Edenton, North Carolina
Downtown Edenton Waterfront
Downtown Edenton Waterfront
Flag of Edenton, North Carolina
Official seal of Edenton, North Carolina
Location of Edenton, North Carolina
Location of Edenton, North Carolina
Coordinates: 36°3′43″N 76°36′21″W / 36.06194°N 76.60583°W / 36.06194; -76.60583Coordinates: 36°3′43″N 76°36′21″W / 36.06194°N 76.60583°W / 36.06194; -76.60583
CountryUnited States
StateNorth Carolina
Named forCharles Eden
 • Total5.57 sq mi (14.43 km2)
 • Land5.38 sq mi (13.92 km2)
 • Water0.20 sq mi (0.51 km2)
13 ft (4 m)
 • Total4,460
 • Density829.77/sq mi (320.40/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code252
FIPS code37-20120[2]
GNIS feature ID1025302[3]

Edenton is a town in, and the county seat of, Chowan County, North Carolina, United States,[4] on Albemarle Sound. The population was 4,397 at the 2020 census.[5] Edenton is located in North Carolina's Inner Banks region. In recent years Edenton has become a popular retirement location and a destination for heritage tourism.

Edenton served as the second official capital of North Carolina, during the colonial era as the Province of North Carolina, though other than housing the governor's official residence, it did not otherwise house any other governmental functions. It served as capital from 1722 to 1743, when it was moved to Brunswick. The town was the site of the Edenton Tea Party, a protest organized by several Edenton women in 1774 in solidarity with the organizers of the Boston Tea Party. It was the birthplace of Harriet Jacobs, an enslaved African American whose 1861 autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, is now considered an American classic. Edenton gained notoriety for a famous wrongful conviction during the Satanic panic era of the late twentieth century. Today, Edenton's local economy is primarily driven by tourism, and as a popular retirement location.


Beverley Hall, Edenton, 1937
Beverley Hall, Edenton, 1937

Edenton Colony

In 1658 adventurers from the Jamestown area drifted through the wilderness from Virginia and found a location on the bank 36°02′38″N 76°36′47″W / 36.044°N 76.613°W / 36.044; -76.613 of a natural harbor, the site of present-day Edenton. Edenton Colony was the first permanent European settlement in what is now the state of North Carolina.

Edenton was established in 1712 as "the Towne on Queen Anne's Creek". It was later known as "Ye Towne on Mattercommack Creek" and still later as "the Port of Roanoke". It was renamed "Edenton" and incorporated in 1722 in honor of Governor Charles Eden, who had died that year.[6]

Historic Edenton

Edenton served as the second capital of the Province of North Carolina, from 1722 to 1743, with the governor establishing his residence there and the population increasing during that period.

William Byrd II, who visited the town in March 1729, provides a description of Edenton in his The History of the Dividing Line:

This town is Situated on the north side of Albermarle Sound which is there about 5 miles over. A Dirty Slash runs all along the Back of it, which in the Summer is a foul annoyance, and furnishes abundance of that Carolina plague, musquetas. There may be 40 or 50 Houses, most of them Small, built without Expense. A Citizen here is counted Extravagant, if he has Ambition enough to aspire to a Brick-chimney. Justice herself is but indifferently Lodged, the Court-House having much the Air of a Common Tobacco-House. I believe this is the only metropolis in the Christian or Mohametan world where there is neither Church, Chapel, Mosque, Synagogue, nor any other Place of Publick Worship of any Sect or Religion whatsoever. What little Devotion there may be is much more private than their vices.[7]

A landmark in women's history occurred in Edenton in 1774. Fifty-one women in Edenton, led by Penelope Barker, signed a protest petition agreeing to boycott English tea and other products, in what became known, decades later, as the Edenton Tea Party. The Edenton Tea Party is the first known political action by women in the British American colonies.[8] In fact it so shocked London that newspapers published etchings depicting the women as uncontrollable. Her home, the Barker House, is open seven days a week, without a fee, and is considered by many as Edenton's living room.

Joseph Hewes, a resident of Edenton and successful owner of a merchant marine fleet, was appointed the first Secretary of the Navy in 1776. John Adams said that Hewes "laid the foundation, the cornerstone of the American Navy." Hewes also signed the United States Declaration of Independence.

James Iredell, also of Edenton, was at 38 the youngest member of the first United States Supreme Court. He was appointed by George Washington. His son James Iredell Jr., served as the Democratic-Republican governor of North Carolina and then became a United States senator. His home may be toured through the Historic Edenton Visitors Center.

