A History of Chatham, North Carolina

The 1771 Act establishing Chatham County, North Carolina provided for the courts to be held at the home of Stephen Poe until the commissioners could erect a court house, prison, and stocks. In 1778, a town was established on the land formerly belonging to Ambrose Edwards where the Court House was - it was named Chatham by the General Assembly, but many map-makers and others used the generally-accepted naming convention of the times and called the place Chatham Court House - both names were used until its demise.

The records fail to indicate how many sessions of the court met at the residence of Captain Poe, but it is assumed that the committee named to choose a site for the location of the Court House and other public buildings acted with promptness, and that the seat of government was soon established at the point selected, viz: on the farm of Mial Scurlock, about one-half mile south of the present town of Pittsboro.

The exact spot on which the court house stood may still be pointed out, as may also the site of the old jail, which was just south of the court house and about and about 75 yards northwest of the Scurlock dwelling, the only habitation in the immediate vicinity. It is said that the Commissioners determined upon this location because of its being near the geographical center of the county, and that near by was a never-failing spring noted for its excellent water.

The Court House must have been built soon after the organization of the county, for in the year 1774 it seems to have been in need of repairs, and at the November term of the Court of that year, it was ordered:

“That John Dillard be allowed the sum of Ninety-One Pounds Proc money for services done in building a gaol and repairing the Court House.”

The original building was a wooden structure, and when the seat of government was later moved to Pittsboro, it was sold and by the purchaser moved to Pittsboro, where it was used for many years as a store house, later a storage room, and in later years as a meat market and garage. It stood on the main street of Pittsboro and was in a good state of preservation when destroyed by fire.

There was no real village or settlement at the original County Seat. The only buildings near were the residence of Major Scurlock, a storehouse, and some outbuildings. The seat of government remained at this place until 1787 when it was removed to its present location and the town of Pittsboro was established.

On July 17, 1781, the noted Loyalist leader, Col. David Fanning, led a raid on Chatham Court House and captured over fifty (50) Patriots, including leaders of the Chatham County Regiment of Militia and several members of the NC legislature from Chatham County. He also released several Loyalists who were condemned to be hanged on that day. Most of the Patriots were simply paroled, but several were taken to Wilmington and imprisoned for a considerable amount of time.

© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved