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Chatham County, North Carolina

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Please add profiles for those who were born, lived or died in Chatham County, North Carolina.

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Some of the first European settlers of what would become the county were English Quakers, who settled along the Haw and Eno rivers. The county was formed in 1771 from Orange County. It had been named in 1758 for William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, who served as British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1768 and opposed harsh colonial policies. In 1907, parts of Chatham County and Moore County were combined to form Lee County.

The county did not have a county seat until 1778 when Chatham Courthouse was built. It was not until 1787 that it was renamed Pittsborough. In 1781, Chatham Courthouse was located the south side of Robeson Creek, where the Horton Middle school is currently located. The Chatham Courthouse was the site of an engagement during the American Revolution on July 17, 1781. On July 16, 1781, Patriot leaders had tried and sentenced to hang several Loyalist leaders. Hearing of their fate, Loyalist leader Colonel David Fanning and his men encircled Chatham Courthouse and took 53 prisoners including Colonel Ambrose Ramsey, some local militia, and three members of the North Carolina General Assembly.

While not devoted to large plantations, the county was developed for small farms, where slave labor was integral to the owners' productivity and success. By 1860 one-third of the county population were black slaves.

George Moses Horton, Historic Poet Laureate of Chatham County, (1798–1883) lived most of his life enslaved on a farm in Chatham County, moving North after emancipation. In one period he would write poems on commission for students at University of North Carolina after delivering produce to the campus. It was the first money he earned from his poems. He is among the few poets to have published his work while still held as a slave.

After the Civil War and emancipation, white violence against freedmen increased. From the late 1860s, the Ku Klux Klan, Constitutional Union Guard, and White Brotherhood were active against blacks in the county. After Reconstruction and into the early 20th century, a total of six lynchings of blacks were recorded here.

There was a notorious mass lynching of four blacks on September 29, 1885, who were taken from the county jail in Pittsboro by a disguised mob at 1 a.m. The mob of 50-100 people hanged and killed Jerry Finch, his wife Harriet, and Lee Tyson, arrested for a robbery/murder. Harriet Finch was one of four black women to be lynched in the state. They also hanged John Pattishall, who was awaiting trial for two other unrelated robbery/murders. Afterward, the editor of The Chatham Record strongly condemned the lynchings. The county had the second-highest total of lynchings in the state.

On March 25, 2010, the Chatham County Courthouse, built in 1881 in the county seat of Pittsboro, caught fire while undergoing renovations. It has now been rebuilt.

Spanning the southern border of Chatham County, the Deep River Coal Field contains the only known potentially economic bituminous coal deposits in the state. Coal was mined here on an artisan scale in colonial times. It was commercially produced beginning from the early 1850s.

The Coal Glen Mine Disaster of the 1920s, frequent flooding by the Deep River, the depth of the coal seam, and faulting of the seam sealed the fate of the mines. Production ceased in 1953.

The county once had a thriving dairy industry, but in recent years most farms have been sold and developed. The county is one of the state leaders in the poultry industry. Forage crops such as hay are also grown in large quantities in the county.

Adjacent Counties

Towns & Communities

  • Bear Creek
  • Bells
  • Bennett
  • Bonlee
  • Brickhaven
  • Bynum
  • Carbonton
  • Cary (part)
  • Chapel Hill (part)
  • Corinth
  • Crutchfield Crossroads
  • Fearrington Village
  • Goldston
  • Gulf
  • Haywood
  • Moncure
  • Pittsboro (County Seat)
  • Siler City
  • Silk Hope
  • Wilsonville



Baldwin's Mill

The Regan Property

Chatham County Courthouse

The Luther Clegg House

Deep River Camelback Truss Bridge

The Lewis Freeman House

The Hall-London House

The London Cottage

The Henry Adolphus London House

The McClenahan House

O'Kelly's Chapel

Pittsboro Masonic Lodge

Pittsboro Prebyterian Church

The Patrick St. Lawrence House

The Joseph B. Stone House

The A.P. Terry House

The Dr. E.H. Ward Farm