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History of North Carolina Counties


Formation of NC counties and other boundary-related information. The information in this timeline is mostly taken from The Formation of the North Carolina Counties, 1663-1943, by David Leroy Corbitt, Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, NC Dept. of Cultural Resources, 1950. Copyright 1987 by the Division of Archives and History. This book has a great deal of additional information about county boundaries, giving the descriptions as they were set out in the laws at the time they were established. Many (most?) county boundaries have changed over the years. Frequently portions of one county were annexed to another. All these details are described in the book, and omitted from this timeline.

North Carolina Time Line
YEAR MONTH DAY EVENT
1849 0 0 Alamance Co., NC formed from Orange.
1664 0 0 Albemarle County, Carolina formed. "By 1668 Albermarle County was divided into Chowan, Currituck, Pasquotank, and Perquimans precincts for the purposes of local administration. Albermarle County, the superior administrative unit of Carolina, ceased to be recognized as a unit of government in 1689 ... The name Albemarle County continued to be applied to the region as a matter of convenience well into the eighteenth century, however." p. xxiii, The Formation of the North Carolina Counties, 1663-1943.
1847 0 0 Alexander Co., NC formed from Iredell, Caldwell, and Wilkes.
1859 0 0 Alleghany Co., NC formed from Ashe.
1750 0 0 Anson Co., NC formed from Bladen. Rowan formed from Anson in 1753. Mecklenburg was formed from Anson in 1762. Richmond was formed from Anson in 1779. Montgomery was formed from Anson in 1779. Union was formed from Anson and Mecklenburg in 1842.
1705 0 0 Archdale Precinct, Carolina formed from Bath. Its name was changed to Craven in 1712.
1799 0 0 Ashe Co., NC formed from Wilkes. Watauga was formed from Ashe, Wilkes, Caldwell & Yancey in 1849. Alleghany was formed from Ashe in 1859.
1911 0 0 Avery Co., NC formed from Mitchell, Watauga and Caldwell.
1696 0 0 Bath County, Carolina formed (from Albemarle?). In 1705, Bath was divided into Archdale, Pamtecough and Wickham precincts. Bath apparently never functioned as a county. (These precincts were renamed in 1712, becoming, respectively, Craven, Beaufort and Hyde precincts.)
1739 0 0 All NC Precincts become Counties.
1663 0 0 Charles II granted Carolina to the eight Lords Proprietors. From 1663 to 1729, the Carolinas were proprietary colonies. In 1729, seven of the Lords Proprietors sold their shares back to the Crown, and NC became a Royal Colony. Initially, the administrative units were counties which soon were subdivided into precincts, thus making precincts the more important unit. In 1739, all precincts became counties. The older counties (Albemarle and Bath) became extinct.
1710 12 7 North and South Carolina become separate colonies.
1790 4 2 NC cedes Tennessee territory to the United States. This included Washington, Sullivan, Davidson, Greene, Hawkins, Sumner and Tennessee Counties, which no longer were part of NC. This territory was initially known as the Territory South of the Ohio. Tennessee became a state in 1796.
1729 0 0 NC became a Royal Colony. Seven of the eight Lords Proprietors sold their shares back to the Crown. The eighth, Lord Granville, retained his share, leading to the establishment of the Granville District in 1744. In this district, land was granted by Lord Granville but he had no governmental authority.
1728 0 0 The NC/VA border was surveyed. This placed the border considerably further north than many people had thought.
1744 0 0 The Granville District was surveyed. This covered the northern portion of NC. "A researcher can easily approximate the Granville line by drawing an east-west line across North Carolina using the lower lines of Chatham, Randolph, Davidson, and Rowan counties as a guide." ("Land Grants" by Margaret M. Hofmann, in North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History, p. 301.) From 1744 to 1763 land in this area was granted by Lord Granville. From 1764 to 1777, no land was granted in this area!
1712 0 0 Beaufort is new name for Pamptecough Precinct. Pitt was formed from Beaufort in 1760. Pamlico County formed in 1872 from Beaufort and Craven.
1722 0 0 Bertie Precinct, NC formed from Chowan. Tyrrell formed in 1729 from Chowan, Bertie, Currituck and Pasquotank. Edgecombe and Northhampton were formed in 1741 from Bertie. Hertford was formed in 1759 from Bertie, Chowan and Northampton.
1734 0 0 Bladen Precinct, NC formed from New Hanover. Anson was formed in 1750 from Bladen. Orange was formed in 1752 from Bladen, Granville and Johnston. Cumberland was formed in 1754 from Bladen. Brunswick was formed in 1764 from Bladen and New Hanover. Robeson was formed in 1787 from Bladen. Columbus was formed in 1808 from Brunswick and Bladen.
