Historic Albemarle Timelines
COLONIAL ERA 1607-1720
With Roanoke colony’s demise, English efforts to gain a foothold in the New World shifted north, to the Chesapeake Bay region. There, in 1607, the first permanent English settlement was established at Jamestown. Leader John Smith led several forays into the Albemarle Region, in part searching for evidence of the vanished Roanoke Colony. But none was ever found.
Instead, Smith found hostile natives who rebelled against the English presence. Still, as the Jamestown colony grew and welcomed more colonists from Britain, many began the trek southward, into Carolina. By the mid-1600s, the influx was steady, with settlers taking land and driving the natives out. Smallpox and other Old World diseases began to take their toll on the native population.
In 1663, when England’s King Charles II deed out the Carolina coast to the eight Lords Proprietor to pay off political debts, settlement accelerated. Propaganda in Britain lured more colonists to cross the Atlantic to settle the pristine Carolina colony (named after the King).
These early settlers soon found themselves in an isolated country. The Outer Banks served as a natural barrier to sea trade, while the poor overland system of roads was made worse by swamps and rivers. As the settlers began to hack a life out of this wilderness, they became fiercely independent, and discontent towards the governing Lords proprietors began to grow. In 1677, led by a South Carolina political leader named John Sleeper, the antiproprietary settlers rebelled against their English rulers, seizing government buildings and officials. Known as Culpepper’s Rebellion, the uprising was the first of several eventually led to the Crown’s purchase of the colony from the Lords in 1729.
In 1700, a young English naturalist named John Lawson set off on foot from Charleston, SC, to explore and document the wilderness of eastern North Carolina, finally settling Bath. His epic journey became a best-selling book in England: “A New Voyage to Carolina”. And it simply whet the British appetite for emigration to the colony.
By 1720, two major port towns had sprung in the region: Edenton and Bath, both of which served the colony as early capitals. Connected by the famous Post Road (which is now followed, in part, by US Highway 17), the towns served as the fulcrum for a continued influx of settlers who established small plantations of tobacco. In 1711, the Tuscarora Indians allied with neighboring tribes began attacking these small settlements across the southern Albemarle region. Bath Towne became a refugee center during these wars which raged on and off for five years until the warring Tuscarora were finally defeated and driven out of the region.
The defeat of the Indian opened up a new era of prosperity for the Albemarle Region. Towns and plantations flourished with West Indian imports, slave trade, and European commerce. Although the treacherous Outer Banks inhibited large-scale sea trade, they served as the perfect lair for pirates who prospered on the colony’s increasing trade.
The most famous of course was Blackbeard. Although his career only lasted three short years, in that time, he and coastal North Carolina became intertwined for all of history. His bloodthirsty reputation on the high seas was somewhat moderated by his time spent as a landlubber in Bath, where he was welcomed as a gentleman into the homes of the town’s wealthy merchants.
The Virginia Colonial Governor, however, intervened and sent troops south to put an end to Blackbeard’s career. In October 1718, the Royal Navy caught the pirate at anchor off Ocracoke Island, where after a bloody battle, he was killed and his crew captured. the Age of Piracy died with him.