Referred to as the “Hollywood of the East” and home to the Azalea Festival, New Hanover County, although a relatively small county, has a prominent historical and cultural role in the state. Established in 1729, the county’s seat of government, Wilmington, attracts many vacationers and tourists year after year. Some important historical attractions include the Fort Fisher State Historic Site, the North Carolina Aquarium, and the U.S.S. North Carolina.
The Pamlico Indians resided in present-day Pamlico County before European settlers arrived in the mid-1600s. Formally established in 1872, the county’s seat is Bayboro, named for the Bay River. One important tourist attraction is the Oriental Regatta, a highly acclaimed sailboat race.
With Danbury as its county seat, Stokes County lies in the north Piedmont and adjacent to the Virginia border. The county was named after a Revolutionary Patriot, Captain John Stokes.
On the border of the Piedmont and the coastal region, Nash was incorporated in 1777. Its namesake is General Francis Nash who died while serving the Patriot cause during the Revolutionary War. An important agricultural county, Nash County farmers grow crops ranging from tobacco to cucumbers to cotton. The first Hardee’s Restaurant opened in Nash County in 1960, and Jim Thorpe started his baseball career in the region with the Rocky Mount Railroaders.
Formed out of Guilford County in 1785, Rockingham County was initially inhabited by the Cheraw Indians and later by the English, Germans, and Scotch-Irish. Its current population is approximately 92,000. Although not the county’s largest town, Wentworth serves as the county seat.
Home to the culturally significant Duplin Winery and Warsaw Veterans Day Celebration, Duplin County was established in 1852. Its county seat is Kenansville, and other townships within the area include Warsaw, Magnolia, and Rose Hill. The state’s first Presbyterian church, the Grove congregation, was formed in the 1700s, and the church continues in its affluence in present Duplin County.
Site of the first gold rush in the United States and the birthplace of iconic NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Cabarrus County provides a vital culture and historic piece to North Carolina’s history. Originally part of Mecklenburg County, Cabarrus was formed in 1792 and named after Stephen Cabarrus, Speaker of North Carolina’s House of Commons in the late-eighteenth century.
Home of the University of North Carolina and several corporations in the Research Triangle Park district, Orange County holds an important place in the state’s history. The Occaneechi originally inhabited the region in villages that lie along a bustling trade route. Hillsborough (the seat of government), Chapel Hill, and portions of Mebane are all currently within Orange County.
The Tuscarora dwelled in present-day Martin County before the first English colonists settled the region in the early 1770s. The natives called the land “Squhawky” but after the county’s incorporation and the establishment of Williamston (the county’s seat), the county became known as “Tar Landing.” Due to its location in the Roanoke River, Williamston served as an important trading hub of turpentine, tar, and other products all the way into the twentieth century. An important historic site in the county is the former Confederate garrison, Fort Branch.
The “cradle of the colony,” Chowan County’s history survives as a vital piece to the formation of the North Carolina colony and state. The site of the famous Edenton Tea Party and a residence of numerous patriots, Chowan served as a centerpiece for the ensuing colonial demand for independence. Edenton, the seat of government in Chowan, was established in 1722, and numerous homes and structures built in the eighteenth century still stand and remain a testament to the town’s and Chowan’s colonial heritage.