Formed in 1741 out of Bertie County, the county is named after Richard Edgecombe, a member of Parliament and a lord of treasury, who became the First Baron Edgecombe in 1742. Historically, the county is home to the Tuscarora Indians (click here for a link to the Tuscarora War). Despite the Tuscarora’s mass exodus from the region in the eighteenth century, descendents of the Tuscarora still inhabit Edgecombe County.
Like many other North Carolina counties, Edgecombe’s boundaries have changed a few times until it reached its current edges. In 1746, part of the county became Granville County; in 1758, another part was used to create Halifax County; and in 1777, yet another small portion was used to establish Nash County. Wilson County, formed in 1855, is a combination of Edgecombe, Johnston, Nash, and Wayne County.
Edgecombe County has a rich history. As North Carolina’s ninth oldest incorporated town, Tarboro served the county and the state as a thriving inland port and merchants and farmers used the Tar River largely for trade and transportation until the Civil War. Tarboro, the county seat, is home to many famous sites and people. The Grove, a colonial-era plantation and residence of Representative Thomas Blount, is open daily and attracts many tourists. Several eighteenth-century houses are located in the Tarboro Historic District, and the gateway to this district is the historic Town Common, a large park with scattered oak trees and war memorials.
Although Tarboro is the county seat, the largest city is Rocky Mount (despite part of the city being in Nash County). Compared to other county municipalities, Rocky Mount is more industrial and home to more businesses. Rocky Mount Instruments is known for crafting the 368x Electra Piano Harpsichord, a pioneering instrument in jazz and rock music. Centura Bank’s roots are located in Rocky Mount despite the bank’s headquarters later relocation to Raleigh. Hardee’s, the fast food franchise, calls Rocky Mount home. Other towns and cities in Edgecombe County include Conetoe, Leggett, Maclesfield, Pinetops, Princeville, Sharpsburg, Speed, and Whitakers.
A couple legendary figures hail from Edgecombe County. Dorsey Pender, a young and promising Confederate General, was immortalized in his posthumous The Civil War Letters of William Dorsey Pender to Fanny Pender. The book highlights a husband and wife’s interactions during a nation’s most distressing period. Duncan Lamont-Clinch, an American Army officer in the First and Second Seminole Wars, also called Edgecombe County home. Several sports players, musicians, and politicians are also connected to Edgecombe County.
“Edgecombe County History.” Edgecombe County Government, Brief History. http://www.edgecombecountync.gov/about/history.aspx (Accessed on July 29, 2011).
North Carolina, 2nd Edition. Hugh T. Lefler and Patricia Stanford. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc, New York: 1972). p. 351.
“Edgecombe County.” Powell, William S., ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), pp. 372-373.