Gates County, North Carolina

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Gates County
Gates County, North Carolina
Founded 1779

Gates County is a small rural county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of 2000, the population was 10,516. Its county seat is GatesvilleTemplate:GR. It is part of the Albemarle Sound area of the Inner Banks.


As in other areas along the waterways, centuries of Native Americans created settlements, increasingly permanent, along the Chowan River. At the time of European contact, the Chowanoke occupied most of the territory along the river. After suffering dramatic population decreases likely due to European infectious diseases, to which they had no immunity, most were pushed out by encroaching Tuscarora.

With early settlement in the mid-17th century by English colonists, the county was organized by Anglo Americans in 1779 from parts of Chowan County, Hertford County, and Perquimans County. It was named for General Horatio Gates, who had commanded the victorious American colonial forces at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777.

Early history

Thousands of years of indigenous settlements had preceded European exploration of present-day Gates County.

In 1585, the Ralph Lane Colony explored the Chowan River. They explored the river at least as far up as Winton. In 1622, the John Pory Colony led an expedition from Virginia to the Chowan River. (Pory was secretary of the Province of Virginia.) In 1629, Sir Robert Heath was granted a patent to settle Carolina. This patent embraced Gates County.

During the 1650s, colonists from Virginia started to move increasingly into the Albermarle Sound region. Colonel Drew and Roger Green led an expedition into the Albermarle area. In 1654, Francis Speight was granted a patent for 300 acres of land near Raynor Swamp. The first English settlement in Gates County was established near Corapeake, North Carolina in 1660. In 1670, Colonel Henry Baker of Nansemond County obtained a grant of land for 2400 acres near Buckland. In 1672, George Fox, leader of the Quakers, visited Gates County. He described the county as barren.

Following the English colonists' defeat of the remaining Chowanoke in 1676, the following year, they created a Chowanoke Indian Reservation, the first within the present-day United States. It was established at the Chowanoke settlement between Bennett's Creek and Catherine Creek in Gates. From 1684-1722 Gates County was a part of the Chowan precinct. In 1711, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel established an Anglican school for Chowanoke and local Native Americans at Sarum, with Mr. Marshburn as the teacher.

In 1738, settlers created a mail route from Suffolk, Virginia to Corapeake and Edenton, North Carolina. The stage coach route crossed the Chowan River at Barfield.


In 1806, Middle Swamp Baptist Church was established as the first Baptist church in Gates County, as part of the Second Great Awakening revival in the South, led by Baptist and Methodist preachers. In 1811, Savages United Methodist Church was established, the oldest Methodist Church in Gates County. Both denominations preached to enslaved blacks as well as white settlers, and accepted them as members.

In 1825, Marquis de Lafayette passed through Gates County and was entertained at Pipkin's Inn. The town of Gatesville was incorporated in 1830. The old courthouse located on Court St. was built in 1836. The oldest item in the courthouse is the Federal-style bell, which was purchased in 1781.

William Paul Roberts, who would become the youngest Confederate general to serve in the American Civil War, was born in Gatesville, 1841. According to the 1850 census, there were 717 farms in Gates County and only 15 produced cotton. In 1851, Reynoldson Academy was established. Organized by free blacks, New Hope Baptist church was established in 1859. In 1878, Jethro Goodman introduced peanuts into Gates County. Secretary of State Thad Eure was born in 1899.

Gates County's port of Hamburg

The Cross Canal, or Hamburg Ditch, three miles south of the Virginia line, was Gates County's water route to the major port of Norfolk. Opened in 1805-1822, it ran straight east for ten miles through the Dismal Swamp, from a landing on Daniels Road in Gates County to the Dismal Swamp Canal. The Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center is now located there.[1] The Cross Canal is no longer a through route. In the late 20th century, sportsmen in small boats still used the Gates County end, at the site of Hamburg, to enter the swamp. Hurricanes since then toppled huge trees across it, blocking all access to the canal.

Gates County and the Civil War

Survival in Gates County prior to the American Civil War required self-reliance. Most of the land in Gates County was covered with virgin timber. The mostly subsistence farmers did not hold many slaves.

