On a mobile device? Visit http://www.lib.unc.edu/m/
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill University Libraries logo
University Libraries banner
Orange County History Research Guide

Orange County was formed in 1752 and was named after William of Orange (also 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 and Johnston, Guilford, Wake, Lee, Person, Randolph, Rockingham, and Durham Counties also including 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.

This research guide provides an overview of the resources in the North Carolina Collection related to the history of Orange County. The call numbers for books and pamphlets or hyperlinks for online resources are provided after the citation. These call numbers are specific to the North Carolina Collection.

This guide was created by Marilyn Rackley, Spring 2006.

Library of Congress Subject Headings


There are over a hundred LC Subject Headings related to Orange County History. The following subject headings provide a good place to start. Replacing the "Orange County (N.C.)" part of these headings with Carrboro (N.C.), Chapel Hill (N.C.), Hillsborough (N. C.), or Hillsboro (N. C.) will also give you resources related to specific towns within Orange County.


General History

These books provide an introduction to the history of Orange County. Histories of the whole county are listed first, followed by histories of each of the two largest towns in the county. Researchers who are interested in more specific historical studies are encouraged to consult H. G. Jones' North Carolina History: An Annotated Bibliography, which is listed on the "100 or so good North Carolina Reference Sources" guide.

County Histories


Blackwelder, Ruth. The Age of Orange: Political and Intellectual Leadership in North Carolina, 1752-1861. Charlotte, NC: W. Loftin, 1961. C971.68 B63a


An excellent history of the first hundred years of Orange County's existence, focused on the role it played in the political and intellectual life of the state. Also available in the Reading Room.


Kenzer, Robert C. Kinship and Neighborhood in a Southern Community: Orange County, North Carolina, 1849-1881. 1st ed. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1987. C971.68 K37k


Although more for an academic audience than a general one, this book provides a detailed look at the social and economic history of Orange County in the mid-nineteenth century.


Lefler, Hugh Talmage, and Paul W. Wager. Orange County, 1752-1952. Chapel Hill, NC: The Orange Print Shop, 1953. C971.68 L49o


Still the standard resource for an overall history of Orange County. Includes chapters on early history, agriculture, industry, schools, and more. Contains a dictionary of Orange County biography and lists of county officials. Also available in the Reading Room.


Orange County, N.C.: A Collection of Newspaper Clippings, Brochures, and Uncataloged Pamphlets and Broadsides through 1975. CR971.68 O63


Unpublished collection of Orange County related newspaper clippings gathered by the staff of the North Carolina Collection. The clippings volumes are found in the reading room. An index to this volume can be found online at http://www.lib.unc.edu/ncc/ref/clip/orange75.html.


Powell, William Stevens, James K. Huhta, and Thomas J. Farnham. The Regulators in North Carolina: A Documentary History, 1759-1776. Raleigh, NC: State Dept. of Archives and History, 1971. C970.25 P88r


The War of the Regulation was an important event in eighteenth-century North Carolina and much of it took place in Orange County. This is a compilation of documents about the War of the Regulation, but also includes a history of the Regulator movement at the beginning of the book. Also available in the Reading Room.


Ryan, Elizabeth Shreve. Orange County Trio: Hillsborough, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro, North Carolina, Histories and Tour Guides. Chapel Hill, NC: Chapel Hill Press, 2004. C971.68 R989o


Contains fairly detailed narrative histories of each of the three major towns in Orange County. Heavily reliant on older histories like Lefler and Wager's but more current.

Chapel Hill and Hillsborough Histories


Cameron, Annie Sutton. Hillsborough and the Regulators. Hillsborough, NC: Orange County Historical Museum, 1964. Cp971.68 H65c1


Article focused specifically on the role of Hillsborough in the War of the Regulation.


