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History of Pamlico Co., NC
Excerpts from Pamlico County - A Brief History by Joe A. Mobley 1991

Having been formed from portions of Craven and Beaufort counties in 1872, Pamlico County is a relative newcomer as a separate unit of government.  Nevertheless, Pamlico has it's own distinct history, which began even before the first white man gazed upon its shores in 1585.

Located in the tidewater (easternmost) region of the coastal plain section of North Carolina, Pamlico County is a peninsula extending into Pamlico Sound.  It is bounded on the north by the Pamlico River and on the south by the Neuse River.  An arm of Pamlico Sound called Bay River penetrates to the county's interior.  Craven County is Pamlico's western boundary.

An artist attempting to paint an abstract of Pamlico County would have to choose the colors blue and green, for Pamlico lies in an area of North Carolina in which the evergreen of forest and marshland blends with the blue of sky and water.  That vision has thus far remained unmarred by the dingy gray of industrial smoke, tall buildings, and macadamized fields.  In the best North Carolina tradition, Pamlico is a rural county, and its deepest ties are to land and water--especially water.

For generations the county's residents have been fishermen, plying Pamlico Sound and even through the inlets of the Outer Banks into the Atlantic Ocean in search of nature's aquatic bounty.  Today's visitor to the county sees everywhere evidence of the art and science of commercial fishing.  Pamlico's bays and creeks provide berths for numerous skiffs and assorted boats.  Trawlers and other craft are held fast to the docks where workers process fish, shrimp, crabs, oysters, and other seafood for shipment inland.  On wharves and in yards are piled nets, crab pots, and other maritime accouterments such as poles, paddles, anchors, and buoys--all reflecting Pamlico's close relationship to sound and ocean.

Over the years, inhabitants of this peninsular county also have tilled the black-loam soil, which predominates in the tidewater portion of the coastal plain.  At various times Pamlico farmers have grown the standard North Carolina crops--cotton, corn, tobacco, Irish and sweet potatoes, and truck crops, as well as the exclusively lowland staple, rice.  Portions of the land have been used for grazing cattle, and during early days hogs roamed the pastures and woods.  Timber and its by-products were the area's first money-makers, and they remain a vital part of the local economy.  Despite vigorous harvesting, pine trees continue to cover much of the countryside.  Wildlife--ducks, geese, upland birds, deer, bear, squirrel, raccoons, foxes, and the like--abound in the natural habitat.

In recent years vacationers, sailing enthusiasts, sportsmen, and some developers are being lured by the beauty and isolation of Pamlico.  Their discovery ultimately may alter the county's basic character.  Despite the natural beauty that draws outsiders or perhaps occasionally stirs the hearts of longtime residents, Pamlico County's history is far from idyllic.  Generations of its people have experienced struggle and hardship, sometimes in an effort merely to survive.  They have suffered hurricanes, floods, disease, economic depression, and all the physical and cultural disadvantages of isolation.  Hard work under a hot sun or in howling winds frequently has been their lot.  This adversity has, however, produced a stubborn independence and sense of self-sufficiency in the residents, who traditionally have been slow to accept social or political change.

Pamlico County might never have been formed except for the political turmoil of Reconstruction.  When the Civil War ended, so did the old way of life in North Carolina.  The war gave freedom to 350,000 slaves in the state.  The 1860 census for the portion of Craven County north of the Neuse River (which included virtually all of what is now Pamlico County) indicates that approximately 1,848 slaves from that area were liberated by the Civil War.

The movement to gerrymander Pamlico County into existence began in the state House of Representatives on December 13, 1870, when John D. Stanford of Duplin County introduced House Bill 153 "to establish the County of Pamlico."  The bill was referred to the Committee on Counties, Cities, and Towns, for study.  Then on February 16, 1871, the House began discussion of the bill, and at that time Stanford inserted a proviso "that if the citizens of Beaufort County in the section proposed to be cit off do not vote to ratify the act, that part of said county shall not be included in the new county."  After some discussion, the amendment was adopted.  Next, George Z. French, a Republican carpetbagger from New Hanover County, moved that "if the voters in that portion of Craven proposed to be cut off, dissent, they shall not be cut off" to form the new county.  The House made his amendment a part of the pending legislation.

On February 23, 1871, House Bill 153 went to the state Senate for consideration,  There it was referred to the Committee on Propositions and Grievances.  On March 30 the bill was scheduled for "special order" at 4:00 p.m.  Two days later, however, the Senate indefinitely postponed Senate Bill 500 (House Bill 153).  The bill remained tabled until the machinery for creating the new congressional Black Second was in place.  Then on February 8, 1872, the General Assembly ratified "An Act to Lay Off and Establish a New County by the Name of Pamlico."  The act stipulated the following boundaries for the new county:

Beginning at the mouth of South Creek, in the County of Beaufort, at Hickory Point, running thence up South Creek to the mouth of Bailey Creek, to the head thereof, thence a west course to Durham's Creek and up Durham's Creek to the head thereof, then a direct line to the head waters of Deep Run and with Deep Run to Upper Broad Creek to Neuse river, thence with Neuse river and Pamlico Sound to the mouth of Pamlico river, and thence up Pamlico river, so as to include Indian Island, to Hickory Point, at the mouth of South Creek, the beginning.

Permission kindly given by Donna E. Kelly, Administrator Historical Publications Section N.C. Office of Archives and History Department of Cultural Resources, Raleigh, NC.  Be sure to visit their publications site at:

2007 McGowan/Sheppard