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Craven County, North Carolina

Coordinates: 35°07′N 77°05′W / 35.12°N 77.08°W / 35.12; -77.08
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Craven County
Craven County Courthouse in New Bern
Craven County Courthouse in New Bern
Flag of Craven County
Official seal of Craven County
Map of North Carolina highlighting Craven County
Location within the U.S. state of North Carolina
Map of the United States highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 35°07′N 77°05′W / 35.12°N 77.08°W / 35.12; -77.08
Country United States
State North Carolina
Named forWilliam, Earl of Craven
SeatNew Bern
Largest communityNew Bern
 • Total773.28 sq mi (2,002.8 km2)
 • Land706.57 sq mi (1,830.0 km2)
 • Water66.71 sq mi (172.8 km2)  8.63%
 • Total100,720
 • Estimate 
 • Density142.55/sq mi (55.04/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district3rd

Craven County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2020 census, the population was 100,720.[1] Its county seat is New Bern.[2] The county was created in 1705 as Archdale Precinct from the now-extinct Bath County. It was renamed Craven Precinct in 1712 and gained county status in 1739.[3][4] It is named for William, Earl of Craven, who lived from 1606 to 1697. Craven County is part of the New Bern, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area.[5]


Early history[edit]

On August 4, 1661, George Durant purchased land from Cisketando, king of the Yeopim Indian tribe. On March 13, 1662, a second purchase was made from Kilcocanen, another Yeopim. By 1662 Durant was living in Virginia on a tract of land along the Perquimans River which flows into Albemarle Sound, which became part of the Carolina colony in 1665.[6]


The land eventually constituting Craven was first organized as a portion of Bath County. On December 3, 1705, a portion of Bath was split off to form the new Archdale County. In about 1712 it was renamed Craven County. According to historian William S. Powell, it was most likely named in honor of William, Lord Craven a lord proprietor of the Carolina colony who died the previous year. Others state that the county was named for William's great uncle, William, Earl of Craven, who was one of the original eight lords proprietor of the colony, or the Lord Craven's son, also William, Lord Craven, who was actively serving as a lord proprietor at the time the county's name was changed.[7] In 1722 a portion of Craven was split off to form Carteret County.[8] New Hanover County and Johnston County were formed from Craven in 1729 and 1746, respectively.[9] Craven's borders were altered and redrawn several times between 1757 and 1852.[10]

During the initial years of colonization, the population of Craven County was sparse and grew slowly. By 1740, however, the town of New Bern began growing rapidly and became the seat for the Governorship.[11] John Carter served as the first sheriff of Craven County, but died in 1740 in the line of duty, when ambushed by an outlaw he was trying to apprehend. In 1746 an act was passed establishing New Bern as the capital of the province and, although the act was later repealed, the General Court met at New Bern in Craven County after 1747.[12][13]

In 1749 James Davis, the colony's first printer, arrived at New Bern and became the official printer for the North Carolina Assembly.[14] In 1751, Davis established and began printing the North Carolina Gazette, North Carolina's first newspaper.[15] In 1754, he was elected Sheriff of Craven County.[16]

Antebellum period[edit]

Craven developed an economy centered around agriculture, timber and turpentine, small manufacturing, and commerce emanating from the port of New Bern.[17] Various fruits and vegetables were among the most popular crops, with cotton production declining in popularity after adverse weather conditions in 1821. Some cattle was also kept in the county.[18] Commercial fishing became more common in the late 1840s, while shipbuilding declined later in the Antebellum period.[19] Slaves served as a key labor force in the local economy, though unlike other eastern counties in the state, which had overwhelmingly rural slave populations, almost 40 percent of Craven's slaves were kept in New Bern.[20]

The Panic of 1819 heavily impacted the county and triggered a two decade-long period of economic contraction.[21] Railroad service was introduced in the 1850s.[22] The population rose from 13,394 in 1820 to 16,268 by 1860, though poverty remained a problem and many born in the country migrated elsewhere in search of better economic prospects.[23] Despite the difficulties, Craven remained a center of political and social activity in the state and New Bern remained one of the largest cities in North Carolina throughout the antebellum period.[24]

Civil War[edit]

Following North Carolina's secession from the United States and entrance into the American Civil War on the side of the Confederate States of America in 1861, New Bern became a center for Confederate political and military activity.[25] By March 1862, the white men of the county had formed nine permanent companies of troops and three temporary ones. Some of these forces served throughout the entire war's duration.[26] The Battle of Hatteras Inlet Batteries in August 1861 gave United States forces a foothold in eastern North Carolina and provoked the flight of women and children from New Bern.[27]