1764 0 0 Brunswick Co., NC formed from New Hanover and Bladen. Columbus formed in 1808 from Brunswick and Bladen.
1791 0 0 Buncombe Co., NC formed from Burke and Rutherford. Haywood was formed in 1808 from Buncombe. Yancey was formed in 1833 from Burke and Buncombe. Henderson was formed in 1838 from Buncombe. Madison was formed in 1851 from Buncombe and Yancey.
1777 0 0 Burke Co., NC formed from Rowan. Buncombe was formed in 1791 from Burke and Rutherford. Yancey was formed in 1833 from Burke and Buncombe. Caldwell was formed in 1841 from Burke and Wilkes. McDowell was formed in 1842 from Rutherford and Burke. Mitchell was formed in 1861 from Yancey, Watauga, Caldwell, Burke and McDowell.
1764 6 10 Bute Co., NC formed from Granville. Bute was abolished in 1779 and was divided into Warren and Franklin counties.
1792 0 0 Cabarrus Co., NC formed from Mecklenburg.
1841 0 0 Caldwell Co., NC formed from Burke and Wilkes. Alexander was formed in 1847 from Iredell, Caldwell, and Wilkes. Watauga was formed in 1849 from Ashe, Wilkes, Caldwell, and Yancey. Mitchell was formed in 1861 from Yancey, Watauga, Caldwell, Burke, and McDowell. Avery was formed in 1911 from Mitchell, Watauga, and Caldwell.
1777 0 0 Camden Co., NC formed from Pasquotank.
1722 0 0 Carteret Precinct, NC formed from Craven Precinct.
1777 6 1 Caswell Co., NC formed from Orange. Person formed in 1791 from Caswell.
1842 0 0 Catawba Co., NC was formed from Lincoln.
1771 4 1 Chatham Co., NC formed from Orange. Lee formed in 1907 from Chatham and Moore.
1839 0 0 Cherokee Co., NC formed from Macon. Clay was formed in 1861 from Cherokee. Granham was formed in 1872 from Cherokee.
1670 0 0 Chowan Precinct, Carolina formed as a subdivision of Albemarle County. Bertie was formed in 1722 from Chowan. Tyrrell was formed in 1729 from Chowan, Bertie, Currituck, and Pasquotank. Hertford was formed in 1759 from Chowan, Bertie and Northampton. Gates was formed in 1779 from Chowan, Perquimans, and Hertford. G
1664 0 0 Clarendon County theoretically established in Carolina. Several failed attempts at colonization were attempted in this area on the Cape Fear River, but the county was abandoned in 1667.
1861 0 0 Clay Co., NC formed from Cherokee.
1841 0 0 Cleveland Co., NC formed from Rutherford and Lincoln.
1808 0 0 Columbus Co., NC formed from Brunswick and Bladen.
1712 0 0 Craven is new name for Archdale Precinct. Carteret formed in 1722 from Craven; New Hanover in 1729 from Craven; Johnston in 1746 from Craven; Jones in 1778 from Craven; Pamlico in 1872 from Craven and Beaufort.
1754 0 0 Cumberland Co., NC formed from Bladen. Its name was briefly changed to Fayette County in 1784, but changed back again before the end of the year. Wake was formed in 1770 from Johnston, Cumberland, and Orange. Moore was formed in 1784 from Cumberland. Harnett was formed in 1855 from Cumberland. Hoke was formed in 1911 from Cumberland and Robeson.
1670 0 0 Currituck Precinct, Carolina formed as a subdivision of Albemarle County. Tyrrell formed in 1729 from Chowan, Bertie, Currituck, and Pasquotank; Dare in 1870 from Currituck, Tyrrell, and Hyde.
1870 0 0 Dare Co., NC formed from Currituck, Tyrrell, and Hyde.
1783 0 0 Davidson Co., now TN, formed from Washington Co., now TN. Sumner (now TN) was formed in 1787 from Davidson. Tennessee County (now TN) was formed in 1788 from Davidson. The territory that became the state of Tennessee was ceded to the U.S. on April 2, 1790. (Note: there is also a Davidson Co, NC, formed in 1822.)
1822 0 0 Davidson Co., NC formed from Rowan.
1836 0 0 Davie Co., NC formed from Rowan.
1759 4 10 Dobbs Co., NC formed from Johnston. Wayne formed in 1779 from Dobbs. In 1791, Dobbs was divided into Glasgow and Lenoir. Dobbs County became extinct at that point.
