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Granville District


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The Granville District was a 60-mile wide strip of land in the North Carolina colony adjoining the boundary with Virginia, lying between north latitudes 35° 34′ and 36° 30′.

The area had been a part of the Province of Carolina, from 1663 to 1729 was a proprietary colony under the control of eight Lords Proprietors. In 1729, seven of the eight heirs to the original Lords Proprietors decided to sell their shares back to the crown.

The eighth share belonged to John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville, great-grandson of original Lord Proprietor Sir George Carteret. He surrendered any participation in government in order to retain ownership in his one-eighth share of colony’s land.

Due to political reversals in England, Carteret was unable to attend to his colonial interests until 1742, when he appointed the first of several agents to operate on his authority for the district that he never visited in person. In 1742, the king’s Privy Council agreed to Cartaret’s request to plan his allotment. The task was given to Samuel Warner, a London surveyor, who determined that Carteret was entitled to fifty-six and a quarter minutes of north latitude. So the northern boundary was to be the Virginia-North Carolina border (36° 30′) and the southern line at 35° 34′. In 1743, the initial portion of the boundary line was surveyed by a commission appointed jointly by Carteret and the North Carolina governor Gabriel Johnston. The line was extended westward in 1746 and again in 1753. In 1744, Carteret inherited the title Earl of Granville, and from that time, the district became known as Granville’s district or the Granville district.

After the 1746 extension, others, including governor Arthur Dobbs, began to complain that the line had been run up to 13 and a half miles too far south. There was some resentment of Granville’s district, which amounted to nearly half of the land in North Carolina, because the royal government of North Carolina was responsible for the area but did not receive any revenue from it.

In about 1750, Granville began to become concerned about irregularities in the accounts from his agents in the issuance of land grants and he issued explicit instructions about keeping records and executing grants.

Henry McCulloh who had received a large royal grant of land, some of which lay within Granville’s district. Granville gave McCulloh permission to settle the land. But in 1752, he learned that his agents had issued grants in McCulloh’s land. McCulloh and Granville disputed the area, and negotiated a series of agreements, sometimes threatening legal action, until McCulloh’s land was confiscated by the state of North Carolina in 1779.

Despite Granville’s explicit instructions to his agents, complaints from land holders and prospective purchasers increased throughout the 1750s, particularly allegations of exorbitant fees.

After Granville’s death in 1763, the situation only became more muddled, leading to outbreaks of violence in 1770 in the western regions when settlers were unable to obtain land.

Although Granville’s son, Robert Carteret, 3rd Earl Granville, had considered selling the land back to the crown to disencumber himself, this never happened and the situation continued to get worse as records were no longer being kept accurately. When the younger Granville died in February 1776, revolutionary fervor was already strong and the proprietorship of the Granville district was identified with British interests. In 1777, the North Carolina assembly declared the new state as sovereign over all the lands between Virginia and South Carolina, though recognizing claims to land granted by the crown and proprietors prior to July 4, 1776. It also confiscated all lands and property of persons who supported the British during the war.