Font Size: AAA

Chowan County Courthouse (1767)

In 1712, the North Carolina Colonial Assembly appropriated funds for construction of “a Court House to hold the Assembly in, at the fork of Queen Anne’s Creek, commonly called Matchacamak Creek in Chowan Precinct.” The courthouse was completed in 1718, and it served as the hub of the colonial community.

The original Chowan County Courthouse was built out of wood and after several years, its structure began to depreciate. Joseph Hewes and Jacob Blount, Edenton government officials, called for a new courthouse in the fall of 1766. Finished in 1767, the new courthouse was built on East King Street, and it currently sits in the same place today.

Although the Chowan County Courthouse architect is unknown, historians consider it to be John Hawks, architect of the Tryon Palace, or Gilbert Leigh. The courthouse is an example of classic Georgian architecture. It has a central courtroom with offices and a small yet impressive apse in the back of the courtroom.

During the American Revolution, notables such as Joseph Hewes, James Iredell, and Samuel Johnston practiced law and met in the courthouse.  In the 1770s and 1780s the second floor was used as an assembly room for North Carolina Patriots. The Masons of Unanimity #7, an organization to which George Washington once belonged, met in the building in the late 1770s.

The courthouse remains the oldest government building in continuous use in North Carolina. According to Deborah Joy, “In 1970 the Chowan County Courthouse, the finest of its kind in the South and a key attraction in the modern Historic Edenton State Historic Site, was recognized as a National Historic Landmark” (Encyclopedia, p. 217).


“Chowan County Courthouse.” Deborah Joy. William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006).

“Chowan County Courthouse.” North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program website. A Division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources., (accessed May 31, 2012).

“Chowan County Courthouse.” The Official Site of Chowan County Government.{C678AE3E-0A3B-4625-BF00-B2CE7F001780}&DE={4ED89BD2-E215-4BD4-A5CD-4039152755C8}, (accessed May 31, 2012).

By Jonathan Martin, North Carolina History Project

See Also:

Related Categories: Counties, Early America
Related Encyclopedia Entries: Cross Creek, Food Lion, Juan Pardo Expeditions, Prelude to the Battle of Averasboro, The Battle of Averasboro- Day Two, John Alexander Lillington (c.1725-1786), Plott Hound: The State Dog, House in the Horseshoe, Lincoln County (1779), Gaston County (1846), Person County (1792), Onslow County (1734), Ashe County (1799), Tyrrell County (1729), Surry County (1771), Chowan County (1681), Cabarrus County (1792), Alexander County (1847), Pamlico County (1872), Cleveland County (1841), Currituck County (1668), Iredell County (1788), Washington County (1799), Mitchell County (1861), Salem, James City, Wingate University, Historic Halifax, The National Hollerin' Contest, James “Catfish” Hunter (1946 - 1999), The Cupola House Association, Cupola House, Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897) , Rev. Daniel Earle , Barker House, Norfolk and Southern Railroad Bridge, James Iredell, Jr. (1788-1853), Inglis Fletcher (1879 - 1969), Edenton Ropewalk, Josiah Collins II (1763-1839)
Related Commentary: A U.S. Supreme Court Justice Who Met an Unfortunate End, The Decline of Edenton’s Trade Economy in the Early 1800s

Timeline: 1664-1775 , 1776-1835 , 1836-1865 , 1866-1915 , 1916-1945 , 1946-1990 , 1990-present
Region: Coastal Plain

© 2016 John Locke Foundation | 200 West Morgan St., Raleigh, NC 27601, Voice: (919) 828-3876
Website design & development by DesignHammer Media Group, LLC. Building Smarter Websites.