The North Carolina
Cities and Towns in Chowan County
Chowan was created in 1668 as a precinct of Albemarle County. In was named in honor of the Indian tribe Chowan, which lived in the northeastern part of the colony. In 1722, Edenton, which was named in honor of Governor Charles Eden, was established. It was designated as the county seat and has been ever since.
For some strange reason (apparently lost to history), the Lords Proprietors decided to rename all four of the original precincts within Albemarle County around the year 1680. Chowan Precinct was renamed to Shaftesbury Precinct. However, the citizens objected and the new name was never really accepted nor used by many other than those in official capacities. By the mid-1680s, the name was changed back to the original name - Chowan - which has remained ever since. Click Here to see the approximate boundaries of the short-lived Shaftesbury Precinct.
About 1648, Henry Plumpton of Nansemond County, Virginia, just north of the Chowan region, in cooperation with Thomas Tuke and several others, bought from the Indians "all the Land from the mouth of the Morratuck [Roanoke] River to the mouth of Weyanook Creek."
In 1650, a Virginia merchant, Thomas Bland, was one of a party of eight who explored the Chowan, Meherrin, and Roanoke river valleys. His petition to the Virginia assembly for permission to settle "to the Southward" was approved October 20, 1650. The Assembly instructed him and his associates to "secure themselves in effecting the said Designe with a hundred able men sufficiently furnished with Armes and Munition." In 1651, he published a promotional tract, "The Discovery of New Brittaine, 1650."
In 1653, the Virginia Assembly made a grant of 10,000 acres, in response to a petition from the Rev. Roger Green, "unto one hundred such persons who shall first seate on Moratuck or Roanoke river and the land lying upon the south side of Choan river and the branches thereof," and "to the said Roger Green, the rights of one thousand acres of land, and choice to take the same where it shall seem most convenient to him, next to those persons who have had a former grant".
In a pamphlet entitled "Virginia's Cure," printed in London in 1662, the Rev. Green cited the colony of Virginia as being bound "on the North by the great River Patomak, on the South by the River Chawan."
By October 1668 Chowan, Currituck, Pasquotank, and Perquimans precincts had been formed in Albemarle County. In 1689, Albemarle County as a unit of government ceased to exist, although the name continued intermittently in use for at least a further ten years.
In the southern Virginia settlements there was little representation by the state church, and the people lacked the services of ministers. They were hungry for religious leadership and guidance when the first Quaker missionaries arrived in Carolina in 1671. Some Quaker missionaries had reached the Virginia southern plantations as early as 1652.
William Edmundson, one of those early missionaries who was known as a leader of the Irish Quakers, kept a diary of his arduous travels in Nansemond County, Virginia, and in the Albemarle region in 1672. He held a worship service at the home of Henry Phillips (Phelps) for settlers in the wilderness area south of the Great Dismal Swamp. Among the early settlers who attended that first meeting were Francis Toms, Joseph Scott, Nathaniel Batts, and Hugh Smith. Phillips was eager for religious confirmation - he had been converted to the Quaker faith seven years earlier in Salem, Massachusetts, before moving to Albemarle and had not seen a minister of any persuasion since that time. His wife was Hannah Baskel, the first Quaker woman in North Carolina.
A few months after the first Quaker missionary visits, George Fox, the leader of the Quaker movement in England, came to the colonies. He held a religious meeting in Chowan Precinct, and then proceeded to Bennett's Creek (calling it Macocomocock) by canoe into the regions bordering Albemarle Sound. He made many converts among the Puritans all through the area.
The Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, and Little Rivers were linked with the smaller streams making a veritable water highway throughout the area. The source of these rivers was the Great Dismal Swamp, where the color of the water was a deep red, caused by the waters passing through the roots of the cypress trees. The water, however, was perfectly clear, tasted by no means unpleasant, and was quite wholesome. It had a diuretic effect on those who drank it, and prevented agues and fevers, or so it was claimed. Filled with the perils of virgin forests, native Indians, wild animals, insects, snakes, and reptiles, this area south of the Great Dismal Swamp was also more isolated from the English authorities.
William Byrd made this observation about Edenton in 1728: "They may be 40 or 50 Houses, most of them Small, and built without Expense. A Citizen here is counted extravagant, if he has Ambition enough to aspire to a Brick-chimney. Justice herself is but indifferently Lodged, the Court-House having much the Air of a Common Tobacco-House."