Easy sea access halted with a 1795 hurricane which silted Roanoke Inlet. Completion of the 1805 Dismal Swamp Canal took business elsewhere by diverting shipping to Norfolk, Virginia. Locals rejected construction of a railroad, a lack that impeded the local economy.[9]

Supreme Court Justice James Wilson, a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, died in Edenton on August 21, 1798, at age 55, while riding his judicial circuit.[10][11]

Plan of the Town and Port of Edenton in Chowan County, North Carolina, 1769
Plan of the Town and Port of Edenton in Chowan County, North Carolina, 1769

Harriet Jacobs and her brother John were born into slavery in Edenton in 1813 and 1815, respectively. They, and later Harriet's children, were baptized at St.Paul's. Their early childhood was centered around Horniblow's tavern, the town's only colonial hotel,[12] on the northern side of East King Street, just west of Chowan County Courthouse. Twelve-year old John Jacobs was sold at public auction in 1828, probably at Market House (junction Water Street / Broad Street).[13] Both siblings became enslaved to an abusive master, the local physician, Dr. James Norcom, living with him at his house on West Eden Street. In 1835, Harriet Jacobs went into hiding in the house of her grandmother, a freedwoman, on the northern side of West King Street, a few steps from Broad Street.[14] She famously had to stay there concealed in a crawl space for seven years before she was finally able to escape to New York, where she wrote Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, now considered an "American classic".[15]

In 1862, during the Civil War, the Albemarle Artillery was recruited at Edenton by a local attorney named William Badham Jr. Its guns were cast from bronze bells taken from courthouse and churches in the Edenton area. Known as the Edenton Bell Battery, its four howitzers were named the Columbia, St. Paul, Fannie Roulac, and Edenton. Two of the guns, the St. Paul and Edenton, have been returned to Edenton and can now be seen at Edenton's waterfront park.[16]

Edenton enjoyed an economic revival beginning in 1890 led by lumbering, an 1898 cotton mill, and a 1909 peanut-processing plant.[9]

Edenton is the home of the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse. The lighthouse is called a screw-pile design because of its original support system. Each piling was literally screwed into the river or sound bottom so they would not pull out in heavy storms and hurricanes. The Roanoke River Lighthouse, now located at Edenton, is believed to be the last extant example in the United States of a rectangular frame building built for a screw-pile base. The lighthouse was in commission from 1887 until 1941.

Edenton is home to numerous early houses and public buildings, including the Cupola House. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970, a designation also accorded the 1776 Chowan County Courthouse. The courthouse is still used for official court events. The city is home to the oldest house still in existence in North Carolina, constructed in 1719 before the establishment of the city.[17]

Edenton achieved international notoriety for the Little Rascals Day Care sexual abuse case, the subject of journalist Ofra Bikel's award-winning trilogy of documentaries: Innocence Lost (1991), Innocence Lost: The Verdict (1993), and Innocence Lost: The Plea (1997).


Edenton is located in southern Chowan County at 36°3′43″N 76°36′21″W / 36.06194°N 76.60583°W / 36.06194; -76.60583 (36.061855, −76.605766).[18] It sits at the north end of Edenton Bay, just north of the confluence of the Chowan and Roanoke rivers, which forms Albemarle Sound.

U.S. Route 17, a four-lane expressway, runs along the northern border of the town, with access from five exits. US 17 leads northeast 27 miles (43 km) to Elizabeth City and southwest 37 miles (60 km) to Williamston. Nags Head on the Outer Banks is 72 miles (116 km) to the east by road, and Raleigh, the state capital, is 136 miles (219 km) to the west.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Edenton has a total area of 5.6 square miles (14.4 km2), of which 5.4 square miles (13.9 km2) is land and 0.19 square miles (0.5 km2), or 3.55%, is water.[19]


Climate data for Edenton, North Carolina (1991–2020 normals, extremes 1896–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 80
Average high °F (°C) 52.4
Daily mean °F (°C) 43.4
Average low °F (°C) 34.4
Record low °F (°C) −4
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.50
Average snowfall inches (cm) 0.9
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 8.8 8.2 8.7 8.1 8.8 8.2 10.1 9.3 8.0 6.3 7.0 7.8 99.3
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 0.4 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 1.0
Source: NOAA[20][21]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2021 (est.)4,391−0.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[22][23]

2020 census

Edenton racial composition[24]
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 1,771 39.71%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 2,335 52.35%
Native American 15 0.34%
Asian 23 0.52%
Pacific Islander 1 0.02%
Other/Mixed 126 2.83%
Hispanic or Latino 189 4.24%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 4,460 people, 2,084 households, and 1,177 families residing in the town.

