During 1963 North Carolina is celebrating the 300th anniversary of the granting of the Carolina Charter. Through the celebration the state is expressing its consciousness of its heritage, history, and culture. Several counties are participating in the anniversary event with programs, projects, and displays.
Northampton County, too, has its share of heritage even though much of its history is unrealized and certainly unwritten.
The county, 504, square miles, was formed in 1741 from Bertie County, which was formed in 1729 from the Albemarle precinct. Thus, Northampton as a part of old Albemarle, is among the earliest sections of the state to settled. The county took its name from George, Earl of Northampton, a British nobleman, the brother of the Earl of Wilmington.
The two earliest deeds in Northampton were copied from the Bertie precinct records. Both concern land on the south side of the Meherrin River. Joseph Boon granted to Matthew Strickland a tract that was part of Thomas Boon's 1723 patent, and Matthew Strickland deeded to Joseph Strickland a tract granted to William Boon, November 11, 1723.
The first deed recorded November 21, 1741, after the formation of Northampton was by Rowland and Phillis Williams to Anthony Robinson, York County, Virginaia, for land on the Roanoke River, the land being part of a land patent of William Brown, deceased, who sold the land to Williams.
Other of the earliest land grants after the founding of the county were in 1742 to Thomas Wall and in 1744 to Richard Pace, John Smelly, and Robert Warren. Practically all of the land was patented during the 1740-1790 period. Only a small tracts were patented after 1790.
Before 1741 however deeds indicate early owners of land. From the deed books the earliest mention of a land grant or patent in Northampton is that of Richard Braswell, 1706. Other early patents were held in 1712 by Thomas Howell; in 1718 by Phillip Jones of Surry County, Virginia; in 1719 by John Green, John Colson, Rebecca Braswell, Joseph Boon, Patrick Maule and Benjamin Williams; in 1720 by John Cheserby and John Farrow; in 1722 by Henry Baker and Edward Barnes; in 1723 by William Boon, Thomas Howell, John Lee, John Nelson, Richard Jarnagan and Richard Washington (of the George Washington family); and in 1725 by William Ricks and Robert Edwards.
Other land owners before 1741 were family names of Kerbey, Baggett, Hart, Hayes, Joyner, Glover, Bridgers, Turner, Tyner, Parker, Wheeler, and many others.
In 1755, Northampton had a total of 1,736 taxables and 676 men serving in the militia.
By 1762 there were 2,280 persons named in the tax list, 1,109 being white and 1,171 black. Of these only about 235 paid taxes. John Edwards was county clerk at that time.
Names of the 1762 list familiar in Northampton today were those of Barrett, Barrow, Boon, Bridgers, Carter, Ellis, Davis, Daughtrey, Deloach, Faison, Gay, Garris, Gee, Griffin, Harris, Hayes, Johnson, Lassiter, Lewis, Mecham, Parker, Parks, Revel, Rogers, Martin, Long, Sauls, Sikes, Taylor, Vaughan, Vinson and Wheeler.
By 1786, the population had increased greatly, The records of Eaton Haynes, clerk at that time, show a white male population of 2,346, white female 2,165, and blacks 3,709. With approximately 850 heads of households listed, the number of slaves averaged about four per family.
The largest slaveholder was Allen Jones, who in 1768 advertised in the Virginia Gazette 1450 acres of good tobacco land and 200 acres of low ground on the Roanoke River. Included in the sale were dwellings and orchards of 500 peach trees and 200 apple trees. The fruit was used in those days for brandy making.
Other large slave holders were William Clements with 53 slaves; Harwood jones with 49; William Eaton who lived at Eaton's Ferry with 45; Priscilla Williams, 39; William Ruffin, 37; Mary Mason, 33; John Branch, 31; Henry Deberry, 30; Benjamin Edwards, 27; Jonas Wood, 26; James Wood, 25; and Joseph Wood, 24. Incidentally, it is believed that Woodland was named for the Wood family named in the list above.
In 1794, the court minutes show that Northampton had then 445,647 acres of land, 1,587 free poll and 4,164 black poll. Also in the county were 148 "wheels of pleasure". Forty-six town lots were listed as taxable.
The first official census of the county was taken in 1790 by order of the newly formed national or federal government. The 1790 census showed Northampton's population to be 9,981. The latest census (1960) lists the population as 26,811, a not remarkable increase for 200 years. The original list of the county 1762, 1786, and 1790 tax lists are in the Department of Archives, Raleigh.
Northampton is more fortunate than many counties in the matter of preserved records, yet it is one of the few counties in the state whose history has not been put into book form. In fact, scarcely nothing of its history or people has been told.
In 1974, the county had 339,986 acres of farm, woods, pasture land, and 296,223 acres in farm land, and 99,776 in cropland. In crops were peanuts 28,916 acres, cotton 26,446, soybeans 14,083, and smaller acreage in alfalfa, Irish potatoes, and watermelons. Northampton leads all counties in the nation in peanut production. Turpentine and tar were vital commodities in the early days, followed by cotton. Timber sales have saved the county farmers during depressions.
Carl Goerch said, "Northampton is made up of agriculturist liberals."