History of Wilmington, NC

The “Coast Guard City” of Wilmington is one of the most popular American communities on the East Coast thanks to its many attractions, great features, and strategic location between the Atlantic Coast and Cape Fear River. This historic port city serves as the administrative center of New Hanover County and has a fast-growing population of around 120,000 residents. The city is recognized as a great residential community and one of the top tourist destinations in the region. Learn more about the History of Wilmington, NC.

Today’s Wilmington area is said to have been inhabited by several successive bands of Native tribes prior to the colonial period. The last known group of Natives to occupy the area just before the arrival of the Europeans belonged to the then widespread Algonquian family.

History has it that Giovanni da Verrazzano was the first European to explore the area in the early part of the 16th century under orders from the French crown. However, the first settlers to make camp in and around the current site of the city were from the English kingdom. They started arriving in the early 1720s and went on to establish a fully functional community near the Cape Fear River. This new settlement went by the name “New Carthage” at first but was later changed to “New Liverpool” and again to “Newton/New Town.”

By 1740, Newton had developed significantly and was promoted to a town under the orders of Governor Gabriel Johnston. This new town was renamed Wilmington as an honorary gesture to Spencer Compton, one of most prominent and longest-serving Earls of Wilmington. With the increased need for labor in this fast-developing industrial town, the colonists started bringing in African slaves in the mid-18th century. Lumber and Naval stores remained the backbone of the Wilmington’s economy even long after the colonialist had left the country.

During the fight for independence, the British forces used the city as one of their strongholds. They maintained their presence within the Town through Fort Johnston. The town was also a major player during the Civil War. It started out as a stronghold for the Confederate fighters but was later captured by Union forces.

Despite going through some major challenges and setback, the Wilmington area developed as one of the largest city in North Carolina until it was overtaken by Charlotte in the early 1900s. Today, it is a major economic hub with a thriving downtown business district. The city has also established itself as one of the most livable communities on the east coast.

For more information on the History of Wilmington NC contact The Bellamy Mansion.



Wilmington North Carolina

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