A History of Brunswick Town, North Carolina

St. Philip's Anglican Church - Brunswick Town

In May of 1713, Barren Island (Bald Head) was granted to Landgrave Thomas Smith, and in 1724 Governor George Burrington began to distribute land along the Cape Fear River for colonization. Many of the new settlers came from South Carolina because of the lower taxes in North Carolina.

Maurice Moore (son of Governor James Moore) founded Brunswick Town using his grant on the west bank of the Cape Fear River, and by June of 1726, a map of the town was filed with the Secretary of the Province. The next year a ferry was in operation to cross the Cape Fear River to the east bank, which was not yet settled.

A letter of Governor George Burrington, dated 1733, indicates that he sent out Indian Guides and some of his men to mark a road to the middle of this Province from Virginia to the Cape Fear River and to discover and view the land lying in those parts until then unknown to the English.

When New Hanover precinct was created by the General Assembly in 1729, the northern coastal boundary was about six miles above the present New River Inlet, and the southern boundary at the disputed border with South Carolina.

Many people understood the boundary line between North and South Carolina to be about thirty miles south of the Cape Fear River, but the Colonial Records in 1729 designated the border as the "main branch of a large river falling into the ocean at Cape Fear..." In the early 1700's the Cape Fear River below the fork was called the Thoroughfare and the Brunswick River was called the Northwest Branch of the Cape Fear River.

From 1729, until Wilmington was established and named in 1740, Brunswick Town was the county seat of New Hanover precinct.


In 1725, settlement began in earnest. Grants were dated June 3, 1725, with lands received by Maurice Moore, Samuel Swann, Charles Harrison, and Eleazar Allen. Maurice Moore transferred many acres to his brother, Roger Moore, who developed what is now called Orton Plantation.

Brunswick Town was started in 1726 by Maurice Moore, but didn't really take off until 1731. In 1729, New Hanover County was established, and it contained all of present-day Brunswick County (as well as many others) and law mandated that Brunswick Town be the County Seat.

In April of 1733, James Wimble began selling lots in a town he called New Carthage, on the east side of the Cape Fear River. Soon, it was called New Liverpool, New Town, or Newton to distinguish it from the older Brunswick Town. Newton was incorporated as the Town of Wilmington on February 25, 1740 and designated the new County Seat of New Hanover County. This infuriated the settlers on the west side of the Cape Fear River, and they began a decades long campaign to secede from New Hanover County.

In 1741, all lands west of the Cape Fear River were incorporated into a new Parish called St. Philips, thinking this would appease the locals. It did not. For the next twenty years, the Brunswick Town folks and others on the west side of the Cape Fear River pursued their independence. Finally, on March 9, 1764 Brunswick County was officially established out of part of New Hanover County and part of Bladen County.

Brunswick Town was the first County Seat of the newly formed Brunswick County. It remained so until 1779, well after the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. The British destroyed the town during the Revolution in 1776, and for some strange reason it never came back.

After the county seat was moved to Lockwood Folly in 1779, Brunswick Town began to slowly die away. By the early 1800s, it was all but abandoned.

In 1862, the site where Brunswick Town once stood was transformed into an earthen fort by the Confederates, and named Fort Anderson. Locals called it Fort St. Philips, after the name of the parish and church that once was Brunswick Town.

Today, there isn't much left of "Old Brunswick Town." There are a few brick foundations still around, as well as remnants of Fort Anderson. Click Here for a detailed map/plan of Brunswick Town as of 1769.



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