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Orange County History Guide: Home

About this Guide

This research guide provides an overview of the resources in Wilson Special Collections Library at UNC-Chapel Hill related to the history of Orange County, North Carolina. This guide is intended to be an introduction to resources at Wilson Special Collections Library and a starting point for research.

Sanborn Map of Chapel Hill, 1911

  • Native Orange County - Resources about the history and culture of Native Orange County.
  • General History - Resources about the history and culture of Orange County.
  • Genealogy - Information on people and families of Orange County, as well as resources on land and vital records.
  • Churches & Schools - Information on schools and churches of Orange County.
  • Buildings & Maps Information on maps and buildings of Orange County.
  • Other Resources - Other resources related to Orange County, including newspapers and resources on neighboring counties.

The boundaries of Orange County are drawn on Indigenous land, home of Siouan-speaking tribes who first lived in this area and the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation (OBSN).

Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation Land Acknowledgement

We would like to acknowledge that we are on the land of the Eno, Tutelo, Saponi, Occaneechi, and Shakori Native people.

We are gathered today on land that was traditionally part of the territory of the Saponi people, in the Piedmont of what is now the state of North Carolina. This area is not far from the “Great Trading Path”, used by both the native people of this area and non-native peoples during the early years of contact. The Saponi people, whose descendants include the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation Indian Tribe still thrive and live in this region, officially recognized by the state government of North Carolina.

We pay respect to their elders past and present. The Occaneechi People (The Ye’sah), ask that you will keep these thoughts in mind, while here on their ancestral lands and treat it with the respect, love, and care that their Ancestors did, and as the Occaneechi Saponi people do so today.

The Occaneechi Tribe Land Acknowledgement, created by the OBSN Tribal Council, should be used to recognize the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories.

Orange County was formed in 1752 and was named after William of Orange (King William III of England). The boundaries have changed considerably since the 1750s, with Chatham, Caswell, and Alamance counties being entirely formed from Orange County. The present-day counties of Johnston, Guilford, Wake, Lee, Person, Randolph, Rockingham, and Durham also include parts of the original Orange County. The current county boundaries date from 1881. The three major towns in the county are Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Hillsborough, which is the county seat. In the latter half of the eighteenth century, Hillsborough was an important town in the political life of North Carolina and, for a short time, was the meeting place of the General Assembly. Since the founding of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill at the end of that century, the county has also played an important role in the intellectual life of the state.

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Sarah Carrier
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