The county's economy was heavily impacted by the Civil War with the depletion of livestock, damage of property, and the emancipation of slaves.[28] Most food crop production also suffered, though cotton, tobacco, and rice yields increased. Lumber and naval stores industries persisted, though somewhat weakened. The conclusion of the conflict led to regained confidence in economic activity. The shipping industry in New Bern grew and several new businesses, including a bank, were established.[29] Some black freedmen were assigned work by federal troops or enrolled into Freedmen's Bureau schools.[30] Most of the rest found unskilled work in the local farming, fishing, and turpentine industries. Those that entered skilled labor professions were faced with a rivalry from white contemporaries.[31]

The advent of Congressional Reconstruction in 1867 and 1868 led to profound political changes in Craven County.[32] General Edward Canby, the commander of the Second Military District, replaced New Bern's municipal government and also chose the county's sheriff. Following registration efforts, black voters outnumbered whites in the county, and remained a majority of the electorate until the end of the century.[33] Together with local whites who had held Unionist sympathies before the war and recently arrived carpetbaggers, they constituted a strong base for the Republican Party.[34] In the returns for the 1868 elections, Republicans' margin of victory was the second largest among the counties in the state.[35] A portion of Craven was annexed to the new Pamlico County in 1872.[36]


Interactive map of Craven County

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 773.28 square miles (2,002.8 km2), of which 706.57 square miles (1,830.0 km2) is land and 66.71 square miles (172.8 km2) (8.63%) is water.[37] It is bordered by Pitt County and Beaufort County to the north, Pamlico County to the east, Carteret County to the south, Jones County to the west, and Lenoir County to the northwest.[38] Craven County lies within the Neuse River Basin.[4]

National protected areas[edit]

State and local protected areas/sites[edit]

Major water bodies[edit]

Major highways[edit]

Major infrastructure[edit]


Historical population
2023 (est.)102,391[1]1.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[40]
1790–1960[41] 1900–1990[42]
1990–2000[43] 2010[44] 2020[1]

2020 census[edit]

Craven County racial composition[45]
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 64,933 64.47%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 19,903 19.76%
Native American 318 0.32%
Asian 3,059 3.04%
Pacific Islander 150 0.15%
Other/Mixed 5,162 5.13%
Hispanic or Latino 7,195 7.14%

As of the 2020 census, there were 100,720 people, 42,221 households, and 28,502 families residing in the county.

2000 census[edit]

At the 2000 census,[46] there were 91,436 people, 34,582 households, and 25,071 families residing in the county. The population density was 129 people per square mile (50 people/km2). There were 38,150 housing units at an average density of 54 units per square mile (21 units/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 69.94% White, 25.12% Black or African American, 0.42% Native American, 0.99% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 1.78% from other races, and 1.68% from two or more races. 4.02% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 34,582 households, out of which 33.30% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.80% were married couples living together, 12.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.50% were non-families. 23.40% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 2.93.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 24.60% under the age of 18, 12.80% from 18 to 24, 27.90% from 25 to 44, 21.20% from 45 to 64, and 13.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 101.90 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.50 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $35,966, and the median income for a family was $42,574. Males had a median income of $28,163 versus $21,412 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,423. About 9.90% of families and 13.10% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.50% of those under age 18 and 11.00% of those age 65 or over.

Government and politics[edit]


Craven County Administration Building in New Bern

Craven County is led by a seven-member board of commissioners, each of whom are elected to represent a district.[47]

Craven County is a member of the Eastern Carolina Council of Governments, a regional multi-county planning and economic coordination body.[48] It is located in the North Carolina Senate's 2nd district and the North Carolina House of Representatives' 3rd district, and 13th district.[49]

Craven County lies within the bounds of the 4th Prosecutorial District, the 3B Superior Court District, and the 3B District Court District.[50]


Craven is a typical “Solid South” county in its presidential voting patterns. It was solidly Democratic until the 1960s: in five elections from 1932 to 1948 the Republican Party did not reach fifteen percent of the vote, and only in 1928 when a large anti-Catholic vote was cast against Al Smith did the GOP reach twenty percent between at least 1900 and 1948. The national Democratic party's support for the Civil Rights Movement caused its white electorate to defect to George Wallace’s American Independent campaign in 1968. Since that time, Craven has become a strongly Republican county. The last Democrat to carry Craven County was Jimmy Carter in 1976.[53] As of March 2022, there were 70,286 registered voters in the county. Of those, 26,225 were registered Republican, 20,135 were registered Democrats, and 23,393 registered unaffiliated.[54]