A. J. Walton was the Gates County representative to the North Carolina secession convention. Soon after, the "Gates Guard" was the first company raised in the County to protect its borders. The second company was "Gates Minutemen". Thanks to the productivity of its agriculture, Gates County helped supply food to the Confederate States of America (CSA). General William P. Roberts from the county was the youngest general of the Civil War. Brigadier General Laurence S. Baker a native of Gates County was known for the loss of his arm.

Jack Fairless, another county native, formed a group known as the "Buffaloes". They were a group of deserters, renegades and Civil War troops known to raid homes throughout the area. After the start of the war, the only people to remain in the area were women, children and men who could not fight. It was easy for the Buffaloes to get away with stealing. Jack Fairless had been kicked out of the Confederate Army for stealing. Soon after the raids were started, he was killed by his own men in self defense.

Fort Dillard was built as a Confederate fort in the county. The story of the "Ellis Girls" was long told in the county. One day during the war while out catching fish in the Chowan River, the girls spotted a Union gunboat on its way to burn Winton. Union soldiers captured the girls and held them as prisoners on the gunboat until after they had finished burning the town. Then they released them, unharmed.


On May 9, 1925 the first bridge opened across the Chowan River between Gates and Hertford counties. In 1925, Hwy 158 opened between Gates and Pasquotank through the Great Dismal Swamp. In 1935, the Sunbury Ruritan Club was established, the first and oldest in the state.

Beckford Junction was abandoned in 1940. Beckford Junction was a train switch that allowed trains to go to Suffolk, Elizabeth City, or Edenton. The last passenger train serving Gates County ended in 1954. In 1954 the Gates County Historical Society was established.

In 1973 A.B. Coleman donated 925 acres of land in the Millpond to the state. This was the beginning of Merchants Millpond State Park. In 1984 a bad tornado struck Gates County, killing two people and causing between $500 thousand and $5 million USD worth of damage. Hurricane Floyd hit Gates County in 1999.


In September 2007 Gates County was chosen as a potential site for a US Navy landing field in the northeastern part of the state.

Law and government

Gates County employs the Council-manager style of government. Under this form an elected Board of Commissioners appoints a manager to oversee the day to day operations and carry out the will of the council. The Board of Commissioners is responsible for appointing the county manager, passing local ordinances, and establishing policy. Gates County has five Commissioners, one from each district. The Commissioners are elected for four year terms and have overlapping terms so that all of the Commissioners don't go up for reelection each time.

Gates County is a member of the Albemarle Commission regional council of government. The Gates County Sheriff's Department consists of less than 15 deputies that maintain order in the county. Gates County has five volunteer fire departments with six fire stations, and one EMS station consisting of paid and volunteer members.

County Districts

Gates County is divided into five districts. Each district elects a member to the Board of Commissioners. Each of the five districts contain a polling place where members of that district go to vote. The five districts are Gatesville, Eure, Gates, Sunbury, and Hobbsvile.

Register of Deeds

Sharon Harrell is the current Register of Deeds for Gates County. She in position is elected by the people of Gates County for a term of four years. The land deeds date back to 1779, with provided land plots for taxation reasons. Birth and Death Records in Gates County date back to 1913. And also for the veterans in the county, Gates County office provides military discharge papers. Marriage License are issued under the following provisions; Aged 16 to 18 must have parent consent, under the age 16 must have approval by judge, and 18 to 21 must show birth certificate. The Gates County office also issues Deeds of Trust which is when a bank loans you money and you put up your home for payments.

Tax Office

Renee McGinnis is the current operator of the Tax Office in Gates County. She is appointed by the Board of Commissioners in Gates County. The 2009 rate for property tax is $0.64/ $100 of evaluation. The Gates County Tax Office also taxes Motor vehicles, boats, farm machinery, and other equipment. Property tax in Gates County is re-evaluated every 8 years.

Clerk of Court

The current Clerk of Court for Gates county is Nell Wiggins. The Clerk of Court is elected by the people every 4 years. The Clerk of Court is responsible for keeping the following; Infractions, misdemeanors, felonies, civil records, wills, adoption records, and juvenile records. The current cost of court for Gates County is $121.00.


Billy Winn is in charge of the Emergency services in Gates County. David Brown is the County's probation officer. Quincy Saunders is one of the three magistrates for Gates County. Tobe Chappell is the current manager for Gates County. Also visit Thad Eure


Public Schools

There are five public schools in Gates county and one alternative school.[2]

Gates County High

Gates County High School was opened in August 1962. Students were from the former Gatesville and Sunbury High Schools. The school was opened with 285 students.