1750 0 0 Duplin Co., NC formed from New Hanover. Sampson formed in 1784 from Duplin.
1881 0 0 Durham Co., NC formed from Orange and Wake.
1741 0 0 Edgecombe Co., NC formed from Bertie. Granville formed in 1746 from Edgecombe. Halifax was formed in 1758 from Edgecombe. Nash was formed in 1777 from Edgecombe. Wilson was formed in 1855 from Edgecombe, Nash, Johnston and Wayne.
1784 0 0 Fayette Co., NC existed for only a few months. In 1784, Cumberland Co. was divided into Moore and Fayette Counties. Later that year, the act creating Fayette was repealed and the portion left over after Moore was set up retained the name Cumberland.
1849 0 0 Forsyth Co., NC formed from Stokes.
1779 0 0 Franklin Co., NC formed from Bute. Vance formed in 1881 from Granville, Franklin and Warren.
1846 0 0 Gaston Co., NC formed from Lincoln.
1779 0 0 Gates Co., NC formed from Chowan, Hertford and Perquimans.
1791 0 0 Glasgow Co., NC formed from Dobbs. The county was named after NC Secretary of State James Glasgow. The Glasgow Land Frauds were also named after James Glasgow, which is why the name of the county was changed to Greene in 1799.
1872 0 0 Graham Co., NC formed from Cherokee.
1746 0 0 Granville Co., NC formed from Edgecombe. Orange formed in 1752 from Johnston, Bladen and Granville. Bute was formed in 1764 from Granville. Vance was formed in 1881 from Granville, Warren and Franklin.
1783 0 0 Greene Co., now TN, formed from Washington (now TN). Tennessee territory was ceded to the U.S. on April 2, 1790. (There is also a Greene Co., NC, created in 1799 when Glasgow County was renamed.)
1799 0 0 Greene Co., NC, created by renaming Glasgow County.
1771 4 1 Guilford Co., NC formed from Orange and Rowan. Randolph formed in 1779 from Guilford. Rockingham was formed in 1785 from Guilford.
1759 1 1 Halifax Co., NC formed from Edgecombe. Martin formed in 1774 from Halifax and Tyrrell.
1855 0 0 Harnett Co., NC formed from Cumberland.
1787 0 0 Hawkins Co., now TN, formed from Sullivan (now TN). Tennessee territory was ceded to the U.S. on April 2, 1790.
1808 0 0 Haywood Co., NC formed from Buncombe. Macon formed in 1828 from Haywood. Jackson was formed in 1851 from Haywood and Macon.
1838 0 0 Henderson Co., NC formed from Buncombe. Polk was formed in 1855 from Rutherford and Henderson. Transylvania was formed in 1861 from Henderson and Jackson.
1760 5 1 Hertford Co., NC formed from Chowan, Bertie, and Northampton. Gates formed in 1779 from Chowan, Hertford, and Perquimans.
1911 0 0 Hoke Co., NC formed from Cumberland and Robeson.
1712 0 0 Hyde is new name for Wickham Precinct. Dare was formed in 1870 from Currituck, Hyde, and Tyrrell.
1788 0 0 Iredell Co., NC formed from Rowan. Alexander formed in 1847 from Iredell, Caldwell and Wilkes.
1851 0 0 Jackson Co., NC formed from Haywood and Macon. Transylvania was formed in 1861 from Henderson and Jackson. Swain was formed in 1871 from Jackson and Macon.
1746 0 0 Johnston Co., NC was formed from Craven Co. Orange Co. was formed in 1752 from Johnston, Bladen, and Granville. Dobbs was formed in 1758 from Johnston. Wake was formed in 1770 from Johnston, Cumberland, and Orange. Wilson was formed in 1855 from Edgecombe, Nash, Johnston and Wayne.
1779 0 0 Jones Co., NC was formed from Craven.
1907 0 0 Lee Co., NC was formed from Moore and Chatham.
1791 0 0 Lenoir Co., NC was formed from Dobbs.
1779 0 0 Lincoln Co., NC was formed from Tryon. (Tryon abolished at that time.) Cleveland was formed in 1841 from Rutherford and Lincoln. Catawba was formed in 1842 from Lincoln. Gaston was formed in 1846 from Lincoln.
1828 0 0 Macon Co., NC was formed from Haywood. Cherokee was formed in 1839 from Macon. Jackson was formed in 1851 from Haywood and Macon.
