Camden County is home to a population of approximately 9,980 persons, as of 2010, and is comprised of about 241 square miles. It is located in the North Carolina Coastal Plain between Currituck County and Pasquotank & Gates Counties. It is bordered by the State of Virginia to the north, and the Albemarle Sound to the south. Camden County is the site of the southern terminus of the Great Dismal Swamp Canal, which runs along US Highway 17 up through Virginia and eventually connects to an inlet running into the Atlantic Ocean.
Camden County was formed in 1777 from the northeastern part of Pasquotank County. On May 9, 1777 the General Assembly of North Carolina passed a bill to create a new county on the northeast side of the Pasquotank River. Twice during the Colonial Period the measure had been denied by the Colonial governor, but this time led by Joseph Jones, the new government of the Revolution approved the measure and the new county was called Camden. Camden was named in honor of Sir Charles Pratt, the Earl of Camden, because he had supported the colonist in their struggle against King George III of England during the US revolution and the Cause of Independence. He also opposed the Stamp Act. During the Revolutionary War Camden furnished 416 men and officers, more than any other northeast county in the state.
Camden County is the first and only consolidated city-county in the State of North Carolina, and its county seat is the Courthouse Township of Camden. Camden County achieved this status in June of 2006, and became a Unified Government as of July 1, 2006.
Camden County is divided into three townships: South Mills Township, Courthouse Township of Camden (also known as Camden Township), and Shiloh Township.
After the Revolutionary War, the residents of Camden built a courthouse, jail and stocks in 1782 on property obtained from Thomas Sawyer at about the same spot of the present-day courthouse. There have been three courthouses and three jails located on this spot over the past 200 years. The wooden courthouse built in 1782 burned in 1846, thus a new brick one was built in 1847 and it served Camden until 1996. A new courthouse annex built in 1997 serves the county today.
The first jail was used until the 1880’s; after which, a second jail was constructed. This one burned in 1910 as a result of an attempted prison escape. The third jail was built in 1910 at a cost of $6250. Services of this jail were discontinued in the 1940’s when Camden began sending its prisoners to Pasquotank jail. Today, the tri-county (Pasquotank, Camden and Perquimans) jail houses prisoners from Camden.
The third jail, a two-story structure, has been restored to its original appearance. The first floor now houses the Board of Elections. The second floor has the original bull-pen containing 4 cells. Also on the second floor is a small museum which uses pictures and artifacts to relate the history of Camden. Outside, stocks and a pillory have been rebuilt to show punishment used in the 18th Century.
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