Central Middle

Buckland Elementary

Established September 1951.

Gatesville Elementary

T.S. Cooper Elementary

Open Gates (Alternative School)

Rosenwald Schools

Rosenwald Schools were schools set up by money from the Rosenwald Fund. This fund was created in 1917 by Julius Rosenwald to encourage construction of schools for rural black children, mostly in the South, who were underserved. The fund required communities to raise matching funds, including the use of public money and the support of school boards. At the time, the school boards were run by whites and the schools were segregated. Blacks had been disfranchised throughout the South, so services for them were typically underfunded. Black communities strongly supported the schools, raising money, and sometimes contributing land and labor. The schools were built to model designs developed by architects at Tuskegee University, a historically black college. The Rosenwald Fund stimulated the construction of more than 4,977 schools and related structures for African-American children before its depletion in 1948.

Seven Rosenwald Schools built in communities in Gates County. In some areas, such schools have been converted to community centers and other uses.[3]

  • Corapeake (still standing)
  • Reid's Grove (still standing)
  • T.S. Cooper
  • Hobbsvile
  • Reynoldson
  • Sunbury
  • Roduco


A welcome sign at the NC state line on U.S. 13 is visible in this shot.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 346 square miles (895 km²), of which, 341 square miles (882 km²) of it is land and 5 square miles (13 km²) of it (1.45%) is water.

Great Dismal Swamp

The counties of Gates, Perquimans, Camden and Currituck contain sixty percent of the Great Dismal swamp.[4] In 1973, Union Camp donated the land which it owned in the swamp to the Nature Conservancy. The Conservancy next donated the land to the Department of The Interior, and the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was created. The refuge consists of 107,000 acres of swamp and wetlands' surrounding Lake Drummond.[5]

Merchants Millpond State Park

In 1811, the Norfleet family built the first dam at the millpond. At that time, it consisted of around 750 to 1000 acres of water. The mill ground corn. In 1856 the Millpond was sold and became known as Williams Millpond.

In 1910, Charles Lawrence purchased the Millpond. It became known as Merchants Millpond. In the 1960s A. B. Coleman purchased the Millpond. In 1973, A.B. Coleman donated 925 acres of the land to North Carolina under the condition that it was to become a state park. Today Merchants Millpond occupies 3,200 acres.


Most of Gates County's revenue comes from property taxes on personal property, with a small percentage coming from commercial sources.


The main industries are agriculture and forest products. Heritage tourism and recreation are increasing in importance.


As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there were 10,516 people, 3,901 households, and 2,933 families residing in the county. The population density was 31 people per square mile (12/km²). There were 4,389 housing units at an average density of 13 per square mile (5/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 59.08% White, 39.18% Black or African American, 0.42% Native American, 0.25% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.10% from other races, and 0.94% from two or more races. 0.77% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 3,901 households out of which 34.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.20% were married couples living together, 13.30% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.80% were non-families. 21.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.30% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.09.

In the county the population was spread out with 26.70% under the age of 18, 6.10% from 18 to 24, 29.10% from 25 to 44, 23.70% from 45 to 64, and 14.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 96.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.50 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $35,647, and the median income for a family was $41,511. Males had a median income of $32,227 versus $21,014 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,963. About 14.50% of families and 17.00% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.90% of those under age 18 and 26.20% of those age 65 or over.

Cities and towns

Map of Gates County, North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels


The county is divided into seven townships: Gatesville, Hall, Reynoldson, Haslett, Holly Grove, Hunters Mill and Mintonsville.

Adjacent Counties and Independent Cities

Template:Gates County, North Carolina



  1. Trout, W.E., The Great Dismal Atlas, pp. 39-41 
  2. "Schools". Gates County Public Schools. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  3. Hanchett, Thomas. "NC Schools by County". Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  4. "The Great Dismal Swamp - Northeastern North Carolina". Retrieved 2009-05-31. 
  5. "The Great Dismal Swamp: A History". Retrieved 2009-05-31. 
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This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia adapted for use as a quick research reference on this wiki. The original content was here: Gates County, North Carolina. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the ENC Phillips Group Wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.