After the Tuscarora War, North Carolina’s backcountry was completely open. Routine smallpox epidemics ravaged the Native populations further and kept them down. The Catawba in the west were hit particularly hard.
The first expansion would take place relatively far to the south, at the base of the Cape Fear River. Settlements had been established there before with quite a bit of success, growing to about 800 settlers before it was abandoned and the settlers emigrated to other colonies. The first settler, war hero of the Tuscarora War and brother to James Moore, Maurice Moore, arrived first in 1726, just a year after 9,000 acres had been set out for settlement by George Burrington for Moore and his familial ties who became known as “The Family”. All were tied by marriage or blood.
Moore soon established the town of Brunswick though it would soon be overshadowed by Wilmington in the 1730s.
–Plantations along the Cape Fear River in the early 1700s
In 1729, North Carolina became a Royal Colony that would be administered by the king instead of the Lords Proprietors, though the Earl of Granville refused to sell. His tract, spanning the northern portion of the colony, came to be known as the “Granville Tract” and gave him a great deal of influence over the colomy, though he never really used it and did what the Lord Proprietors had always done, use his portion as a way to make money with little effort.
Expansion from there increased rapidly as droves of Scottish immigrants surged into the colony as well as a Welsh colony being founded. Just before this, the population sat at about 35,000, but that would quickly skyrocket.
As the Cape Fear backcountry became more and more populated, Eastern settlers began seeping into the Piedmont region but the main thrust came from the north from the Great Wagon Road and Great Indian Trading Path
While the Scottish dominated in the Cape Fear backcountry, they would not dominate here, though they did come in large numbers. The region’s main immigrants were of English and German descent. One colony, Wachovia, was settled around modern-day Winston-Salem by Moravians.
The English also helped settle the Piedmont with English Quakers from Pennsylvania arriving by 1754 and Virginians arriving along with the waves of immigrants from the Great Wagon Road
–This map, like so many others, leaves out English settlers primarily because they shadowed groups of other immigrants
In 1754, North Carolina sent 450 militiamen north to Virginia to aid British efforts in the region. They would soon be reinforced by 100 more men. Tension with the Cherokee allies and the Virginians meanwhile led to the beginnings of the Anglo-Cherokee which would place North Carolina directly in the sights of the Cherokee.
In the mid-1750s North Carolina had built up its western defenses. Four years later, the new forts would be put to use after the Cherokee killed over 20 White settlers and sieging Fort Loudoun and Fort Prince George. Raiding parties then spread out and killed any settlers they found. A relief force was sent under Archibald Montgomerie but they were defeated after destroying several Cherokee settlements.
Another expedition by William Byrd also failed. Fort Loudoun was forced to surrender in August with much of the garrison being slaughtered. It wasn’t until British regulars arrived that the Cherokee were forced to make peace.
Immigration by Germans decreased as a result of the war but the population still grew, reaching 250,000 by 1775.
Excessive taxes were put on the colony following the French and Indian War, leading to heightened unrest. The Sons of Liberty even managed to oppose the Stamp Act with limited success. While not directly linked to British taxes, the Regulator movement began in the Piedmont region with many refusing to pay taxes and flogging tax collectors.
It all came to a head after the Johnson Act was passed and the Regulator’s insubordination only increased. In Alamance County, the Regulators met colonial militiamen, marching westward in protest. They clashed with the militiamen on May 16, 1771. After expressing their desire to settle the dispute peacefully, the militiamen fired on the Regulators with cannon fire. A small battle ensued and the Regulators were subsequently defeated with pursecution to follow. Many Regulators fled westward in the following years, joining the settlements in East Tennessee.
While the Battle of Alamance and the Regulator movement is occasionally called the “First battle of the Revolution,” it was really part of a different conflict entirely. The Revolution, however, was only a few years away and sentiments for independence were rising. The Carolinas would, in just a few short years, be engulfed in a war worse than the Tuscarora and Yamassee wars.
Families would be torn apart in the coming conflict, a conflict that could more realistically than with the War of Northern Aggression, be called a “Civil War”.