North Carolina History Timeline

By | May 12, 2022

When the first Europeans arrived along the unexplored coastal areas of the Carolinas (north and south) in the early 16th century, the only inhabitants were Native Americans. In what is now called North Carolina, they included Algonquian, Iroquois. The Siouan and Tuscarora tribes, and by the middle of the century, several Spanish explorers ventured further inland, but no settlements had been established.

In the 1580s, Roanoke Island along the Outer Banks of North Carolina was the site of the first European colony in the Americas , but this was quickly abandoned. Other settlements have been tried, but they have also failed. Then in 1587 a great expedition organized by Sir Walter Raleigh brought 150 settlers to this new world and they also established their colony on Roanoke Island.

During the time living conditions proved most difficult and with their supplies almost depleted, the appointed leader of the colony, John White, and others were forced to return to England for much-needed help. It took White more than two years to return, and once back on the island, all that was left of his colony was the word “CROATAN”, carved on a nearby tree. Without the help of all men, women and children, the trail and fate of that “Lost Colony” was never determined.

Undaunted, the parade of settlers into the area continued. By 1670, following a land charter granted by King Charles II of England, the entire territory (from north to south) was named Carolina after King Charles, and it would later be divided into the British provinces of South Carolina and North Carolina.

By the early 18th century European settlements extended from Abermarle Sound, south to what is now Charleston, South Carolina. The Native Americans were shrinking off of their long held lands and they soon fought back; settlers were killed by the hundreds and their churches and houses burned to the ground. The Indian rebellions continued for many additional years, but their understandable efforts proved futile.

To make matters worse for the new residents, the pirates struck coastal settlements with impunity, encountering little organized resistance. Finally, in 1718, Blackbeard Pirate was killed, and for all practical purposes pirate attacks in the Carolinas were over.

Even before being divided into separate British areas, North and South Carolina was very different. On the large cotton plantations in South Carolina, black slaves outnumbered white settlers, while in North Carolina, tobacco was king, but the predominant Quaker population was vigorously opposed to slavery, and subsequently black slave numbers remained low.

The British saw an opportunity to tax the newfound wealth of their colonies, including the Carolinas. Particularly disturbed by taxation without representation, powerful tobacco farmers and merchants revolted towards that tax, and in 1776, North Carolina voted for independence from Great Britain .

Similar to some other southern colonies, the citizens of North Carolina were on two sides during the American Revolutionary War; The Tories remained loyal to Britain, while others (the Liberals) vehemently supported the freedom war. Unlike South Carolina, North Carolina witnessed little fighting, but hundreds of its men fought and died on both sides in Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia.

At the end of the war, North Carolina was deprived of British financial repression, and after some hesitation in accepting all the terms of the new American constitution, it finally agreed, and on November 21, 1789, became the twelfth state to enter the new union. In 1794 Raleigh was declared a capital.

It took years for the land to reach its full potential, but by the mid-1830s, its agricultural and manufacturing industries began to flourish, anchored by tobacco. While the state’s economy and influence continued to grow, two sons of the North Carolina favorite were elected President of the United States; Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) and James K. Polk, (1845-1849).

Timeline of North Carolina

1500s

  • (1524) Explorer Giovanni da Verrazano explored coastal zones for France
  • (1540) Hernando De Soto of Spain explored the southwestern part of the state looking for gold
  • (1584 – 1585) Sir Walter Raleigh sent colonists to establish an English settlement on Roanoke Island
  • (1586) Difficulties caused by colonists to leave Roanoke Island, returned to England ; Sir Francis Drake went down captured African-Caribbean slaves on Roanoke
  • (1587) Second colony established at Roanoke by John White; Virginia Dare became the first English child to touch American soil; White returned to England for supplies
  • (1590) White returned to Roanoke, all settlers gone; “CORATOAN” carved into wood

