|Brief History of Brunswick County
Compiled by Natasha Miles
Brunswick County, North Carolina
| The area that is
now Brunswick County was originally inhabited by native americans,
including the Cape Fear Indians.
In 1662, William Hilton of the Massachusetts Bay Colony explored the Cape Fear area with eyes on a new settlement being established there. While in the area, a local Indian took Hilton and some of his party to an Indian town called Necoes, which is estimated to have been in present day Brunswick County. The local Indians were mostly friendly with white explorers that visited the area. However, apparently as more and more settlers moved into the area, the Indians began to feel threatened and bad blood brewed between the natives and the new settlers. Many of the Cape Fear Indians were killed, died of disease, died in war with the Yamassee, and were eventually removed into South Carolina. The Cape Fear Indian population was estimated at 1000 in the year 1600. A census of 1715 states only 206 remained living in five villages. By 1808, white residents could only remember as many as 30 "Pedee" and "Cape Fear Indians" that had lived in the area.
There were several attempts at establishing settlements in the Cape Fear area which were mostly unsuccessful. In 1713, Thomas Smith was granted a large portion of land which included Smith Island (now Bald Head Island) and much of what is now Southport. In 1714, Thomas James was granted 1000 acres of land on the west side of the Cape Fear River. In 1725, land was granted to several men including Maurice Moore, Samuel Swann, Charles Harrison, and Eleazar Allen. Maurice Moore, son of a former South Carolina governor, founded Brunswick Town in 1726.
In 1729, New Hanover County was established which contained the land in present day Brunswick County. Brunswick Town was the county seat of New Hanover County from 1729 until 1740. During this time, a new town (called New Town or Newton) was established on the east side of the Cape Fear River. This town was also called New Liverpool and would eventually become Wilmington. In 1740, Wilmington became the new county seat, which infuriated the Brunswick Town residents. A long rivalry began between the two towns which led to the formation of Brunswick County in 1764.
Brunswick Town was the county seat of Brunswick County until 1779. Brunswick Town was home to two Royal governors including Arthur Dobbs who arrived in Brunswick in 1754 and had the governor's mansion, Russellborough, built. After Dobbs died in 1765, the new Royal governor, William Tryon, used Russellborough as the official governor's residence. As early as 1765, William Tryon already had plans for building himself a superior mansion. In 1770, Tryon moved into his Tryon Palace which was located in New Bern, in Craven County. Many factors led to the downfall of Brunswick Town, including the growth in popularity and importance of Wilmington, and the Royal Governor's residence being moved. Only a few families remained in Brunswick Town by 1775, and they fled for fear of an attack during the current Revolutionary war. Brunswick was razed by British troops in 1776 and was never rebuilt. Two or three families returned to the mostly demolished town after the war, but by 1830 the town was abandoned and was sold to the owner of Orton Plantation for $4.25.
In 1779, Lockwood Folly became the county seat. Court was held at the home of John Bell until the courthouse was built in 1786. A town called Walkersburg was established nearby in 1784 and was meant to become the new county seat with a courthouse being built there. However, this never happened due to unknown reasons.
The county seat was moved again in 1808 to Smithville, (now called Southport.) Smithville was formed in 1792 and was named for Benjamin Smith, a man with a noteworthy career in the military and in politics.
In a similar scene to the 1740 move of the county seat to Wilmington, this newest move upset many residents which led to the formation of Columbus County in 1808. The Brunswick county seat remained at Southport until 1975 when it was moved to Bolivia.
Shallotte is another early town in Brunswick County. Settlement in the area dates back to 1750. A post office was established in Shallotte in 1837. In the early 1800s, roads were built between Wilmington and Shallotte. The roads were sandy and difficult to traverse, so river travel was popular. A trading post was established in the 1820s on the Lockwoods Folly River. It was orignally called the Old Georgetown Way but was renamed in the late 1860s to Supply.
During the civil war, the ruins at Brunswick Town were used as a defense called Fort Anderson. The fort was attacked in 1865 when cannon balls hit the ruins of St Philip's Church. Confederate soldiers abandoned the fort by night, and union soldiers then desecrated several graves at the church and removed the building's cornerstone.