The Formation of North Carolina Counties, 1663-1943 by David Leroy Corbitt is available for free at Archive.org, but for convenience’s sake, over the next few days I’m going to post the sections on the formation of Beaufort County (including Bath County), Craven, and Pitt Counties here at East Carolina Roots, since the bulk of the content on this site gravitates towards those three counties.
It can be confusing when you see ancestors on tax lists in one county one year, and then a few years later they’re showing up in a census in a different county, but there’s been no buying or selling of land.
Nope. What could quite possibly have happened — at least in certain periods in North Carolina history — is your ancestor’s land may have been in an area that was on one side of a county line one year, another side of the county line the next, and maybe even back again or to a third county!
Read these descriptions below and see if it helps some pieces start falling into place with some of your ancestors who seem to appear and vanish from these neighboring counties inexplicably in the mid-to-late 1700s and into the 1800s.
BATH [See page xxiii]
Bath was formed in 1696 from the territory south of Albemarle River. It was named in honor of John Granville, Earl of Bath. The territory was made into Archdale, Pamptecough, and Wickham precincts in 1705. Bath Town was the county seat.
Whereas several Persons are seated on Pampticoe River without the Bounds of the County of Albemarle . . . , it is now by the authority of this Court erected into a County & by the special direction of the Right Honble the Governor is nominated the County of Bath.74
Beaufort was first called Pamptecough, the name being changed about 1712. It was named for Henry Somerset, Duke of Beaufort, who in 1709 became one of the Lords Properietors. It is in the eastern section of the State and is bounded by Craven, Hyde, Martin, Pamlico, Pitt, and Washington counties. The present area is 831 square miles and the population is 36,431. Bath, incorporated in 1705, was the first county seat. Washington was made the county seat in 1785. When the name was changed no description was given. The description of Pamptecough was as follows:
Lying on the north side of Pamptecough River and beginning at Molines’s Creek, and westerly to the head of the river. 75
The boundary line between Edgecombe and Beaufort and between Tyrrell and Edgecombe was authorized to be established in 1741
. . . . shall begin at the upper Corner Tree of Jenkin Henry’s Line, on the South Side of Roanoke River, and from thence, run a direct line to the Mouth of Cheek’s Mill Creek, on Tar River; and the said Commissioners, as soon as the said Line is finished, shall, under their Hands return the Courses, thereof into each of the Courts of the aforesaid Counties, which shall be recorded by the Clerks of the said several Courts; and the said Line so run, shall, for ever after, be deemed the Boundary Line between Tyrrell and Edgecomb Counties, and between Edgecomb and Beaufort Counties, from Tyrrell county as far as Tar River.
And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That the Flat Swamp which, heretofore, was the Boundary of Albemarle and Bath Counties shall, to the Head of the said Swamp, and from the Head thereof, by a direct Line between Tyrrell and Edgecomb Counties, forever, be the Boundary Line between Tyrrell and Beaufort Counties.76
The boundary line between Tyrrell and Beaufort and between Tyrrell and Edgecombe was authorized to be continued in 1748 because taxes for surveying the same had not been collected.
. . . for finishing the said Line between Part of Edgecomb, Beaufort, and Johnston Counties, already begun and Carried on, to the Mouth of Cheek’s Mill Creek, in Beaufort County, on Tar River, and from thence shall run, with a straight Line to Contentnee, at the Mouth of Tosneat Swamp, and thence up the main Stream of Contentnee, opposite the Mouth of Cypress Swamp, on Tar River; which said Line, when run by the Commissioners aforesaid, shall be by them entered on Record, in the Court of Edgecomb County aforesaid, and shall hereafter be deemed and taken to be the true Bounds of the said county. . . .
. . . And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That all and every Clause and Clauses of the act, instituted, An Act for ascertaining the boundary line between Tyrrell County, and Beaufort County, and between Edgecomb County, Tyrrell County, and Beaufort County, so far as relates to running the Boundary Line between Edgecomb County, and Beaufort County, is and are hereby repealed and made void, as if the same had never been made.77
Part of Beaufort was annexed to Craven in 1757.
