Backstory Behind Founding of the Carolina Colony in 1663, Up Until 1776

The date of the founding of North Carolina by the English is in some dispute. Some argue the birthday is July 13, 1584, when Croatan Indians first encountered English ships commissioned by Sir Walter Raleigh on Roanoke Island. Raleigh himself did not make a voyage to Carolina, despite providing the namesake for the eventual colony’s future capital. His commission turned out to be the failed or Lost Colony.

The Province of Carolina, which included the present-day states of North CarolinaSouth CarolinaGeorgiaAlabamaTennessee and Mississippi, and parts of modern Florida and Louisiana. was initially chartered in 1629 by Sir Robert Heath. He was granted the Cape Fear region by King Charles I of England, particularly to pursue the tobacco trade with Virginia. But he made no settlements in the Carolinas, and was later distracted by political intrigue and conflict in England, was impeached as Chief Justice for high treason in 1644 and fled for his life to France, where he died.


Charter of 1663, from North Carolina “If fortune had smiled more brightly at her, North Carolina, rather than Virginia, might have been the first of the permanent British colonies in America.” It notes that Raleigh, favored by Queen Elizabeth I, made five attempts to settle Carolina, but all five attempts failed.

Elizabeth died in 1603. “Her successor, King James I, was convinced that Raleigh had conspired to prevent his ascension to the throne.  Raleigh was soon convicted of treason: he lost not only his freedom but also his rights to colonize America.”

“King James I died in 1625 and was succeeded by Charles I.  King Charles I reigned until 1649, when he was beheaded and England came under the control of Parliament and the Cromwells.  The Interregnum ended in 1660, when Charles II ascended to the throne.”

King Charles II in 1663 granted the land of the Province of Carolina to eight of his closest supporters during the Restoration of 1660, which brought the Stuart Dynasty back into power after the English Civil War from 1642-51. He intended the greater colony of Carolina to be an English bulwark against the Spanish, who had been settling Florida since the 1560s, and to prevent their northward expansion.

Charles II gave Carolina to these Lord Proprietors:

  • the Earl of Clarendon,
  • Duke of Albemarle,
  • Lord Craven,
  • Lord Berkeley,
  • Lord Ashley,
  • Sir George Carteret,
  • William Berkeley and
  • Sir John Colleton.

“The Lords Proprietors possessed broad feudal powers to profit from the colony and bore the considerable responsibility of managing and protecting it in the interests of England…”

In 1710, the Lord Proprietors met at Craven House in London and divided the colony in two, North and South Carolina. The first Governor of the separate North Carolina province was Edward Hyde, beginning in 1712 and serving until his death from yellow fever later that year. The colonial capitals of the province were

“In 1729 seven of the eight Lords Proprietors (the only exception being Sir George Carteret) sold their shares of North Carolina to the crown.  North Carolina thereby became a royal colony, and remained under royal control until the American Revolution.”

The longest serving royal governors of the North Carolina colony were Gabriel Johnston, born in Scotland, who served from 1734 until his death in 1752; Arthur Dobbs, also born in Scotland, who served from 1754 until his death in 1765; William Tryon, from 1765 to 1771; and Josiah Martin, born in Ireland, who served from 1771 until 1776, when he was forced to flee, but made several attempts to re-establish British government of the colony from off-shore.


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