Map of Craven County with municipal and township labels



Census-designated places[edit]

Other unincorporated communities[edit]


By the requirements of the North Carolina Constitution of 1868, the county was divided into 8 townships which do not have names:

  • Township 1
  • Township 2
  • Township 3
  • Township 5
  • Township 6
  • Township 7
  • Township 8
  • Township 9

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "QuickFacts: Craven County, North Carolina". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 21, 2024.
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  3. ^ "North Carolina: Individual County Chronologies". North Carolina Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. The Newberry Library. 2009. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved January 22, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Powell, William S. (2006). "Craven County". NCPedia. North Carolina Government & Heritage Library. Retrieved April 23, 2023.
  5. ^ "OMB Bulletin No. 23-01: Revised Delineations of Metropolitan Statistical Areas, Micropolitan Statistical Areas, and Combined Statistical Areas, and Guidance on Uses of the Delineations of These Areas" (PDF). United States Office of Management and Budget. July 21, 2023. Retrieved August 10, 2023.
  6. ^ Connor, 1919, Vol. I, pp. 26-27
  7. ^ Powell 1976, p. 12.
  8. ^ Corbitt 2000, p. 74.
  9. ^ Corbitt 2000, p. 75.
  10. ^ Corbitt 2000, pp. 75–78.
  11. ^ dill, 1946, p. 47
  12. ^ The historical records of North Carolina, Vol. I, p. 58
  13. ^ The historical records of North Carolina, Vol. II, p. 2
  14. ^ Wroth, 1938, p. 48
  15. ^ Thomas, 1874, Vol. I, p. 338; Vol. II, p. 166
  16. ^ Powell, 2000, pp. 34-35
  17. ^ Watson 1987, pp. 247, 249.
  18. ^ Watson 1987, p. 249.
  19. ^ Watson 1987, pp. 255–256.
  20. ^ Watson 1987, p. 250.
  21. ^ Watson 1987, p. 267.
  22. ^ Watson 1987, pp. 289, 291.
  23. ^ Watson 1987, p. 294.
  24. ^ Watson 1987, pp. 294–295.
  25. ^ Watson 1987, pp. 369–370.
  26. ^ Watson 1987, p. 371.
  27. ^ Watson 1987, p. 372.
  28. ^ Watson 1987, p. 442.
  29. ^ Watson 1987, p. 443.
  30. ^ Watson 1987, p. 447.
  31. ^ Watson 1987, pp. 447–448.
  32. ^ Watson 1987, pp. 431–433.
  33. ^ Watson 1987, p. 432.
  34. ^ Watson 1987, pp. 431–432.
  35. ^ Watson 1987, p. 436.
  36. ^ Corbitt 2000, p. 78.
  37. ^ "2020 County Gazetteer Files – North Carolina". United States Census Bureau. August 23, 2022. Retrieved September 9, 2023.
  38. ^ Powell 1976, p. 126.
  39. ^ a b c "NCWRC Game Lands". www.ncpaws.org. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  40. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  41. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Archived from the original on August 11, 2012. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  42. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  43. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 27, 2010. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  44. ^ "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 28, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  45. ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 24, 2021.
  46. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  47. ^ "Board of Commissioners". Craven County, North Carolina. Craven County Government. Retrieved January 18, 2023.
  48. ^ Clouser, Elise (August 2, 2021). "Eastern Carolina Council board dismisses executive director". Carteret County News-Times. Retrieved January 19, 2023.
  49. ^ "Craven County Representation : 2023-2024 Session". North Carolina General Assembly. Retrieved January 19, 2023.
  50. ^ "Craven County". North Carolina Judicial Branch. Retrieved January 12, 2023.
  51. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  52. ^ "Our Campaigns - U.S. President". Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  53. ^ "1976 Presidential General Election Results - North Carolina". uselectionatlas.org. 2019. Retrieved April 1, 2023.
  54. ^ Dunnell, Trevor (April 25, 2022). "Could early voting play a role in who becomes Craven County's next elected officials?". Sun Journal. Retrieved January 17, 2023.

Works cited[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]