. . . That that part of the said County of Beaufort, lying between Bay River and lower Broad Creek as aforesaid, be from henceforth deemed, held, and taken to be part of Craven County; . . ,78
Pitt was formed in 1760 from Beaufort. The act was to become effective January 1, 1761.
. . . That from and after the First Day of January next, the upper Part of the said County of Beaufort, beginning at the Line between the said County and Tyrrell, running South Southwest to Cherry’s Run, where the main Road crosses the said Run; thence down the said Run to Tranter’s Creek; thence down the said Creek to Pamlico River; thence down the said River to the Fork Point, on the South side of the said River; thence up the Chocowinity Bay and Creek to the Head thereof; thence South, South West to the dividing Line of the said County and Craven; thence along the dividing Lines of Craven, Dobbs, Edgecomb, and Tyrrel; so that all that Part of Beaufort County to the Westward of Cherry Run, Chocowinity Bay and Creek, shall, and is hereby declared to be a separate County and Parish, and shall be called and known by the name of Pitt County, and St. Michael’s Parish, . . ,79
Part of Pitt was annexed to Beaufort in 1785.
. . . , all that part of the county of Pitt included in the following bounds, beginning at Craven county line where it crosses Creeping Swamp, and running with Creeping Swamp and Checod Swamp to the mouth of Round Island branch, then a direct course to the mouth of Pitch Hole branch, then with the swamp to Bear creek, then down Bear creek to Tar river, then down the river on the north side to the mouth of Tranter’s creek, then up said Creek to Martin county line, then with Martin, Beaufort and Craven lines to the beginning, be and the same is hereby annexed to and shall be and remain a part of the county of Beaufort: . . ,80
An act was passed in 1801 locating the boundary line between Beaufort and Martin, because disputes had arisen concerning titles to land and because of the uncertainty of the location of the boundary line. Reference was made to the law establishing Martin, but no description of the line was given in the law.81
Part of Beaufort was annexed to Craven in 1801.
. . . , all that part of Beaufort county that lies within the following bounds, viz. Beginning at the head of Jones’ Bay, and running a direct line to Bay River Bridge, near Palmer’s cabbins; thence down the meanders of said Bay River to Jones’s Bay, thence with said bay to the beginning.82
In 1811 the boundary line between Beaufort and Washington was authorized to be established and a record made in each county. No description is given in the law.83
Part of Beaufort was annexed to Martin in 1816.
. . . Beginning where the line that now divides the said counties intersects the Bear Grass Swamp, running along the main drain of said swamp, to the main drain of Tranter’s Creek, thence up the main drain of said creek to the mouth of the Flat Swamp, the present dividing line between the counties of Martin and Pitt, . . .84
Part of Hyde was annexed to Beaufort in 1819.
. . . , That all that part of the county of Hyde, which lies upon the west side of Pungo river, be, and it is hereby added to, and made a part of the county of Beaufort.85
An act to establish the boundary line between the counties of Washington and Beaufort was passed in 1832.
. . . , to run the boundary line between said counties, leading from Long Acre to the Pungo settlement, or such portion of boundary as is yet undetermined between said counties.86
In 1851 an act was passed which stated that as the dividing line between Washington and Beaufort had not heretofore been sufficiently described, either by actual survey or by known and fixed boundaries, it becomes expedient, in order to prevent disputes between the inhabitants of said counties in relation to county affairs, that the said dividing line should be more accurately ascertained. No description was given in the act.87
In 1851 an act was passed authorizing the running and marking of the boundary line between Craven and Beaufort because of the uncertainty of the location of the said line. No description was given.88
The dividing line between Beaufort and Craven was authorized to be established in 1852.