Lloyd, Allen Alexander, and Pauline O. Lloyd. History of the Town of Hillsborough, 1754-1982. Hillsborough, NC: The author, 1982. C971.68 H65L3.2


A good history of Hillsborough, including sections on churches and schools and a dictionary of Hillsborough and Orange County biography. The book also includes over 200 pictures of important people and places. This new edition is updated through 1982.


Nash, Frank. Hillsboro, Colonial and Revolutionary. Chapel Hill, NC: Orange Printshop, 1953. C971.68 H65n1


This 1953 edition of Nash's 1903 history includes Nash's standard history of early Hillsborough with a few appendices and an index added. Also available in the Reading Room.


Taylor, Margaret. Chapel Hill, 200 Years: Close to Magic. Chapel Hill, NC: Chapel Hill Bicentennial Commission, 1994. C971.68 C46c4


A short history of Chapel Hill, useful primarily for its strict chronological organization and short vignettes about everyday life in specific twenty-year periods of time.

>Back to the top

People and Families

The books listed here give general information about people and life in Orange County. The Collection also includes histories of other Orange County families. To find these, search the catalog for the family name.


Anderson, Jean Bradley. Piedmont Plantation: The Bennehan-Cameron Family and Lands in North Carolina. Durham, NC: Historic Preservation Society of Durham, 1985. C971.32 A54p


Biography of an important family with connections to Durham and Chapel Hill by a notable local historian.


Anderson, Jean Bradley. The Kirklands of Ayr Mount. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1991. C971.68 A54k


Biography of a prominent Hillsborough family from the eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century.


Chapel Hill Biographies: Newspaper and Magazine Articles on People in Chapel Hill and the Triangle Area. 2003. C971.68 C46c6 v.1-5


A five volume collection of unpublished photocopies of newspaper clippings and other ephemera devoted to people in Chapel Hill, collected and donated to the Collection by Stewart Pearson. The entries are arranged alphabetically by name of subject and there is no index or table of contents.


Love, Cornelia Spencer. When Chapel Hill was a Village. Chapel Hill, NC: Chapel Hill Historical Society, 1976. C971.68 L89w


Short vignettes about life in Chapel Hill in the early twentieth century.


McBroom, Ruth Gates, and Betsy Holloway. An Orange County Childhood. NC: The Author, 1983. CB M119m


A memoir about life on a farm in Caldwell Community, Orange County in the early twentieth century. Includes information on housekeeping, food, school, farming and other topics related to everyday life in this part of the state during that era.

>Back to the top

Land and Vital Records

Although the North Carolina Collection does not have primary source materials, many of the early records for Orange County have been published. The most comprehensive of these publications are listed below.


Bailey, Pat Shaw. Land Grant Records of North Carolina. Graham, NC: Pic By Pat Publications, 1990. C929 B155L


Volume 1 of this series provides abstracts of Orange County land grants from 1752 until 1885, listed alphabetically by name of grantee and indexed by location in county.


Bennett, William D. Orange County Records. Raleigh, NC: W.D. Bennett, 1987. C971.68 O63b


This nineteen volume set of Orange County record abstracts provides fairly detailed information about economic exchanges in Orange County through the early nineteenth century. Includes, but is not limited to, land grants and purchases. See the library catalog for details about the contents of each of the volumes.


Durham-Orange Genealogical Society of North Carolina website. http://www.rootsweb.com/~ncdogs/


Provides links to an index of Orange County cemeteries and the 1920 census.


Holcomb, Brent. Marriages of Orange County, North Carolina, 1779-1868. Baltimore, MD: Geneal. Pub. Co., 1983. C971.68 H72m


Book listing abstracts of all the marriage bonds issued in Orange County from 1779 until 1868 alphabetically by groom. Also includes an index of brides and bondsmen.


Mallard, Shirley Jones. Death and Marriage Notices from the Hillsborough Recorder, Published 1820-1879, Hillsborough, North Carolina and the Hillsboro Recorder, Published 1887-1888. Chapel Hill, NC: The Author, 1997. C929 M252d


Inventory of death and marriage notices published in Hillsborough, arranged by year. Only available in the Reading Room.


