Born in Martin County in 1811, Asa Biggs grew up in the area to become a lawyer in the Williamson region. Biggs was admitted to the bar in 1831 and a high point of his career occurred when he helped codify North Carolina’s law in 1854. As both a judge and U.S. senator, Biggs remained a Democrat that supported state rights and slavery.
Region: Coastal Plain
The University of North Carolina of Wilmington (UNC-W) started in 1947 as a junior college funded by the New Hanover Board of Education. Since its inception, the college has become part of the University of North Carolina higher education system and it offers over 50 undergraduate degree programs. Currently, 13,000 students attend the University of North Carolina of Wilmington.
James City emerged as a haven for free black men and women in eastern North Carolina during the Civil War. By 1865, approximately 3,000 blacks had migrated to the city, and the town thrived after the war. However, after the federal government allowed the original landowners sole ownership of James City, the black community started leaving the area. Today, nearly 700 black residents live in James City, and social organizations have sought to preserve the history of the region.
The first normal school for African Americans in North Carolina, Fayetteville State University (FSU) was established in 1867 as the Howard School. Although FSU was once a school strictly for the education of teachers, the school grew in the 1950s as new programs were added to the institution’s curricula. Today, over 6,300 students currently attend FSU and the institution offers a Freshman Year Initiative program to incoming students.
Opening its doors to students in 1795, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill holds the distinction of being one of the oldest public universities in the country and the first public university to award degrees in the eighteenth century. Currently, UNC is highly ranked with several national publications listing Carolina as a preeminent leader in academic quality, affordability, diversity and engagement in international presence. As of 2012, UNC Chapel Hill retains a student body of 29,137 and 3,221 faculty members.
Columbus County, named in honor of the famed Christopher Columbus, was established in 1808, and its seat of government, Whiteville, was formed in 1832. The Waccamaw tribe inhabited the early region before European settlement. Some important natural attractions and features of the region are Lake Waccamaw, Green Swamp, and the North Carolina Museum of Forestry.
Labeled the “Lexington and Concord of the South” by many historians, the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge marked the first battle between Patriots and Loyalists in North Carolina during the American Revolution. Although the battle lasted only a short while, Patriot forces were able to prevent British soldiers from taking Moore’s Creek Bridge in present-day Pender County. The battle marked the end of royal government rule in North Carolina.
Washington County was annexed from Tyrrell County in 1799, and its county seat was named after the Pilgrim colony in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The town of Plymouth was the site of a decisive Confederate victory in April 1864. A popular historical attraction is the Somerset Place, a large antebellum plantation that serves as a reunion center for descendants of slaves that worked the farm before the Civil War.
Birthplace of the inventor of the Gatling Gun, the coastal county of Hertford holds an important position in North Carolina’s history. The Meherrin called modern-day Hertford home before the arrival of early European settlers from the Virginia colony. Winton, the county seat of Hertford, was the first town destroyed by Union forces in the Civil War.
Established in 1881 in the eastern Piedmont region of North Carolina, Vance County was named after the famous Civil War governor, Zebulon B. Vance. Home to the first military academy in North Carolina and Rose’s Department Stores, Vance County has since become a popular tourist attraction for water sport enthusiasts because of its large man-made Kerr Lake. The county seat of Vance is Henderson.