. . . , the dividing line between said counties of Beaufort and Craven shall begin at the head of Jones’s Bay at a cedar post, and run S. 83 deg. 39 min. W. to the head of Bay River at the bridge on the road leading from Durham’s Creek to Goose Creek in Craven county, thence from said Bay River N. 47 deg. 48 min. W. to Flat Swamp Bridge on the road leading from Core Point to Gaskins’ Ferry, thence from said Flat Swamp Bridge N. 57 Deg. 29 min. W. to the run of Creeping Swamp on the Pitt county line. . . .89
Pamlico County was formed in 1872 from Beaufort and Craven.
That a county by the name of Pamlico shall be and the same is hereby laid off and established out of portions of Craven and Beaufort counties, within the following bounds, to wit: Beginning at the mouth of South Creek, in the county of Beaufort, at Hickory Point, running thence up South Creek to the mouth of Bailey Creek, and up Bailey Creek to the head thereof, thence a west course to Durham’s Creek and up Durham’s Creek to the head thereof, thence a direct line to the head waters of Deep Run and with Deep Run to Upper Broad Creek, in Craven county, and with Broad Creek to Neuse river, thence with Neuse river and Pamlico Sound to the mouth of Pamlico river, and thence up Pamlico river, so as to include Indian Island, to Hickory point, at the mouth of South Creek, the beginning.90
Part of Beaufort was annexed to Pamlico in 1874.
That on the first Thursday in March, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-four, in Goose Creek Island township, in the county of Beaufort, an election shall be under the rules and regulations for the election of members of the General Assembly, for the purpose of allowing the qualified voters of Goose Creek Island township to vote upon the annexation of said township to the county of Pamlico.
. . . , that portion of Beaufort county known as Goose Creek Island shall, from and after that day, become a portion of the county of Pamlico.91
Parts of Beaufort and Craven were annexed to Pamlico in 1875.
. . . : Beginning at the mouth of Goose creek, and runs up Pamlico river to Lee’s creek, then up said creek to the Washington road, then with said road westerly to the township line, then with the township line southerly to the Craven county line, then with the Craven and Pamlico county line to the mouth of Goose Creek, be and the same is hereby annexed to and shall form a part of Pamlico county. This shall have no effect until a majority of the qualified voters of the territory shall have declared themselves in favor of the annexation.92
Part of Beaufort was annexed to Pamlico County in 1891.
. . . : beginning at the mouth of Durham’s creek and running up the creek to its head, thence south to the dividing line between Beaufort and Pamlico counties, with said dividing line to Goose creek, thence down Goose creek to Pamlico river, thence up said river to the mouth of Durham’s creek the beginning, be and is hereby annexed to the county of Pamlico.
This act shall not go into effect until it shall have been submitted to and ratified by the qualified voters residing in the territory annexed.93
The election was to be held the first Thursday in May, 1891.
The dividing line between Beaufort and Washington was authorized to be settled and fixed in 1911.
That the board of county commissioners of the counties of Washington and Beaufort shall appoint two commissioners, one on the part of the county of Washington and one on the part of the county of Beaufort, who shall settle, determine, run and mark the dividing line between said counties, from the western to the eastern terminus thereof.94
The boundary line between Beaufort and Martin was established by special proceedings in the superior court and approved September 8, 1938.95