Old Chapel Hill Cemetery: Directory and Inventory. Chapel Hill, NC: Town of Chapel Hill, 1990. C971.68 C46o


Inventory of people buried in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery. Also available in the Reading Room.


USGenWeb Project Orange County Site. http://www.thepastwhispers.com/genweb_ncorange_index


A free website that provides access to a variety of records, including census and military records. Maintained by a genealogist.

>Back to the top


The history of education in Orange County is covered in many of the general histories, but one book in the Collection does provide more detailed information about schools in the county.


Pender, Irene Oliver. A History of Orange County Schools, 1752-1983. Hillsborough, NC: The Author, 1983. C379.4 O63p


A general history of education in Orange County with student statistics, budget information, and biographies of County School Superintendents.

>Back to the top

Religion and Churches

There are a couple of good histories that cover many of the churches in the county, one devoted to churches in Hillsborough and one devoted to churches in the Chapel Hill area. The Collection also includes some histories of individual churches, which are listed here with the more comprehensive histories.


Blanchard, Margaret A. Facing Tomorrow, Understanding Yesterday: A History of Orange United Methodist Church since 1832, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Dallas, TX: Taylor Pub. Co., 1992. C287.09 C46o


Chronological history of Orange United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill, including many pictures of church members.


Engstrom, Mary Claire. Early Quakers in the Eno River Valley: Ca. 1750-1847. Durham, NC: Association for the Preservation of the Eno River Valley, 1989. Cp289.6 E57e


A short history of Quakers in Orange County in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that includes some vital statistics and a land grant map.


Johnson, George Arthur. Churches in Orange County, North Carolina, South of Interstate 85 from 1756 to 2000. Chapel Hill, NC: Chapel Hill Historical Society, 2000. C270 J67c


A typescript produced under the auspices of the Chapel Hill Historical Society, Churches in Orange County provides brief histories of most of the churches in the southern portion of Orange County in and around Chapel Hill in order of their founding. Major events and important people related to the churches are covered.


Lloyd, Pauline O., and Allen Alexander Lloyd. History of the Churches of Hillsborough, N.C.: Ca. 1766-1962. Hillsborough, NC: The Author, 1963. C971.68 H65L2B


By the same authors as the History of the Town of Hillsborough, 1754-1963, this book includes short histories of eight major churches in Hillsborough, with pictures of the church buildings and pictures of ministers and other church officials. Some of the descriptions include biographies of ministers and detailed membership lists.


Maddry, Charles Edward. History of the First Baptist Church of Hillsboro, North Carolina. Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton, 1953. C286.09 H655m


Very short history of the First Baptist Church of Hillsborough with some information about important members. Not up-to-date.


Strowd, Annie, and Ola Cheek. Bethel Baptist Church History. North Carolina: The Author, 1993. Cp286.09 B56s


Typescript history a few pages in length. Only of use to researchers particularly interested in this church.

>Back to the top


These books contain histories and descriptions of historic and other important buildings in Orange County. Most also include pictures of each building described.


Bellinger, Susan McArtor. Photocensus: A Photographic Survey of Buildings in the Hillsborough, N.C. Historic District Built before 1950. Hillsborough, NC: The Author, 1991. C971.68 H65b


Comprehensive street by street listing of the buildings in Hillsborough's Historic District constructed prior to 1950, including a picture of each building.


Bishir, Catherine W., and Michael T. Southern. A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont, North Carolina. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. C720 B62g2


This recent publication contains a section on Orange County and puts the architecture of this county in the context of the entire Piedmont region.


Bryant, Bernard Lee. Occupants and Structures of Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, North Carolina at 5-Year Intervals, 1793-1998. Chapel Hill, NC: Chapel Hill Historical Society, 1999. C971.68 C46b


Very commonly used, this book shows the personal residences and businesses on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill every five years from 1793-1998, with a brief narrative about changes occurring over each five year period. Excellent for getting a general overview of the main street in Chapel Hill or for locating a particular building.


