~ Timeline in Decades from 1771 – 1900 ~

Please feel free to suggest additional material, including items which will help others to understand certain time periods or events that occurred in Guilford’s history.

Remember that the Guilford area belonged to Old Rowan and Old Orange counties prior to 1771 (the western 2/3 was once part of Old Rowan, and the eastern 1/3 was part of Old Orange). Germans started to settle in the eastern part of present-day Guilford in 1744. The Quakers started to move in about 1750, and the Scots-Irish started to arrive in 1753. Congregations at New Garden Meeting, Centre Meeting, Buffalo Presbyterian, and Alamance Presbyterian all were established before the beginning of Guilford County.

Remember, also, that the Battle of Alamance occurred in March 1771, just before the birth of Guilford, and on land that was just a few miles away from the new Guilford border. At that time, that whole area was part of Orange County, and many of those involved in the War of the Regulators became Guilford residents with the creation of the county. So the history of the area’s European settlers was into its third decade before the county was even formed.

Decades from 1771 – 1900



1771 ~ 1 April: Original Guilford County began administrative operations over the area that would eventually become Guilford, Randolph, and Rockingham counties.

1774 ~ 21 Feb: a sharp earthquake shock was felt

1777 ~ Caswell County was created out of Old Orange County, and bordered Guilford until Rockingham County was created in 1785.

1779 ~ Randolph County was created from the southern third of “Original Guilford County.”


1781 ~ 15 March: the Battle of Guilford Courthouse was fought between the Continental Army and its allied militia forces, with General Nathanael Greene in command, and the British army of General Cornwallis. While it was technically a victory for Lord Cornwallis, the British lost many more of their forces than the Americans did, prompting one member of the House of Lords in London to state that another such victory would ruin the British army.  But the British troops did burn the first 10 years of Guilford’s court records.

1785 ~ Guilford’s county seat was changed from Guilford Courthouse to Martinville, near the center of the county.

1785 ~ Rockingham County was created from the northern half of what was left of “Original Guilford County.”

1787 ~ Future president Andrew Jackson was admitted to practice law before the bar in Guilford County.

1789 ~ Stokes County was created out of neighboring Surry County.

Cold weather years in Guilford’s early history were: 1790, 1812, 1816, 1817, 1818, 1835, 1836, and 1837 … the coldest years being 1812, 1816, 1817, and 1836.



1807 ~ A legislative act was passed to create the town of Greensboro, named in honor of General Nathanael Greene.

1808 ~ 42 acres of land were purchased for the site of Greensboro.

1809 ~ The county seat was moved from Martinville to Greensboro.

1810 ~ A legislative charter was written for the Town of Greensborough.


Cold weather years in Guilford’s early history were: 1790, 1812, 1816, 1817, 1818, 1835, 1836, and 1837 … the coldest years being 1812, 1816, 1817, and 1836.

1811-1812 ~ 16 Dec 1811 to 7 Feb 1812, a series of earthquakes in New Madrid, Missouri, were felt in North Carolina.

1816 ~ Greensborough Male Academy was chartered.

1820 ~ Greensborough Female Academy was opened.


1824 ~ Through a legislative act, Greensboro became a self-governing town with five commissioners in charge, one of whom was to be the town constable.

1824 ~ First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro was organized.

1826 ~ The Patriot newspaper, later to become The Greensborough Patriot, started publication in this year, if not before then. Its first publisher, T. Early Strange, had purchased an earlier paper, Carolina Patriot, whose beginning date may have been about 1821. This paper went through many name changes over the years, always returning to The Greensborough Patriot.

1828 ~ Construction was started on the first steam cotton mill in North Carolina; it opened in 1833.

1830 ~ Greensboro Police Department was established.

1830 ~ West Market Street Methodist Church was organized; their church was erected in 1831, and it was the first church building in the city limits of Greensboro.


1833 ~ Greensboro College was started; it was organized in 1837, chartered in 1838, and opened in 1846.

1833 ~ Greensboro Fire Department was established.

Cold weather years in Guilford’s early history were: 1790, 1812, 1816, 1817, 1818, 1835, 1836, & 1837 … the coldest years being 1812, 1816, 1817, and 1836.

1837 ~ The municipality of Greensboro was granted a new charter and enlarged to one square mile.

1837 ~ New Garden Boarding School opened; in 1888, it became Guilford College.

1840 ~ Edgeworth Female Seminary was opened.


1841 ~ John Motley Morehead, a Guilford native, became governor of North Carolina.

1841 ~ Guilford held its first public school.

1843 ~ Manufacture began of cigars, snuff, and plug tobacco.

1849 ~ Alamance County was created out of Orange County, in an area which bordered Guilford on the southeastern side.


1851 ~ The Bank of Cape Fear opened a branch in Greensboro.

1852 ~ 19 April ~ Guilford County had an earthquake, on a Thursday at about 1 p.m. (“Greensboro Patriot,” dated 1 May 1852, Guilford Genealogist, Winter 2004, p. 26)

1855 ~ Greensboro’s town constable was replaced by the intendant of police.

1856 ~ The first train rolled into Greensboro on the North Carolina Railroad.

1857 ~ Greensboro’s biggest snow of record fell on January 27th.

1859 ~ Greensboro Baptist Church was organized.

1859 ~ Greensboro’s intendant of police was replaced by the mayor of the town.


1862 ~ Guilford native William Sydney Porter, known to the world of literature as “O. Henry,” was born.

1862 ~ Piedmont Railroad, which connected Greensboro with Danville, Virginia, was authorized; it was completed in 1864.

1868 ~ The Eclectic Club was organized, which was the beginning of civic clubs in Greensboro.

1869 ~ St. Barnabas Episcopal Church was organized.

1870 ~ The Town of Greensboro became the City of Greensboro.


1872 ~ Courthouse fire resulted in slight loss of records.

1873 ~ Bennett College was begun.

1875 ~ Graded schools for both races were opened in the city.

1877 ~ Greensboro Chamber of Commerce originated; it was incorporated in 1888.

1877 ~ St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church was erected.

1880 ~ The telephone came to Greensboro.


1885 ~ Alfred Moore Scales, a Guilford native, became governor of North Carolina.

1886 ~ 31 August: Charleston SC earthquake tremors felt through North Carolina.

1887 ~ Guilford Battle Ground Company was chartered.

1887 ~ Greensboro’s water system was installed, gas for general use was provided about that time, and electricity first was used for the business and nearby residential sections of the city.

1888 ~ Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad, which ran through Greensboro, was completed from Wilmington, NC, to Mt. Airy in Surry County.

1888 ~ New Garden Boarding School became Guilford College.

1890 ~ Northwestern Railroad Company opened a track from Greensboro to North Wilkesboro.

1890 ~ The Greensboro Record newspaper was first published as The Daily Record.


1891 ~ Greensboro’s first hospital was opened.

1891 ~ Charters were granted for Woman’s College, and A. & T. College.

1891 ~ Greensboro was enlarged to four square miles.

1894 ~ A public telephone exchange system was installed.

1900 ~ The contract was let for City Hall and the Grand Opera House.

I found much of the above information in Ethel Stephens Arnett’s history of Greensboro: Greensboro: The County Seat of Guilford. I will be adding more data to this page as I find it.