1842 0 0 McDowell Co., NC was formed from Rutherford and Burke. Mitchell was formed in 1861 from Yancey, Watauga, Caldwell, Burke and McDowell.
1851 0 0 Madison Co., NC was formed from Buncombe and Yancey.
1774 0 0 Martin Co., NC was formed from Halifax and Tyrrell.
1762 0 0 Mecklenburg Co., NC was formed from Anson. Tryon was formed in 1768 from Mecklenburg. Cabarrus was formed in 1792 from Mecklenburg. Union was formed in 1842 from Anson and Mecklenburg.
1861 0 0 Mitchell Co., NC was formed from Yancey, Watauga, Caldwell, Burke and McDowell. Avery was formed in 1911 from Mitchell, Watauga, and Caldwell.
1779 0 0 Montgomery Co., NC was formed from Anson. Stanly was formed in 1841 from Montgomery.
1784 0 0 Moore Co., NC was formed from Cumberland. Lee was formed in 1907 from Moore and Chatham.
1777 0 0 Nash Co., NC was formed from Edgecombe. Wilson was formed in 1855 from Edgecombe, Nash, Johnston and Wayne.
1729 0 0 New Hanover Precinct, NC was formed from Craven. Onslow was formed in 1734 from New Hanover. Bladen was formed in 1734 from New Hanover. Duplin was formed in 1750 from New Hanover. Brunswick was formed in 1764 from New Hanover and Bladen. Pender was formed in 1875 from New Hanover.
1741 0 0 Northampton Co., NC was formed from Bertie. Hertford was formed in 1759 from Chowan, Bertie and Northampton.
1734 0 0 Onslow Precinct, NC was formed from New Hanover.
1752 0 0 Orange Co., NC was formed from Johnston, Bladen and Granville. Chatham was formed in 1770 from Orange. Guilford was formed in 1770 from Rowan and Orange. Wake was formed in 1770 from Johnston, Cumberland and Orange. Caswell was formed in 1771 from Orange. Alamance was formed in 1849 from Orange. Durham was formed in 1881 from Orange and Wake.
1872 0 0 Pamlico Co., NC was formed from Craven and Beaufort.
1705 0 0 Pamptecough Precinct, Carolina was formed from Bath. Its name was changed to Beaufort in 1712.
1670 0 0 Pasquotank Precinct, Carolina was formed as a subdivision of Albemarle County. Camden was formed from Pasquotank in 1777.
1875 0 0 Pender Co., NC was formed from New Hanover.
1670 0 0 Perquimans Precinct, Carolina was formed as a subdivision of Albemarle County. Gates was formed in 1779 from Chowan, Perquimans and Hertford.
1791 0 0 Person Co., NC was formed from Caswell.
1760 0 0 Pitt Co., NC was formed from Beaufort.
1855 0 0 Polk Co., NC was formed from Rutherford.
1779 0 0 Randolph Co., NC was formed from Guilford.
1779 0 0 Richmond Co., NC was formed from Anson. Scotland was formed in 1899 from Richmond.
1787 0 0 Robeson Co., NC was formed from Bladen. Hoke was formed in 1911 from Cumberland and Robeson.
1785 0 0 Rockingham Co., NC was formed from Guilford.
1753 0 0 Rowan Co., NC was formed from Anson. Guilford was formed in 1770 from Rowan and Orange. Surry was formed in 1770 from Rowan. Burke was formed in 1777 from Rowan. Iredell was formed in 1788 from Rowan. Davidson was formed in 1822 from Rowan. Davie was formed in 1836 from Rowan.
1779 0 0 Rutherford Co., NC was formed from Tryon (which ceased to exist at that time). Buncombe was formed in 1791 from Burke and Rutherford. Cleveland was formed in 1841 from Rutherford and Lincoln. McDowell was formed in 1842 from Rutherford and Burke. Polk was formed in 1855 from Rutherford and Henderson.
1784 0 0 Sampson Co., NC formed from Duplin.
1899 0 0 Scotland Co., NC formed from Richmond.
1841 0 0 Stanly Co., NC formed from Montgomery.
1789 0 0 Stokes Co., NC formed from Surry. Forsyth was formed in 1849 from Stokes.
1779 0 0 Sullivan Co. (now TN) formed from Washington (now TN). Hawkins (now TN) formed in 1787 from Sullivan (now TN).
1787 0 0 Sumner Co. (now TN) formed from Davidson (now TN).
1770 0 0 Surry Co., NC formed from Rowan. Wilkes was formed in 1777 from Surry and the District of Washington. Stokes was formed in 1789 from Surry. Yadkin was formed in 1850 from Surry.