Brown, Claudia Roberts, Burgess McSwain, John Florin, and Jane Hamborsky. Carrboro, N.C.: An Architectural & Historical Inventory. Carrboro, NC: Carrboro Appearance Commission, Town of Carrboro, 1983. Cp971.68 C31b


Fairly extensive inventory of Carrboro buildings, including pictures of every building described and a short history of Carrboro. Also available in the Reading Room


Chapel Hill Historical Society. Historic Buildings and Landmarks of Chapel Hill, N.C. Chapel Hill, NC: Chapel Hill Historical Society, 1973. C971.68 C46cA


A small book with pictures and brief histories of forty-two important buildings in Chapel Hill.


Dula, Lucile Noell. The Pelican Guide to Hillsborough, Historic Orange County, North Carolina. 2nd ed. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Co., 1989. C971.68 H65d 1989


Organized into two main sections, "Tell-Tale Houses" and "A Walking Tour," descriptions of the historic buildings in this book are more detailed than in some of the other books on Hillsborough architecture, but there are fewer pictures.

>Back to the top


The North Carolina Collection has a number of maps of Orange County. The ones listed here are the most readable and provide information on the topics listed above as well as the geographic features of the county. Researchers may also find it useful to visit the Maps Collection in Davis Library.


Alamance County, N.C.; Orange County, N.C. Greensboro, NC: G.P. Stout, 1969. Cm912.68 1969s


A map of both Orange and Alamance Counties, churches, cemeteries, lakes, creeks, and other geographical features are listed in a numbered key.


Land Grants to Early Settlers in Old Orange County, North Carolina. Durham, NC: A.B. Markham, 1973. Cm912.68 1810m


A hand-drawn map showing eighteenth-century land grants in Orange County.


Map of Orange County, N.C. Orange County, NC: George W. Tate, 1891. Cm912.68 1891t


The earliest printed map of the county in the Collection, this 1891 map shows schools, churches, major businesses, and some residences in the county, along with geographic features. The original is printed on canvas, but users have access to a facsimile.


Map of Orange County with Chapel Hill & Carrboro, North Carolina. Cincinnati, Ohio: Mass Marketing, Inc., 1997. Cm912.68 1997m


Although this map is a free map surrounded by advertisements, it shows most of the roads in Orange County.


North Carolina Roads [Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State Highway and Public Works Commission, 1936]. FFC386 N87hi1


Early detailed county road maps printed by the State Highway Commission. Not in the online catalog.


Orange County, N.C. 1971 Roads. Greensboro, NC: Stout Map Co., 1971. Cm912.68 1971s


Map includes locations of schools, churches, etc. and also gives road names.


Sanborn Insurance Maps. http://www.lib.unc.edu/ncc/ref/resources/sanborn.html


Maps produced by the Sanborn Map Company of Pelham, New York, providing detailed information on the layout and construction of public and private buildings in cities and towns across the state. The website gives information about the microfilm copies and online copies.


School Map, Orange County, North Carolina. North Carolina, 1922. Cm912.68 1922s


1920s map includes locations of churches and colored and white schools.

>Back to the top


Since Orange County’s founding, over fifty newspapers have been established in the county, Chapel Hill, and Hillsborough.  Many only ran for a year or two.  This list contains only newspapers in the North Carolina Collection that ran for more than two years.  Most are available only on microfilm.  The call numbers given are for either the print copies, the microfilm reels, or both as noted.

Chapel Hill News Leader. Chapel Hill, NC: News Leader Co., Inc. C071 C46c


Semiweekly published from 1954 through 1959.  Available on microfilm.


The Chapel Hill News. Chapel Hill, NC: Robert W. Parks. C071 C46h 1992-


Triweekly paper published since 1992.  Currently received on microfilm.


