North Carolina, Vol. I title page.