Brief County History

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The Edgecombe County Memorial Library serves patrons in a county rich in history. One of the oldest counties in North Carolina, Edgecombe was settled by Europeans early in the 18th century, after the defeat of the Tuscarora Indians who inhabited the area. The colonial assembly created Edgecombe County in 1741.

Edgecombe, according to historian Alan D. Watson, "reached the peak of its influence and fame in the antebellum period when the county provided a strong voice in state politics and achieved a reputation as one of the most progressive farming areas in the state, if not the South."1  The Civil War dramatically curtailed the county's influence, and like many counties in eastern North Carolina, Edgecombe today struggles to overcome the effects of that conflict.

Tarboro was incorporated in 1760, and legislators in 1764 designated Tarboro as the county seat.

Tarboro's Town Common, which originally surrounded the town, is the second oldest legislated common in the United States.  Now near the center of town, it remains the location of patriotic and cultural celebrations.2

The Tar River has always been a defining point of Edgecombe County and particularly of the town of Tarboro.  As historian Monika Fleming writes, "The Tar River flowing thorough the county has forever changed its landscape and people.  It has nourished the land, provided a trade route, and offered entertainment...the river also reminds citizens of the devastating power of nature.  Floods have been recorded since the 1780s...In 1999, Edgecombe County and much of eastern North Carolina experienced the "Flood of the Century" following Hurricane Floyd...Still, as throughout history, the flood waters receded and the people recovered."3


1.  Edgecombe County: A Brief History by Alan D. Watson

2.  Edgecombe County: Along the Tar River by Monika Fleming

3.  Ibid