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North Carolina History
© 2005 Rickie Lazzerini

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Historical Review 1.3   
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The First Carolinians

     The Native Americans of the Carolinas can be broken into four categories, the Paleo-Indians, Archaic, Woodland, and Historic. The Paleo-Indians first arrived over 10,000 years ago, but not much is known about them. The environment they lived in was very different than it is today. Glacial ice didn't cover North Carolina, like it did over most of North America, but the climate was still very cold and wet. During this time there were also a variety of animals that are now extinct, such as the saber tooth tiger and the mastodon. The Paleo-Indians lived in small bands of approximately fifty people. They were nomadic and followed herds of large animals. At Morrow Mountain State Park you can still see evidence of where Paleo-Indians gathered material for their spears.

     The next group to occupy North Carolina were the Archaic Indians. These people were more sedentary than the Paleo-Indians because they relied on plant food and small game, eliminating the need to follow large herds closely. These Indians began making a variety of stone tools and projectile points. The Archaic culture gradually transitioned into the Woodland culture around 500 B.C.

     The Woodland Indians were noted for important advancements in pottery, agriculture, and tool making. They made paddles, pipes, and used the bow and arrow for hunting. They also began domesticating crops, and by 1200 A.D. the North Carolina Woodlanders were cultivating corn, beans, sunflowers and squash.

     By the early 16th century the Woodland period had transformed into the Historic period. The Historic Indians shared similarities with the Woodlanders and spoke a similar language, but the Historic Indians had distinct and more modern traits of their own. Tribes in the Piedmont area spoke Siouan languages, while other North Carolina tribes spoke Iroquoian. The Creek Indians migrated from present-day Georgia and Alabama and settled in the southern part of North Carolina in 1450, uprooting Siouan tribes who were settled in the Pee Dee River Valley. The Creek built dwellings, raised crops, and lived in the area for a hundred years before the Siouan tribes took back the land in 1550. The Cherokees migrated to North Carolina as well but they came from the north and settled in the Appalachian Mountains. The Cherokees lived in permanent towns of about twenty to sixty families. They raised corn and hunted for survival. With the arrival of Europeans, the lives of these tribes would be changed forever. The tribes were forced to relocate, and between 1777 and 1819 the Cherokees ceded 8,927 square miles of their homeland to white men. In the winter of 1838-39, they were forced out of the state altogether. Some Cherokee descendents remain in North Carolina, and a traditional Cherokee village has been reconstructed in Oconaluftee, in Swain County.

The Early Explorers

     The French, Spanish, and English have all explored the area that is now called North Carolina. In 1524, Giovanni da Verranzzano was hired by the French to explore the Atlantic and landed in what is now Cape Fear. In 1540, the Spaniard Hernando de Soto and his legion of 600 men explored the southern interior of the state and became the first Europeans to see the Appalachian Mountains.

     The English were the next Europeans to explore North Carolina, and the first to claim it. North Carolina was included as part of Virginia in the 1606 land grant. The first settlement in what is now North Carolina was actually an extension of Jamestown, Virginia. The land that became North Carolina was explored slowly at first. It wasn't until mid-17th century that interest in the region intensified after Virginia settlements stabilized and land began to run out. Poor Virginians and new immigrants looked south for land in the Albemarle region, and in 1655 North Carolina had its first permanent settlers. Nathaniel Batts is noted as North Carolina's first settler. Migrants from Virginia settled along the banks of the Pasquotank, Perquimans, and Chowan Rivers, all having to bargain with local Indians for land. These early settlers had a difficult time and faced many obstacles while establishing North Carolina. The level of civilization was so low that it was hard for the farmers to earn money from their tobacco crops.

Royal Province to Royal Colony

     When Charles II took the throne in 1663, he gave charters to eight courtiers known as the Lords Proprietors. The charter included land from north of Florida to the Albemarle Sound region. North Carolina was founded in 1669 when the Proprietors' first expedition of one hundred men and women arrived to found Charleston. As the tobacco business began to flourish, settlers from Virginia would begin moving into North Carolina in larger numbers. By 1729, Carolina became its own Royal Colony.
By Rickie Lazzerini

BA History
University of California, Santa Barbara

Index of Historical Reviews

2005 Rickie Lazzerini, All Rights Reserved
This page may be freely linked to but may not be reproduced
in any form without prior written consent from the author.

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