Chatham County (1771)

Written By North Carolina History Project


Home of B. Everett Jordan Lake, the Carnivore Preservation Trust, and the famous Devil Tramping Grounds, Chatham County was annexed from Orange County in 1771 as a result of the War of the Regulation.  Chatham County received is named after William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. He was one of the few British statesmen to defend the American colonists’ rights in Parliament prior to the Revolution.


Chatham County, situated in the Piedmont region, has long been an agricultural area. The crop production accounts for nearly 40% of the income within the county. Corn, tobacco, hay, swine, soybeans, poultry, hay, and beef cattle make up most of the county’s agriculture products. Textiles, furniture, and lumber industries are significant parts of the local economy as well as are shale, coal, sandstone, and iron mining.


Pittsboro, the county’s seat, receives its namesake from William Pitt the Younger, the son of the original Earl of Chatham. Siler City, Bennett, Silk Hope, Goldston, Brickhaven, Bynum, and Moncure are other townships and communities in Chatham County. With regards to Chatham’s distinct geographic features, its most visited attraction is the man-made, 47,000 acre Jordan Lake, a popular fishing and boating destination. Also, the famous 40-foot plot known as the Devil’s Tramping Grounds rests near Siler City. Geologists have never discovered why vegetation does not grow in the plot, and the local legend holds that the devil himself walks the area at night.


There are several cultural and historical sites and places within Chatham County. The Pittsboro Masonic Lodge, the Green Womack House, and the London Cottage are a few historic houses in the area while the Carnivore Preservation Trust in Pittsboro holds exotic animals from around the world. The Camelback Truss Bridge, which connects Lee and Chatham County, is now a historic park overlooking the Deep River. In addition to these historical sites, the Siler City Chicken Festival, the Silk Hope Old Fashion Farm Days, and Deep River Crescent Celebration are popular cultural festivals within Chatham County.


The official poet of Chatham County is George Moses Horton (c.1798 – 1883) who lived as a slave for most of his life within the region. After learning to read and write under the tutelage of a UNC professor’s wife, Horton wrote The Hope of Liberty (1829), the first book to be published by a black author in the Southern United States. Another prominent individual from Chatham County was Tod R. Edwards who operated a reputable watch and jewelry repair store in Siler City.