Thursday, March 24, 2016

Caswell County, North Carolina: Geographic and Political Divisions

Geographic and Political Divisions

Over the years, Caswell County, North Carolina, has been part of and divided into various geographic, military, and political areas. These are referred to without explanation in various records (such as census and tax records) and may be confusing. Set forth below is a summary of these areas.

Hillsborough District

Before the Revolution, North Carolina was divided into six judicial districts: Edenton, Halifax, Hillsborough, New Bern, Salisbury, and Wilmington. In preparation for war, the Third North Carolina Provincial Congress in September 1775 established six military districts corresponding to the boundaries of the old provincial judicial districts. These military districts continued after North Carolina adopted a constitution and became a state.

The part of North Carolina that became Caswell County in 1777 was in Orange County, which was in the Hillsborough District. And, the new county of Caswell remained in that district. Within the Hillsborough District were the counties of Caswell, Chatham, Granville, Orange, Randolph, and Wake.

Each district was required to provide to the State of North Carolina a brigade of militia under the command of a brigadier general. Each county supplied a regiment; with regiments broken down into various companies.

Now, when you see a reference to Caswell County being in the Hillsborough District, you will understand why.

Tax Districts

The legislation creating Caswell County authorized a poll tax of two shillings to be levied on each taxable person in the county (the funds to be used to build a courthouse, prison, and stocks). The sheriff was empowered to collect this tax.

For purposes of tax collection and other matters (including appointing constables and patrollers), Caswell County established eight internal districts:

1. Dunmore (renamed Caswell)
2. Gloucester
3. Richmond
4. St. David's
5. St. James
6. St Lawrence
7. St. Luke's
8. St. Martin's (renamed Nash)

At the first session of the Caswell County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions1 Dunmore District was renamed Nash District. In March 1778, St. Martin's District was renamed Caswell District, resulting in the following:

The "X" in the above diagram represents the county courthouse location at Leasburg.2

Person County

In 1792 the four eastern districts of Caswell County (St. Lawrence, Nash, St. Luke's, and St. James) became Person County.

Townships Established

In 1868 North Carolina adopted a new state constitution that enacted a system of county townships, thus abandoning the district structure is use for almost a century.3  Caswell County's four districts were replaced by the following nine townships:

1. Pelham
2. Dan River
3. Milton
4. Locust Hill
5. Yanceyville
6. Leasburg
7. Stoney Creek
8. Anderson
9. Hightowers


1 This body in addition to being a court of limited jurisdiction also functioned as the county's executive branch, much as the Board of County Commissioners does today.

 2 The diagram showing the eight districts of Caswell County is from Kendall, Katharine Kerr. Caswell County Miscellaneous Records: Land Grants, Tax Lists, Apprentice Bonds, List of Estate Records. Raleigh: Multiple Image Press, 1977. Researchers may also see the four western districts referred to as the Western Military District even before the creation of Person County in 1792.

3 The new constitution also abolished the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions (upon which county justices served), replacing it with the now-familiar county board of commissioners.