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101 W. Water Street Edenton NC 27932

The History of Edenton and Chowan County

Chowan County Courthouse

Living in Edenton is like living in a time capsule. History lives in every nook and cranny. It seeps from the buildings and streets. It’s entwined throughout the daily lives of those who now call Edenton “home.”

Edenton’s history is one of its main attractions.  You can’t live in or visit Edenton without noticing its history. And those who live here are proud of the historic heritage that has been lovingly preserved in “the South’s prettiest small town.” 

Chowan County, where Edenton is located, was originally settled in 1668 by English settlers and called Shaftesbury Precinct of Albemarle County. It was renamed Chowan Precinct in 1681 because it was located on the Chowan River and named for the original inhabitants of the area, the Chowanoac Indians.  In 1722, Edenton became incorporated as the county seat. 

Travel back over 300 years ago and you’d find that Edenton was a bustling fishing village on the shores of the Chowan River. From its inception, Edenton has been known for its entrepreneurial spirit, a center for commerce and adventure.

Colonists quickly realized that Edenton’s prime location on the Albemarle Sound made it a preferred spot for trading ships, so this small fishing village quickly grew into an important colonial port.

Over the next 100 years, Edenton continued to grow in size and importance, attracting all kinds of businesses and thriving economically. 

One of the most important historical figures to shape Edenton was Charles Eden. He was appointed by King George I to serve as the governor of the Colony of North Carolina, so he arrived in 1713 at the capital of the colony, which was named after Queen Anne and called “The Town of Queen Anne’s Creek.” 

Governor Eden was an interesting man who saw all kinds of potential in the town. He is best remembered for his notorious connections with local pirates, including the infamous Blackbeard, and for the town which eventually bore his name, “Eden’s Town” or Edenton. 

In fact, if you visit Edenton today, you can enjoy a cruise on The Liber-Tea where Captain Mark will regale you with tales of Edenton’s maritime history and rather famous connection to the infamous pirate Blackbeard. Then, you can visit Charles Eden’s final resting place at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church downtown. 

Women also played a role in creating a legacy that shaped Edenton’s past. One such woman was Penelope Barker, a local businesswoman and social leader in Edenton. Ten months after the famous Boston Tea Party, Penelope led 51 women to partake in one of the first political actions by women in Colonial America. Together, these women signed the Edenton Resolves, a document to boycott British goods, especially tea, in protest of unfair taxation on the colonies. 

The Edenton Resolves traveled all the way to London where it was published in several newspapers. Penelope and her group of 51 revolutionary women became famous for the Edenton Tea Party and were praised as patriots by the colonial press. 

This year, Edenton is proudly celebrating the 250th Anniversary of the Edenton Tea Party with special guest speakers, local events, and Tea Party Trolley Tours. All year long, you can visit and partake in these events to remember the courage and adventurous spirit of these colonial women whose actions helped spur the American Revolution. 

There are many ways to explore and learn about the history of Edenton and Chowan County. From the Penelope Barker House Welcome Center to our Museum Trail of historic sites and historical tours with the North Carolina State Historic Site, Edenton’s history is well-preserved and documented.

Part of our job at the Edenton Chowan Partnership is fostering new businesses and advancing Chowan County’s quality of life, and in order to build a better future, we also support the organizations and initiatives that preserve and remember our town’s history. 

We invite you to visit Edenton and learn more about the entrepreneurial spirit of others, including Charles Eden and Penelope Barker, who helped to shape and create the wonderful community and town of Edenton.  

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