1600s – 1700s

  • (1663) King Charles II assigned the territory of the Carolinas to eight favorites of the court, they became “true and absolute Lord Propritors”
  • (1669) Colonial Carolina Fundamental constitution legalized slavery
  • (1705) First town in North Carolina, Bath, was built
  • (1712) North Carolina made a separate colony; war with the Tuscarora Indians began
  • (1714) Defeated Tuscarora Indians, moved north to join the Iroquois
  • (1718) Pirate Blackbeard destroyed the coast
  • (1729) North Carolina became a royal English colony
  • (1768) Outlying farmers organized the Regulator Movement in an attempt to reduce excessive taxes
  • (1771) Regulators suppressed at Alamance; Governor Tyrone had seven Regulators executed
  • (1774) The Edenton Tea Party took place (the women of Edenton protested British rule by laying down their cups of tea)
  • (1775) Hurricane struck the Outer Banks; 165 killed; destroyed crops, broken plant dams; a failed attempt to provoke a slave rebellion (the Merrick Slave Rebellion) frightened the slave owners of North Carolina
  • (1776) North Carolina first states to vote for independence; first American battle of the North Carolina Revolution fought at Moores Creek Bridge
  • (1789) North Carolina was admitted to the Union as the 12th state; The University of North Carolina received a charter, the first public school in the United States.
  • (1794) Capital moved from New Bern to Raleigh
  • (1799) First US gold nugget found in Reed Gold Mine, Cabarrus County

1800s

  • (Early 1800s) Very little progress made in the state seemed to subside, became known as the state of “Rip Van Winkle”
  • (1804) Walton’s War – disputed between a strip of land over 12 miles of North Carolina and Georgia in North Carolina
  • (1805) Georgia ceded 12 mile strip of land
  • (1828) A native of North Carolina, Andrew Jackson, became the 7th President of the United States.
  • (1830s) US government forced Cherokee Indians out of the Trail of Tears homes ; many hid in the mountains
  • (1831) Workers fire on the roof of the Capitol suite, building on fire; Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in Virginia prompted the execution of a dozen North Carolina slaves
  • (1845) A native of North Carolina, James Polk, became the 11th President of the United States.
  • (1851) Anti-Slavery Preachers, Adam Crooks, Jesse McBride, Run Out of State
  • (1853) First North Carolina State Fair held
  • (1861) North Carolina left the Union, voted to “revoke” the act that brought it to the United States, rather than secede
  • (1861 – 1865) civil war took place; over 40,000 North Carolina residents killed during the war
  • (1865) Bloodiest battle in North Carolina took place at Bentonville, Confederates defeated; a large number of Allies surrendered at Bennett’s Place
  • (1866) Tuscarora Indian, Henry Berry Laurie, led an insurrection in Robeson County
  • (1868) North Carolina re-admitted to the Union
  • (1877) Federal reoccupation troops left the state
  • (1878) Cherokee reservation formed in western North Carolina.

1900s

  • (1903) The Wright brothers made the first successful manned flight at Kitty Hawk
  • (1918) Fort Bragg established
  • (1920) 19th amendment gave women the right to vote
  • (1943) Pembroke State College became the nation’s first Native American four-year college
  • (1954) Hurricane Hazel hit, 19 killed, hundreds injured, 15,000 houses destroyed
  • (1955) Hurricane Ione caused $600 million in crop losses
  • (1960) First sit-in occurred in Greensboro to protest segregation at buffet counters
  • (1986) Beaufort native, astronaut and pilot, Michael J. Smith, killed in Shuttle Challenger explosion
  • (1989) Hurricane hit Hugo caused over $1 billion in damages
  • (1994) The Raleigh-Durham area ranked the best place to live in the US.
  • (1996) Hurricane Fran hit, four people killed, 1.3 million left without power, over $500 million in damages; Gov. Jim Hunt re-elected to 4th term; Elaine Marshall was the first woman to elect Secretary of State
  • (1999) Hurricane Floyd hit, 35 killed, billions of dollars in losses

2000s

  • (2003) Police arrested Olympic bombing suspect, Eric Robert Rudolph, in Murphy
  • (2005) State Legislature voted to implement state lottery
  • (2006) North Carolina Hurricanes won hockey’s Stanley Cup; 17,000 people evacuated after explosion at chemical plant near Summit
  • (2009) Seven people in North Carolina charged with causing terrorist attacks in foreign countries, including Israel and Jordan
  • (2010) Duke University won the NCAA Championship
  • (2011) Hurricane Irene made landfall in North Carolina

North Carolina History