Referred to as “the Carolinas” by many today, North and South Carolina since 1712 have been separate entities. Residents and surveyors have disputed and worked to settle the boundary line from the earliest days to the present. The Carolina Charter of 1663 established “Carolana” in the New World and King Charles II granted the land to eight men, called the Lords Proprietors, as thanks for their assistance in returning him to the throne after a short-lived revolution. The two colonies grew and developed distinct histories because of geography, the nature of their settlers, and agricultural products.
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Spanish explorers visited what is now South Carolina as early as 1514 and the French sponsored a failed colony in 1562, but the earliest permanent English-speaking residents settled on the Ashley River in 1670. The southern section of the Carolina settlement developed around the cultivation of rice and indigo along the low country near rivers and the ocean. The “low country” eventually would produce some of the most influential men in what would become the United States, amassing wealth built upon the backs of slaves imported from Africa, Barbados, and other colonies. By 1708, the majority of the colony’s inhabitants were enslaved. South Carolina’s development of cotton plantations in the 19th century led to a further reliance on enslaved workers to support the state’s economic base. Slavery became so entwined in South Carolina life and politics that any potential threats to the institution, real or perceived, were hotly debated by men such as U. S. Senator John C. Calhoun. The state’s fierce protection of its right to decide how to manage its enslaved assets led to the standoff at Fort Sumter in Charleston’s harbor in 1861. On April 12, 1861, the first shots of the Civil War were fired by South Carolinians who eventually seized control of the garrison. The state was punished for its role by the forces of Union General William T. Sherman in 1865 as they marched northward to North Carolina from Georgia.
By 1710, the Lords Proprietors recognized that the northern and southern sections of the Carolina colony were operating separately and successfully petitioned the crown to divide the colony by 1712. The dividing line between the two began about 30 miles below the Cape Fear River in southeastern North Carolina and the line has been in dispute ever since. A multitude of surveys and border disputes have helped to shape the long history of the dividing line between the two states. For example, the formation of the Catawba Indian Reservation in South Carolina in 1763 is responsible for the sharp angles found south of Charlotte. Even as late as 2001, surveyors were climbing mountains in the far western reaches of both states to settle the boundary issues using GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) technology.
William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries (1989)
Marvin L. Skaggs, North Carolina Boundary Disputes Involving Her Southern Line (1941)
Walter Edgar, South Carolina: A History (1998)
Fort Sumter, South Carolina