The Making of the 50 States: North Carolina

• Part 2: The Rest of the Story

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The Making of the 50 States
The 13 American Colonies
Clickable map of the 13 Colonies with descriptions of each colony
American History Glossary
The First European Settlements in America
Colonial Times

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Part 1: In the Beginning

North Carolina was the 12th state to ratify the Constitution. As with other of the 13 Colonies, the land was originally inhabited by Native Americans.

The main tribes living in the area were mainly Iroquoian (Cherokee, Tuscarora, Meherrin, Coree, and Neuse River) and Algonquin (Bear River, Chowan, Hatteras, Moratok, Nachapunga, Pamlico, Secotan, and Weapomeoc). Of special mention also were the Croatoan.

The first European explorer in the area, in 1524, was Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian explorer better known for lending his name to the famous New York City bridge. Two years later, Spanish settlers arrived and set up a colony of more than 500 people, who lived along the Cape Fear River. Conquistador Hernando de Soto explored the western part of what is now North Carolina in 1540, on a search for gold. Another Spanish explorer, Juan Pardo, moved through the same area a few years later.

English explorers Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe sailed by Roanoke Island in 1584, at the behest of Sir Walter Raleigh. A year later, a group of English people arrived with the intent of making a permanent settlement on the island. This settlement did not last, however.

English settlers kept coming, however, all up and down the coast. In 1629, the English king, Charles I, granted a royal charter for the land south of Virginia to Sir Robert Heath, on the stipulation that the land be named Carolina, after Charles himself. Not many years later, English settlers began appearing throughout the newly chartered land.

A subsequent charter, from King Charles II, was granted in 1663. Not long after that, tobacco began its meteoric rise as a profitable crop for the English settlers.

This newest charter divided the land (which included both present-day North Carolina and South Carolina) into three counties: Albemarle, Clarendon, and Craven. The area's first legislative body, the Albemarle County Assembly, met in 1665.

English settlers continued to arrive, staking out their claims and encountering difficulties with Native Americans living on the lands. In 1689, the chartered land was divided into what is now the two states.

North Carolina's first incorporated town, Bath, began in 1706. Two years later, Thomas Cary was appointed governor. The first free school opened in Bath in 1718. It wasn't until 1729, however, that North Carolina became a royal colony.

Next page > The Rest of the Story > Page 1, 2

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David White