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The Early History of the Twin Counties

The Twin Counties have a fascinating and rich history worth exploring. Local historian Dr. William Denton recently joined our podcast, TC Spotlight to discuss the early history of the Twin Counties. Today, we provide a glimpse into our area’s history, but you can learn more by checking out the podcast.


Prior to the start of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1781), Edgecombe County contained the land that now belongs to several surrounding counties, including Nash County. The Twin Counties can trace its origin to the establishment of Nash County, dividing the area in two, in 1777 when North Carolina decided to honor the Revolutionary War hero, Francis Nash.


Nash had served the state for years, and he fought alongside General George Washington at the Battle of Germantown, Pennsylvania. The establishment of the new county allowed local farmers to visit a county seat much closer to home rather than taking their wagons to Tarboro, the county seat of Edgecombe County even at that time.


Three years following the establishment of the new county, Nashville was founded as the county seat, becoming the first and original Nashville. Prior to that British settlers began trading with the Tuscarora tribe along the area now occupied by Battle Park and the Rocky Mount Mills.


The area along the Tar River at Battle Park features a rich history from tales of Blackbeard to the origins of Rocky Mount.

The early traders called the place “Rocky Mound” after seeing the rocky mounds in the area, and it eventually took on the city’s current name. The Native American tribes helped the British in trading and developing their settlements.


As the Revolutionary War developed, patriots from the area were immensely helpful in the colonists’ victory over the British at Yorktown. Colonists fought the British troops led by British General Cornwallis, slowing him down and preventing preparation for their troops, allowing Washington to claim victory.


After the war, North Carolina earned the nickname “The Rip Van Winkle State” as it fell behind the other states in development. Industry in the state was slow until the time of the Civil War (1861-1865). Cotton and tobacco helped generate wealth for the state, allowing NC to make progress.


During this era, Rocky Mount developed due to its central location between Tarboro and Nashville. People traveled from many surrounding areas in order to trade, causing the area to develop.


If you want to learn more interesting facts like Blackbeard’s connection to the area and Jack Kerouac’s time here, check out the podcast or Dr. Denton’s book: A History of Eastern North Carolina: Indigenous People, Colonization, and the Birth of a State.


Check out more from Dr. Denton by listening to his podcast Did That Really Happen? and visiting his website.

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