… We began at the head of Welch’s Creek as indicated by a marble monument in the head of Welch’s Creek, the corner of Beaufort, Martin and Washington Counties, said being marked “B-W 1913.” From this point we ran South 66° 45′ West ten thousand and one hundred and seven (10,107) feet to a monument in the center line of the Roanoke Railroad and Lumber Company’s old tram right of way, said point being indicated by a granite monument erected by us. From said monument in the old tram right of way we ran South 66° 53′ West twenty thousand and thirty-one (20,031) feet to the center line of the CCC road marked “Tract 1, Line 1” (the letters CCC standing for Civilian Conservation Corps, which is an agency of the United States building roads through the territory in question.) Said road designated as CCC road Tract 1, Line 1 is also the right of way of the old Washington-Jamesville Railroad formerly extending from Washington to Jamesville. In running this course we intersected another road designated on the map as CCC road, Tract 1, Line 5 and for convenience in locating the line we set up a granite monument indicating the point where the line intersects said CCC road, Tract 1, Line 1, said monument being erected at station one hundred and sixty-one plus fifty-one (161 plus 51). The end of this line (which is in the center of the Washington-Jamesville railroad right of way—CCC road, Tract 1, Line 1) is indicated by a granite monument station one hundred and ninety-nine plus ninety (199 plus 90); from the center line of said Washington-Jamesville railroad right of way— CCC road, Tract 1, line 1, we ran South 66° 57′ West sixteen thousand six hundred and sixty (16,660) feet to the cypress which is a corner between M. U. Hodges and O. B. Rawls, which said point is indicated by a granite monument at station one hundred and sixty-six plus fifty-five and five tenths (166 plus 55.5). Said monument is as close to the said cypress as the physical condition of the land would permit it to be placed. From said cypress corner between M. U. Hodges and O. B. Rawls we ran North 56° 11′ West seventy-six hundred and sixty-two (7662) feet to the center line of the Washington-Jamesville road. Said point is indicated by a granite monument at station seventy-six plus thirty (76 plus 30). From the center of said road we ran North 58° 49′ West eight thousand six hundred and thirty-three (8,633) feet to the center line of the thoroughfare road indicated by a granite monument at station eighty-five plus ninety (85 plus 90). From the center of said thoroughfare road we ran North 63° 02′ West seventy-three hundred and sixty (7360) feet to the center line of a public road (which has no name) indicated by a granite monument at station seventy-three plus twenty-three (73 plus 23). From the center of said road we ran North 59° 36′ West thirty-four hundred and eighty-eight (3488) feet to the center line of the road extending from Batts’ Cross Roads to Smithwick’s Creek Church, said point indicated by a granite monument at station thirty-four plus forty-three (34 plus 43). From the center line of said road we ran North 51° 49′ West thirty-one hundred and ninety-five (3195) feet to the center line of highway, U. S. 17 (N. C. 30), which point is indicated by a granite monument at station thirty-one plus sixty-four (31 plus 64). From the center of said highway we ran North fifty-four (54°) degrees 08′ West thirteen thousand and forty-two (13,042) feet to a granite monument in J. A. Britton’s yard, said monument being located forty-one (41) feet from the center line of the public road passing in front of the house of the said J. A. Britton. From said monument so located we ran North 56° 57′ West seventy-six hundred and eighty-eight (7688) feet to a pitch pine stump on the west side of Taylor’s lane, which point is indicated by a granite monument at station seventy-six plus sixty-five (76 plus 65). From the stump we ran North 53° 05′ West fifty seven Hundred and sixty-nine (5769) feet to a stump in the road in front of the residence of George Hoel, said point being indicated by a granite monument at station fifty-seven plus forty (57 plus 40). From the said stump we ran North 59° 20′ West three thousand three hundred and thirty-four (3,334) feet to the run of Bear Grass or Turkey Swamp, said point being indicated by a granite monument on Hardy’s Island at station thirty plus 00 (30 plus 00), said Hardy’s Island being an island in Turkey or Bear Grass Swamp slightly on the east side of the run. In running from the stump in front of George Hoel’s to the run of Turkey or Bear Grass Swamp, we ran through an oak tree at station fourteen plus thirty-one (14 plus 31), which is indicated by a granite monument at station fourteen plus fifteen (14 plus 15), said monument being as close to said oak tree as the physical conditions would permit. Said oak tree is generally reputed to be a line tree in the line between the counties as said line was heretofore recognized. . . .
An act to provide relief for property owners along the Beaufort-Martin line was passed in 1937.