In 1712, the General Assembly voted to establish a town north of the Albemarle Sound. Town lots were laid out on Queen Anne's Creek and in 1722 the town was named for Governor Charles Eden.
Once Lord Granville of the Lord Proprietors placed his land agent Frances Corbin in Edenton, the town became a center of trade and very prosperous. Many of the old homes on the historic tour of Edenton and Chowan County date from the "Land Office" period. Shipping and fishing became an important industry throughout the county as well as farming.
"The growing fame and prosperity of Edenton in the last year before the Revolution attracted to Chowan some of the most remarkable and gifted men of the age." (Cradle of the Colony: The History of Chowan County and Edenton, NC, by Dr. Thomas Paramore, 1967, page 26). Samuel Johnston, a "leader in Revolutionary activities in North Carolina" (Guidebook: Historic Edenton and Chowan County, 1984 edition), was a member of the Continental Congress in 1771. He was also governor of North Carolina from 1787 to 1789. Joseph Hewes, who was educated at Princeton, opened a shipyard in Edenton due to the maritime commerce in the area. He later signed the Declaration of Independence. Another famous Edenton resident was James Iredell, Attorney General for North Carolina and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Homes for several of these and other illustrious leaders are included on the Historic Tour of Edenton and Chowan County.
In the fall of 1774, the women of Edenton took a political stand on the Tea Act. On October 25, 1774, fifty-one leading women of the Albemarle region declared their devotion to the cause of liberty by resolving to not use East India tea. This act is thought to be the earliest recorded political activity by women in the American colonies. A replica of the Edenton tea pot is located near the town green.
Edenton became a vital port during the American Revolution as many of the other major ports were closed off by the British blockade and Edenton became the only place many of the supplies for Washington's army could be unloaded. The British actually thought that the harbor at Edenton was too dangerous to approach. One German visitor maintained "It was certain that no hostile vessel of any size could venture over the Bar and Swash." (Cradle of the Colony: The History of Chowan County and Edenton, NC, by Dr. Thomas Paramore, 1967, page 33).
According to Dr. Paramore of Meredith College, Raleigh, NC, "...most of the American trading ships took refuge here, where they could take in or put off cargoes in security; Philadelphia merchants established themselves here; the Virginians brought thither their tobacco by land-carriage, taking in exchange West Indian or other wares, which .....were over-plentiful here." Paramore suggests, "the supply line that developed through Edenton and the Backwater wharves at South Quay became a vital life-line for Washington's army." As major ports began to open again, influence of the Albemarle area began to decline.
Even though there was a post-war slump at the end of the Revolution, Edenton still participated in the shaping of the nation. Dr. Hugh Williamson, surgeon-general for the North Carolina troops and Edenton resident, attended the 1787 Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia. As an advocate of the federalist position that a stronger authority in government was necessary, he supported constitutional proposals calling for more power for the national government. He signed the Constitution for North Carolina and returned home to help with endorsement by the state.
Edenton also figured in Civil War events. In recent years, research has revealed that the autobiographical account of Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, actually took place in Edenton. Originally thought to be abolitionist propaganda written prior to the Civil War, the account of Jacob's hiding in surrounding swamps and in a house near the downtown area for almost seven years, is now part of Edenton's history on the History Tour of Edenton and Chowan County.
As of the census of 2000, there were 14,526 people, 5,580 households, and 4,006 families residing in the county. The population density was 84 people per square mile (32/km²). There were 6,443 housing units at an average density of 37 per square mile (14/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 60.54% White, 37.52% Black or African American, 0.30% Native American, 0.34% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.60% from other races, and 0.70% from two or more races. 1.51% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 5,580 households out of which 30.30% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.00% were married couples living together, 15.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.20% were non-families. 25.30% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 2.94.
In the county the population was spread out with 23.90% under the age of 18, 9.60% from 18 to 24, 24.10% from 25 to 44, 24.40% from 45 to 64, and 17.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 88.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.60 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $30,928, and the median income for a family was $36,986. Males had a median income of $29,719 versus $19,826 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,027. About 13.70% of families and 17.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.50% of those under age 18 and 16.70% of those age 65 or over.- Source: Wikipedia