Located on Albemarle Sound’s Edenton Bay, our charming village, established in 1712, features three centuries of outstanding architecture, viewed behind tree-lined sidewalks and along waterfront vistas.
Jacobean, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian examples make this town a natural for its two National Historic Landmarks and numerous listings on the National Register of Historic Places.
Edenton, North Carolina, is known for its lively downtown with unique shops, eateries, and other businesses serving residents and visitors alike. An active calendar of events covers outdoor recreation, including sailing, paddling, biking and baseball. Cultural events are plentiful — art exhibits, plays, and rare history treats such as a Bill of Rights Tour. Seasonal festivals are even more picturesque set against the remarkable backdrop of this first Colonial capital.
Chowan County was named for the Chowanoke Indians who inhabited the Albemarle Sound area around 1586. The mouth of the Chowan River was settled in approximately 1663, after King Charles granted authority to eight proprietors. Within a year a governor and a six-man advisory council were appointed “for Albemarle River.” The province of Carolina was born.
In 1694 John Archdale, governor, brought a semblance of order to the area. Settlers were less turbulent and colonists from the north began to move in to the Chowan Area. By the early 1700s there were several large plantations from Edenton Bay to Sandy Point.
John Lawson, who traveled much of the colony, writes of the people: “The young men were bashful and hard to get to know; their fathers were rough pioneers; the women were remarkable and made cloth from their own cotton and flax. Many were handy with canoes in this watery country.”
Supplies were brought in on small coasting sloops from the Colonies to the north. Ships from the West Indies sometimes brought in salt and rum, which was of great value for trading with the Indians for animal skins. The notorious pirate Blackbeard is said to have visited Edenton Bay. Governor Eden was suspected of giving aid to Blackbeard. In 1718 Governor Spottswood of Virginia sent out a force that caught and executed the famous pirate.
In 1715 Charles Forts became the first owner of the first lot sold in “ye towne on Queen Anne’s Creek.” By 1718, a frame courthouse had been built. Shortly after Governor Charles Eden’s death in 1722, the town was named in his honor. The Cupola House was built in 1725 and is the oldest house in town still standing. By the mid 1700s about 50 houses had been built.
North Carolina was taken over directly by the crown in 1729 and the Proprietor Granville insisted on keeping his property rights in Edenton. Francis Corbin, his agent, acquired the Cupola House and drew money and influence into Edenton. Many large, impressive homes were built during the Granville era. St. Paul’s Church was built in 1736 and the Court House in 1767. It is one of the oldest courthouses in continuous use in our country.
The growing fame and prosperity of Edenton in the late 1700s attracted men like Samuel Johnston, Joseph Hewes, James Iredell and Hugh Williamson. Between 1771 and 1776 Edenton’s port records show 827 ships cleared for American and foreign ports. Thousands of bushels of corn, barrels of tar and barrels of fish, among many other export items, went out during this five-year period.
In 1773 Joseph Hewes and Samuel Johnston were members of the Committee of Correspondence to stay abreast of English moves and to unify resistance and protest to English rule. On October 25, 1774, 50 of the leading women of Albemarle gathered and drew up a resolution to discontinue their use of “East India Tea” as a token of their devotion to the cause of liberty. It was the “earliest instance of political activity on the part of women in the American Colonies.”
Joseph Hewes, John Penn and William Hooper signed the Declaration of Independence on behalf of North Carolina. Edenton’s Hewes remained a key figure in the Revolutionary Government.