Whereas, for a long period of time there has existed a dispute between the Counties of Martin and Beaufort as to the dividing line between said counties;
And Whereas, said dividing line between said counties has now been established by a decree in the suit of Beaufort County vs Martin County recently pending in the Superior Court of Beaufort County;
And Whereas, the location of said line under said decree may possibly cause certain lands heretofore considered to be in Martin County to become a part of Beaufort County, and likewise, may cause certain lands heretofore considered to be in Beaufort County to be located in Martin County;
And Whereas, it is the purpose of said suit to ratify and confirm all existing land titles along said line and that the title of no landowners should be effected by the location of said county line and the removal of his land from one county to the other:
Now, Therefore, in order that said matter may be legislatively determined and set at rest, The General Assembly of North Carolina do enact:
Section 1. That the title of each landowner whose land was formerly considered as being in Beaufort County and by said location has been determined to be in Martin County, is hereby ratified and affirmed as fully in all respects and purposes as if said land continued to remain in Beaufort County; and further that the title of each landowner whose land was formerly considered as being in Martin County and which by said location has been determined to be in Beaufort County, is hereby ratified and affirmed as fully in all respects and purposes as if said land continued to remain in Martin County.
Sec. 2. That the payment by any person of taxes on land to the county in which it was thought his land was located prior to the location of said line, shall in all respects be as good and effectual as if said taxes had been paid to the county in which said land is determined to be by the location of said line and there shall be no further claim for such taxes by either county on such land.96
74 C. R., I, 472. It was called Bath County in the Council Minutes. The meaning of the term “county” as applied to Albemarle indicating a government having legislative, judicial, and administrative powers was never accorded to Bath County. It is true, Bath County had county courts and also a provost marshal while there was, at the same time, a provost mar- shal for Albemarle. C. R., II, 806. There is a record which indicates that the names Pamlico and Bath were used interchangeably. In a case between Thomas Patt of Virginia and Joel Martin south of Pamlico, the record of 1703 states, “Immediately after his arrival in ye county of Bath (Alias Pamlico)—aforesaid.” General Court Papers, 1690-1760. There is a reference showing that the town of Bath was sometimes referred to as Pamlico. U. Urm- stone, a missionary, wrote on October 18, 1718, “. . . the Library at Pamptichoe, sent in for the use of the Clergymen by Dr. Bray in all appearance will be to all destroyed, . . .” C. R., II, 310, William Gordon, writing to the secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, May 13, 1709, said, “Bath county contains most of that land which lies to the south- ward of Albemarle Sound to the Pamplico River, and about thirty or forty miles more south- erly to Neuse River, which (being but lately peopled with a few French who left Virginia) is not laid down in the draft. They have divided the whole into three precincts or parishes, . . .” C. R., I, 714, 716. This section continued to be referred to as Bath County as late as 1724. C. R., II, 308, 688; V, 88; S. R., XXV, 192. Bath was not abolished, but the territory was made into three precincts.
75 C. R., I. 629.
76 S. R., XXIII, 168.
77 S. R., XXIII, 287.
78 S. R., XXIII, 480.
79 S. R., XXIII, 531.
80 S. R., XXIV, 768.
81 Laws, 1801, Ch. 69.
82 Laws, 1801, Ch. 72.
83 Laws, 1811, Ch. 77.
84 Laws, 1816, Ch. 18.
85 Public Law*. 1819. Ch. 114.
86 Private Law, 1838, Ch. 42.
87 Public Law, 1850-51, Ch. 44.
88 Public Law, 1850-51, Ch. 46.
89 Public Law, 185t, Ch. 28.
90 Public Law, 1871-79, Ch. 182.
91 Public Laws, 1873-74, Ch. 152.
92 Public Laws, 1874-75, Ch. 129.
93 Public Law, 1891, Ch. 307.
94 Public-Local Laws, 1911, Ch. 314.
95 A typescript of the record and a blueprint of the survey of the line in the suit of Beaufort County vs Martin County in superior court of Beaufort County are in the archives of the State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh. This matter was begun in the superior court, December 18, 1935, and was concluded September 8, 1938.
96 Public-Local Laws, 1937, Ch. 386.
97 S. R., XXIII, 100, 216, 766, 968; XXIV, 19, 262, 469; Manual, 1913, p. 600; Battle, p. 19.