The earliest inhabitants of present day Wake County were the Tuscarora Indians. When early colonists encroached on their land and took unfair advantage of the Indians, hostilities broke out that led to the violent Tuscarora War in 1711. The Indians were eventually defeated and forced from the area.
Some of the earliest settlers in the Wake County area were Joel Lane, Theophilus Hunter, John Hinton, Samuel Scarborough, John Monk, Edward Green, James Simmons, and William Thompson. The Joel Lane House, named Wakefield, was built in the 1760’s and is Raleigh’s oldest dwelling.
Wake County was founded in 1771 and named in honor of Margaret Wake, wife of William Tryon, the Royal Governor of the British colony of North Carolina. The new county, located in the east central section of the state, was formed from parts of Cumberland, Johnston, and Orange counties. The first courthouse was built at a place called Wake Courthouse, commonly known as Bloomsbury. During 1771, the first election was held, the first court was held, and the first militia was formed.
Wake County lost some its land area during the subsequent formation of other new counties. Portions were taken by Franklin County in 1787 and by Durham County in 1881 and 1911. Today, Wake County contains 832 square miles, includes 12 municipalities, and has a population of approximately 656,000 (Census).
The colonial capital of North Carolina was at New Bern. For several years, during and after the Revolutionary War, there was no capital, and the General Assembly met in various locations. In 1792, a commission was appointed to select a site for a permanent state capital. The members of the commission were leaning toward land owned by Colonel John Hinton across the Neuse River, but on the night before the final vote, the committee adjourned to the home of Joel Lane for an evening of food and spirits. The next day, the vote was in Lane’s favor.
The City of Raleigh, named for Sir Walter Raleigh, was established on 1000 acres purchased from Lane. Though he never set foot in the New World, two centuries earlier Sir Walter Raleigh had sponsored the establishment of the first English Colony on the North Carolina shore at Roanoke Island. The City of Raleigh became both the state capital as well as the new county seat of Wake County. Raleigh is the only planned state capital in the United States.