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Pasquotank County was formed as early as 1668 as a precinct of Albemarle County, which was established in 1663. Pasquotank’s name is derived from an Algonquian Indian word “pasketanki” which meant “where the current of the stream divides or forks.” The present land area is 226.84 square miles and the 2000 population was 34,897.
The county’s first settlement and commercial center was Nixontown, established in 1758, along the Little River. Elizabeth Town (as it was known then-now Elizabeth City), located at “The Narrows” of the Pasquotank River, was named the county seat in 1799.
Elizabeth City itself was founded in 1793, the same year that construction began on the Dismal Swamp Canal, a commercial water passageway leading from the Elizabeth River in Norfolk, Virginia to Elizabeth City. The Dismal Swamp canal now forms part of the Intercoastal Waterway, which runs along the east coast of the United States.
Of a total of 185,078 acres in Pasquotank County, the largest portion, 87,862 acres, is in crop and pasture land. The largest portion of the county is taken up by water, some 41,000 acres. Beyond that, another 20,980 acres is in wetlands.
For more information about the history of the area, visit the Museum of the Albemarle.
- In 1677, in an open rebellion against local unauthorized government, John Culpeper and George Durant led the colonists in Culpeper’s Rebellion in Pasquotank County.
- North Carolina’s first school started in Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County in 1705.
- The Tuscarora War (1711-15) was a decisive battle with the Indians which, without doubt, gave Albemarle and most of North Carolina to the white man.
- The first Baptist congregation in North Carolina was organized by Paul Palmer in nearby Shiloh in 1727.
- In 1885, The John L. Roper Company had a sawmill on the western side of the Great Dismal Swamp on land once owned by Horace Greeley, editor of the N.Y. Tribune.
- It was printed in 1900 that juniper water bathing in the upper Pasquotank River near the old brick house baptizing grounds was a hygienic specific for malarial maladies.
- Billiards legend and hall of famer Luther “Wimpy” Lassiter was born and raised in Elizabeth City.
- Roots author Alex Haley lived here with his parents, Elizabeth City State University instructors, and attended ECSU during his freshman and sophomore college years.
- Elizabeth City was a stopover for Wilbur and Orville Wright while they made plans for the first powered flight at nearby Kill Devil Hills.
- The infamous unsolved murder of local resident Nell Cropsey in 1901 still remains a mystery. Some say she can still be seen looking from the parlor of her Victorian home on dark, foggy nights.
- Poet Robert Frost vanished into the Dismal Swamp, according to local legend, contemplating suicide. After imbibing at a local roadhouse, Frost changed his mind and was inspired to write his signature poem “The Road Less Traveled.”
- The famous Moth Boat was created here by Captain Joel Van Sant in 1929.
Historic Walking Tour : National Historical Districts:
View Map | View Press Release
Embark on a self-guided tour of six historic districts that tell the story of our local history. Copies can be picked up at the Elizabeth City Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Main Street Commercial
District : View Brochure
The Main Street Commercial District is a pleasant area to walk or shop. During much of the 19th century, this was a bustling center that was made up of two distinct districts. One was the center of shipping, wholesaling, and manufacturing located near the harbor at Main and Water Streets, while the other was in the area of Main and Road Streets where retail and banking activities thrived. Shop in quaint little boutiques and experience the wonderfully unique character of the city’s restaurants.
Main Street Residential
For lovers of beautiful historic residential architecture, the Main Street Residential District is a fine example. Prior to the Civil War the area was primarily farmland, but early in the 1890s it was developed by some of the city’s leading businessmen who wanted to create an image that reflected fine living. Today one can see late 19th-century homes that were built in the elaborate Queen Anne and Eastlake styles alongside Craftsman and Colonial Revival designs that were constructed in the early 20th century.
Just north of the Main Street districts on the old road to Norfolk is the Northside Historic District. Most of the structures here were built after 1881. The beginning of strong industrial and social progress began when the railroad came to Elizabeth City. The first passenger and freight depot opened and was located on the edge of the Pasquotank River where Mid-Atlantic Christian University now stands. The Northside area grew as a result, and many of these structures can still be observed today.
Street—South Road Street Historic District
From an historic perspective, the Shepard Street — South Road Street Historic District — is of great importance, not only locally, but nationally as well. Locally it was a thriving African-American community with churches, schools, businesses, and strong leaders. One of the most prominent of these leaders was Hugh Cale. Cale was a member of the North Carolina General Assembly as well as a successful teacher and businessman. One of his greatest achievements came in 1891, when he introduced a bill that created the State Colored Normal School at Elizabeth City – a school that was destined to become an integral part of the University of North Carolina system – Elizabeth City State University. Today one can see the homes and buildings that made up this community.
The Riverside Historic District is Elizabeth City’s most distinctive early 20th-century residential neighborhood. In 1914, the construction of the region’s first modern hospital at the end of Riverside Avenue brought physicians into the area. Enchanted by the beauty of the waterfront, many chose to build their residences here. One can view the Preyer-Cropsey House where Nell Cropsey lived. This exciting story of Nell’s unsolved murder, with all the elements of a good mystery, can be experienced first hand in the Riverside Historic District.
Elizabeth City State
This important district is the current site of the area’s premier institution of higher learning, Elizabeth City State University. The school was founded in 1891 as a Normal School for the purpose of “training teachers of the colored race to teach in common schools of North Carolina,” and marked a significant period in African-American history. The many historic buildings on campus take visitors on a trip into the past and tell the story of a proud people who reached for knowledge, and through it, changed the face of the nation.
Photo Credit: Main image in header, Mark Pillsbury.