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Monday, August 5, 2013

The Colonial Courthouse

When building a colonial town, one of the first structures to go up was usually the courthouse--right in the center of everything. Pittsboro, NC is a perfect example of this with a circle of traffic constantly around the colonial courthouse. While the current structure was built in 1881, the original courthouse was much older.

Pittsboro was established in 1785 and is the county seat for Chatham County named for William Pitt, the first Earl of Chatham. In 1770 The Colonial Assembly established the county. The city was named for his son, William Pitt. To the right is a front view of the newly restored courthouse after it caught fire in 2010. It opened as an historical museum in April 2013. Below is a side view showing how the road circles around it like an island.

During the early 1700's settlers of English, Irish, Scottish and German decent arrived along two main routes, south from Virginia on The Great Wagon Road or up the Cape Fear River from the Carolina coast. In the early years, the county was governed by justices of the peace, which served the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions. The justices were appointed by the state’s General Assembly. For a period of time, the justices also appointed other county officials, which included the sheriff, coroner, constables, clerk, register, county attorney, standard-keeper, entry-taker and surveyor, rangers and overseers of roads.

Even today Pittsboro has a small town atmosphere of historical value. Yet, it is only 34 miles southwest of the capital city of Raleigh. Many of the historic buildings remain as shops. The image below is from the balcony of the courthouse. 



  1. I so enjoy getting glimpses of colonial history around the country. So many of these are places that I'll never get to and I love the virtual field trip! Interesting how two of the main buildings that were first to go up were, as you said, the courthouse, and the meetinghouse / church. It struck me how the first order of business in society was to manage it and the potential sin that would soon come.

  2. Love all the pics n the history, Jennifer! Thanks!!!

  3. Great post and pictures. Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. I took the scenic route on my way back from Raleigh and couldn't resist stopping and taking a few photos. It's nice to know that places like this still exist.

  5. Ah. . . . touching on some of the wonderful history of my home state - North Carolina. Pittsboro is also only a few miles from Chapel Hill which is the home of the FIRST PUBLIC university. The first enrolled student to the University of North Carolina WALKED from Wilmington NC to Chapel Hill to enroll - 150+ miles. I lived in the Chapel Hill area for over 50 years.

    The town I currently live is a small "county seat" rife with historical significance, too. It is in Alamance County which is the home of the first battle of the revolutionary war - or battle skirmish. There is a well kept battlefield park in the area devoted to this event. The people simply were saying NO to the crown and all that signified. Our little town has a central court house (still in use) that sits in the middle of an intersection and the traffic circles around it.

    Thanks for your history lesson on NC


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