Tourism for Elizabeth City, NC
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Our Heritage

Duke of Albemarle

What is the Albemarle?  Our area was named after George Monck, Duke of Albemarle.

Elizabeth City’s English heritage dates back more than 300 years. After England’s 1587 “lost colony” vanished from Roanoke Island with hardly a trace, 75 years passed before another serious attempt was made to colonize northeastern North Carolina. With a focus on settling the area north of the Albemarle Sound, King Charles II, in 1663, granted a royal charter to eight prominent businessmen and supporters. Called the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, they laid the foundation for what was then Albemarle County, dividing the land into four precincts:  Chowan, Currituck, Perquimans and Pasquotank. Today, these precincts are now counties, with Elizabeth City in Pasquotank County situated in the center of the Albemarle region.

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 Intracoastal Waterway, which runs along the east coast of the United States.

The county’s first settlement and commercial center was Nixontown, established in 1758, along the Little River. Elizabeth Town, as it was known then, was located at “The Narrows” of the Pasquotank River and was named the county seat in 1799.

Of a total of 185,078 acres in Pasquotank County, 61,980 acres is taken up by water and wetlands.


For more information about the history of the area, visit the Museum of the Albemarle.

Interesting Facts

  • 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 gave Albemarle and most of North Carolina to English Americans.
  • 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 New York 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. Follow in their footsteps on the Elizabeth City Aviation Trail.
  • 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.