2000 census

As of the census[2] of 2000, there were 5,394 people, 1,983 households, and 1,294 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,076.3 people per square mile (415.7/km2). There were 2,204 housing units at an average density of 439.8 per square mile (169.9/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 42.86% White, 55.23% African American, 0.20% Native American, 0.63% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.44% from other races, and 0.61% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.45% of the population.

There were 1,983 households, out of which 30.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.0% were married couples living together, 24.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.7% were non-families. 31.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 16.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.95.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 23.7% under the age of 18, 14.3% from 18 to 24, 21.3% from 25 to 44, 20.2% from 45 to 64, and 20.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 78.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 71.4 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $25,241, and the median income for a family was $34,132. Males had a median income of $27,192 versus $18,281 for females. The per capita income for the town was $13,264. About 20.3% of families and 25.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.1% of those under age 18 and 20.1% of those age 65 or over.


Old Customs House, Edenton
Old Customs House, Edenton

Located in northeastern North Carolina, Edenton is a small unique town known for its authentic 18th-, 19th- and early 20th-century architecture and the stories about the people behind these public buildings and homes. The Lane House dates from 1719 and may be the oldest house in the state of North Carolina. Edenton played a key role in the development of the colonies, the state and the nation. The Cupola House, a registered National Historic Landmark, was built by Francis Corbin in 1758 on the waterfront at Edenton where it stands today. The 1767 Chowan County Courthouse, another National Historic Landmark, has been used since its construction. The Barker House, home of Penelope Barker, the organizer of the first political action by women in the colonies, is operated as a house museum and to interpret colonial history. The home of James Iredell Sr. is in Edenton and operated as a North Carolina Historic Site.


St. Paul's Church
St. Paul's Church

Edenton has many religious institutions. Some of the churches in the community include:

St Annes Catholic Church c. 1821 First Presbyterian Church of Edenton c. 1946


For two years, 1951 and 1952, Edenton's Historic Hicks Field was home to a professional minor league baseball team. The Edenton Colonials played in the Class D Virginia League in 1951 and the Class D Coastal Plain League in 1952.[25] Since 1998 Hicks Field has served as the home park for the Edenton Steamers of the collegiate summer Coastal Plain League.[26]

Notable people



  1. ^ "ArcGIS REST Services Directory". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 20, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  5. ^ "City and Town Population Totals: 2020-2021". Census.gov. US Census Bureau. Retrieved July 9, 2022.
  6. ^ "Edenton & Chowan County". Retrieved January 8, 2010.
  7. ^ Byrd II, William (1728). The History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina. p. 58.
  8. ^ Colihan, Jane. "At Home in Edenton" American Heritage, March 2004.
  9. ^ a b "Historic Edenton: First Capital of Colonial North Carolina", North Carolina Historic Sites (brochure), Office of Archives and History Department of Cultural Resources, c. 2012
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  11. ^ Bishir, Catherine (2005). North Carolina Architecture. UNC Press. p. 51. ISBN 9780807856246.
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  13. ^ H.Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Ed. J.F.Yellin, Cambridge 2000, note 2 to p. 15 on p. 285.
  14. ^ Jean Fagan Yellin: Harriet Jacobs. A Life. New York 2004, Map of Edenton between p. 266 and 267.
  15. ^ Jean Fagan Yellin: Harriet Jacobs: A Life. New York 2004, p. 126.
  16. ^ "Edenton Bell Battery". Edenton Historical Commission. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
  17. ^ "Preservationists identify NC's oldest house". News & Observer. January 17, 2013. Archived from the original on January 20, 2013. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
  18. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  19. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Edenton town, North Carolina". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  20. ^ "NowData – NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  21. ^ "Station: Edenton, NC". U.S. Climate Normals 2020: U.S. Monthly Climate Normals (1991-2020). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  22. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
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  26. ^ "Hicks Field, home of the Edenton Steamers".
  27. ^ Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607-1896. Marquis Who's Who. 1967.
  28. ^ "Penelope Barker". National Women's History Museum. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  29. ^ "NFL: Robert Brown". NFL.com. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  30. ^ Hendricks, Martin (February 9, 2012). "Robert Brown's stay was a long one". Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  31. ^ Cunningham, David (2013). Klansville, U.S.A.: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku Klux Klan. Oxford University Press. p. 115. ISBN 978-0199752027.
  32. ^ "Big Daddy Wilson | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved March 3, 2021.

Further reading