Brunswick County Historical Society

History of Brunswick County

Brunswick County, which lies in the southeastern corner of North Carolina, was formed in 1764 from parts of New Hanover and Bladen Counties, and was named in honor of the House of Brunswick. Since this date, the boundaries of the county have been changed several times. The present boundaries are the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape Fear River, Columbus, Pender, and New Hanover Counties. The Town of Brunswick was its first county seat.

The history of some of the Brunswick County area goes back to the early days of the Spanish and French explorers, as early as 1524, according to some records.The English became interested in settling the area at the time of the Carolina Charter, making the settlement of Charles Town on the west bank of the Cape Fear River near the mouth of Town Creek in 1664. This settlement lasted only three years. Another attempt to settle the area was in 1726, when Maurice Moore of South Carolina planned Brunswick Town near the site of the earlier settlement. Brunswick Town grew and flourished for the next half-century, becoming one of the world's leading ports for naval stores.

The early settlers of the area raised corn, cotton, rice, indigo, and tobacco; and the virgin forests yielded for them a bountiful supply of naval stores and lumber of the best quality. The roads were a drawback to the progress of the area. As much as possible, creeks and rivers were used in getting to and from markets and in the social life of the area. Creeks and branches were also used to furnish water power for grist mills and sawmills. Today, many old mill sites are to be found in the county, and some of the old mill dams are present day road beds.

Many of the Brunswick County citizens were outstanding in the revolt against British rule and in the great struggle for liberty. Armed resistance to the Stamp Act occurred at Brunswick Town in 1766. Early in the Revolution the British razed many nearby plantations, which, with the burning of Brunswick Town in 1776, left the county in a destitute situation from which it did not recover until many years after the war between the states.

The men of Brunswick County were quick to answer the call to arms in the Civil War. Several forts were located in the county, the two most important being Fort Anderson and Fort Caswell. Being next door to intense blockade running activity, numerous blockade-runner wrecks line the coast, especially near the mouth of the Cape Fear River. The county suffered the desperate poverty and privations so common in much of the South during the war and in the post-war period of reconstruction.

Since Revolutionary days the county has been a rather close-knit social community. Prior to the Civil War, education was handled in private schools, on plantations, and in small communities. These private schools continued for years after the war and served as a stimulate to the struggling public schools.

During the twentieth century with the coming of good roads and the automobile, great strides have been made in developing the country's natural resources. The beaches along its long coast line have been developed into year-round resorts as well as summer playgrounds. Its vast, open areas of land, the availability of a plentiful supply of fresh water, and the nearness of rail and water transportation have proved most inviting to a variety of industries. Great advances have been made in education and agriculture.

With many of its resources still undeveloped, the county's future appears bright for continued growth in agriculture, industry, and recreation. As its healthy economy continues to expand, it is hoped that the county's historical background will not be forgotten.

Authored by Alice Johnson Taylor - Winnabow, North Carolina.

North Carolina governors who lived in the area which later became Brunswick County:

George Burrington - 1724-1725

George Burrington - 1731-1734

Gabriel Johnston - 1734-1752

Nathaniel Rice - 1752-1753

Mathew Rowan - 1753-1754

Arthur Dobbs - 1754-1765

North Carolina governors who lived in Brunswick County:

William Tryon - 1765-1771

James Hasell - 1771

Benjamin Smith - 1810-1811

Daniel L. Russell - 1897-1901>

Notable Brunswick County Service in the Revolutionary War:

Robert Howe - NC's highest ranking officer.

Benjamin Smith - George Washington's aide-de-camp.