1871 0 0 Swain Co., NC was formed from Jackson and Macon.
1788 0 0 Tennessee Co. (now TN) was formed in 1788 from Davidson (now TN). (When the state of TN was formed in 1796, Tennessee County was divided into Montgomery and Robertson Counties.)
1861 0 0 Transylvania Co., NC was formed from Henderson and Jackson.
1768 0 0 Tryon Co., NC was formed from Mecklenburg. Tryon Co. was abolished in 1779 and Lincoln and Rutherford were formed from it.
1729 0 0 Tyrrell Precinct, NC was formed from Chowan, Bertie, Currituck and Pasquotank. Martin was formed in 1774 from Halifax and Tyrrell. Washington was formed in 1799 from Tyrrell. Dare was formed in 1870 from Currituck, Tyrrell, and Hyde.
1842 0 0 Union Co., NC was formed from Anson and Mecklenburg.
1881 0 0 Vance Co., NC was formed from Granville, Warren, and Franklin.
1770 0 0 Wake Co., NC was formed from Johnston, Cumberland, and Orange. Durham was formed in 1881 from Orange and Wake.
1779 0 0 Warren Co., NC was formed from Bute. (Bute was abolished at that time.) Vance was formed in 1881 from Granville, Warren and Franklin.
1776 0 0 The District of Washington was officially recognized as a part of the governmental structure of North Carolina. (The settlers had originally thought they were in Virginia, but on discovering that they were actually in NC, petitioned to be officially annexed.) Wilkes Co., NC was formed in 1777 from Surry and the District of Washington. In 1777, the District of Washington became Washington Co. (now TN). (q.v.)
1777 0 0 Washington Co. (now TN) was formed by name change from the District of Washington. Sullivan Co. (now TN) was formed in 1779 from Washington (now TN). Davidson (now TN) was formed in 1783 from Washington (now TN). (There is also a Washington Co., NC, formed in 1799.)
1799 0 0 Washington Co., NC formed from Tyrrell.
1849 0 0 Watauga Co., NC formed from Ashe, Wilkes, Caldwell and Yancey. Mitchell was formed in 1861 from Yancey, Watauga, Caldwell, Burke and McDowell. Avery was formed in 1911 from Mitchell, Watauga and Caldwell.
1779 0 0 Wayne Co., NC was formed in 1779 from Dobbs. Wilson was formed in 1855 from Edgecombe, Nash, Johnston and Wayne.
1705 0 0 Wickham Precinct, Carolina was formed in 1705 from Bath. Its name was changed to Hyde about 1712.
1777 0 0 Wilkes Co., NC was formed from Surry and the District of Washington. Ashe was formed in 1799 from Wilkes. Caldwell was formed in 1841 from Burke and Wilkes. Alexander was formed in 1847 from Iredell, Caldwell and Wilkes. Watauga was formed in 1849 from Ashe, Wilkes, Caldwell and Yancey.
1855 0 0 Wilson Co., NC was formed from Edgecombe, Nash, Johnston and Wayne.
1850 0 0 Yadkin Co., NC was formed from Surry.
1833 0 0 Yancey Co., NC was formed from Burke and Buncombe. Watauga was formed in 1849 from Ashe, Wilkes, Caldwell and Yancey. Madison was formed in 1851 from Buncombe and Yancey. Mitchell was formed in 1861 from Yancey, Watauga, Caldwell, Burke and McDowell.
1764 0 0 NC/SC border east of the Catawba River surveyed. (See 1772 note.)
1772 0 0 NC/SC border west of the Catawba River surveyed. Prior to the surveys (1764 and 1772), "much of the territory in the north-central and north-western part of South Carolina was considered to be North Carolina. The South Carolina counties of Marlboro, Chesterfield, Lancaster, York, Chester, Union, Spartanburg, Cherokee, and portions of Greenville, Laurens and Newberry are involved." (_Guide to South Carolina Research and Records_, by Brent Holcomb, Colombia, SC, 1991, p. 37) Much of Tryon County, NC became SC after the 1772 survey. In fact, the Tryon County courthouse had to be moved!

I apologize I don't remember where I found this wonderful timeline else I would give credit to the individual(s) who put it together. I hope that you find this helpful in your genealogy hunting and if you happen to notice this elsewhere, please let me know so I can give proper acknowledgement.


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Last Updated: 23 Oct 1996
© Josephine Bass and Becky Bonner 25 May 1996. All rights reserved.
Becky Bonner E-Mail Address: bbbonner@cox.net