South Carolina-–North Carolina border

The histories of the two Carolinas are intertwined and yet distinct. Because of this, historians have pointed to different dates to signify their split. In his early eighteenth century history of the British Empire, John Oldmixon observed: “Tis very well known, that the Province of Carolina has been a long time divided into two separate Governments, the one being call’d North Carolina, and the other South Carolina; but the latter being more populous, goes generally under the Denomination of Carolina.”

In 1665 Charles II issued the second Carolina charter that created a vast province stretching from the southern boundary of Virginia (36o30° N latitude) to near present-day Daytona Beach, Florida (29o N latitude), and extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The 1669 version of the Fundamental Constitutions created four counties in the province: Colleton (between the Stono and Combahee Rivers); Berkeley (from the Stono River to Sewee Bay); Craven (from Sewee Bay to the Roanoke River in what is now North Carolina); and Albemarle (between the Roanoke River and the southern boundary of Virginia).

In 1689 the Lords Proprietors instructed Governor Philip Ludwell to call for elections to a legislative body that would meet in Charleston, the provincial capital of the entire province. If delegates from Albemarle County could not participate, he was to apportion their number among the other three counties; the northern boundary of Craven County was to be moved southward to Cape Fear; and he was to appoint a “deputy governor” for “North Carolina.” The first meeting of the Commons House of Assembly occurred in 1692 with only delegates from the three southern counties attending. This year and 1712 (when a separate governor was appointed for North Carolina) are dates to which some historians point as the official division of the province.

In 1719 the colonists in South Carolina overthrew the proprietary government and petitioned the crown to become a royal colony. By 1729 South Carolina and North Carolina had become officially separated as royal colonies. Separation led to boundary disputes that were settled fairly amicably (unlike those with Georgia that lasted until late in the twentieth century).

In 1735 the two colonies appointed a joint boundary commission that agreed the boundary should begin at a point thirty miles south of the Cape Fear River. From there a straight line would be run northwest until it reached the 35th parallel, and from that juncture the line would proceed due west to the Pacific. Because of surveying errors, South Carolina’s northern boundary was eleven miles south of where it should have been. To correct this mistake, the boundary was extended seventeen miles north of the 35th parallel and westward to the crest of the Saluda Mountains. The final section of the boundary was a straight line from the mountains to the point where the Chatooga River crosses the 35th parallel at the South Carolina–Georgia border. By 1815 the boundary between the Carolinas had largely taken its present shape.

Edgar, Walter. South Carolina: A History. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1998.

Kovacik, Charles F., and John J. Winberry. South Carolina: The Making of a Landscape. 1987. Reprint, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989.

Salley, Alexander S. The Boundary Line between North Carolina and South Carolina. Columbia, S.C.: State Company, 1929.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title South Carolina-–North Carolina border
  • Author
  • Keywords second Carolina charter, Charles II, Governor Philip Ludwell, Charleston, 1719 the colonists in South Carolina overthrew the proprietary government and petitioned the crown to become a royal colony, 1729 South Carolina and North Carolina had become officially separated as royal colonies
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date December 2, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update May 4, 2020
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