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Home North Carolina Edgecombe County City of Tarboro Historical Markers Town Common

Town Common

Main Street, Tarboro, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 35° 54' 53.6148", -77° 32' 45.1356"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Established in 1760 by the Legislative Act which created the colonial town of Tarboro."
     The General Assembly of North Carolina incorporated the Edgecombe County town of Tarboro in 1760 under the name of Tarborough. The act proclaimed that fifty acres of land should be designated as a town common when laying out the town. The founders of Tarboro thereupon established the common in Tarboro as a public town space.

     Settlement began in the Tarboro area around 1730, at which time twenty families were living at the mouth of Town Creek off the Tar River. Tarboro was named for the Tar River, but historians debate the origin of the name of the river. One theory argues that European settlers in the area called it the Tar River because Tar was a major product during the colonial period. The alternate theory claims that the name is a corruption of a word of the Tuscarora tribe, the original inhabitants of the Edgecombe area. The Tuscarora are said to have called in the Tau, which meant good health, and the settlers mistook this for Tar. Although the exact origin of the name is still unknown, the area around the Tar River became part of Edgecombe County when Edgecombe split from Bertie County in 1741.

     Edgecombe County originally encompassed a huge tract of land, which eventually splintered to form seventeen present-day North Carolina counties. In 1758 Halifax County split from Edgecombe County, which removed the presence of a major mercantile center from Edgecombe County. The residents of Edgecombe County quickly took action, appealing to the North Carolina General Assembly for the establishment of a new capital city for Edgecombe County by the name of Tarborough.

     Joseph Howell sold 150 acres of land, what is now historic Tarboro, to five men for the establishment of the town. The men, James Moir, Lawrence Toole, Aquilla Suggs, Elisha Battle and Benjamin Hart, subsequently were appointed by the General Assembly as commissioners. The 150 acres was divided into small lots of less than one-half acres, excluding Howell’s own property, a small graveyard, and fifty acres for public use.

     The fifty acres for public use, the Tarboro Town Common, initially were used as common grazing land for livestock, for military practice, and for general public use. The founders of Tarboro also planted oak trees that still grow today. The town common has remained a public space throughout its history, housing monuments and memorials to the heroes and history of Tarboro.

J. Kelly Turner, The History of Edgecombe County (1920)
Hugh T. Lefler and Albert Ray Newsome, History of a Southern State: North Carolina (1954)
William S. Powell, North Carolina through Four Centuries (1986)
Bill Sharpe, A New Geography of North Carolina, III (1961)
William S. Powell, ed., The Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)
Town Common Historical Marker Location Map, Tarboro, North Carolina