The Chapel Hill Newspaper. Chapel Hill, NC: Chapel Hill Pub. Co. C071 C46.1 1972-1976 (print). C071 C46.1 1972-1992 (microfilm).


Daily paper that ran from 1972-1992. 1972 through 1976 issues are available in print and 1972 through 1992 issues are available on microfilm.


The Chapel Hill Weekly. Chapel Hill, NC: Louis Graves. C071 C46 (print). C071 C46g (microfilm)


Published weekly from 1923 until 1955 and semiweekly from 1955 until 1972.  Available in print and on microfilm.


The Herald-Sun. Durham, NC: Durham Herald Co. C071 D96h1


Daily paper covering Chapel Hill and Durham beginning in 1991.  Microfilm copies are currently received.


The Hillsborough Recorder. Hillsborough, NC: Dennis Heartt. C071 H65 1820-1879


Weekly paper that ran from 1820-1879. Available on microfilm.


The News of Orange County. Hillsboro, NC: The News. C071 N56o


Weekly paper begun in 1893 and still currently received in print at the collection.


Orange County Observer. Hillsborough, NC: Joseph A. Harris. C071 O63o


Weekly paper that ran from 1880 until around 1918.  The microfilm at the NCC contains most of the issues from 1880 until 1916.

>Back to the top

Resources about Neighboring Counties

Because Orange County originally encompassed a much larger area of land than it does today, the history of other counties formed partially or completely from parts of Orange can often be of use to the researcher. The books listed below provide some general information for the counties whose history most often intersects with that of Orange - Alamance, Chatham, and Durham.


Anderson, Jean Bradley. Durham County: A History of Durham County, North Carolina. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1990. C971.32 A54d


Comprehensive and up-to-date narrative history of Durham County. Widely recognized as one of the best histories available for a North Carolina county. Also available in the Reading Room.


Black, Allison Harris. An Architectural History of Burlington, North Carolina. Burlington, NC: Historic District Commission of the City of Burlington, 1987. C971.1 B96a


A short history of architecture in Burlington, Alamance County, followed by an inventory of architecturally important buildings in the town. Buildings are grouped by sections of the town and pictures are included with the descriptions.


Bolden, Don. Alamance in the Past. Burlington, NC: The Author, 1979. C971.1 B68a


Based on columns Don Bolden wrote for a newspaper in Burlington, this book is difficult to use, but is essentially the only recent comprehensive history of Alamance County in the Collection. There is no index, but some of the biographies, histories of schools, and histories of particular towns are separated into different sections. The second volume contains only pictures and their descriptions.


Brown, Claudia Roberts. The Durham Architectural and Historic Inventory. Durham, NC: City of Durham, 1982. C971.32 D96r1


Comprehensive inventory of Durham buildings organized by geographic location with lots of photographs.


Hadley, Wade Hampton, Doris Goerch Horton, and Nell Craig Strowd. Chatham County, 1771-1971. 2nd ed. Durham, NC: Moore Publishing Co., 1976. C971.19 H13c1


Though somewhat uneven in style, this lengthy history of Chatham County includes important dates, information about churches, and lists of public officials. Most of the book is divided into short sections addressing a specific topic, such as a particular town, church, or event, so information is easy to locate. Also available in the Reading Room.


Osborn, Rachel, and Ruth Selden-Sturgill. The Architectural Heritage of Chatham County, North Carolina. North Carolina: Chatham County Historic Architecture Survey Committee, in association with the Town of Pittsboro and N.C. Dept. of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History, 1991. C971.19 O81a


Comprehensive narrative history of architecture in Chatham County followed by almost three hundred pages of information about individual buildings, with accompanying photographs.


Powell, William Stevens. The War of the Regulation and the Battle of Alamance, May 16, 1771. Raleigh, NC: State Dept. of Archives and History, 1949. Cp970.25 p88w


A brief history of an important battle during the War of the Regulation written by a notable North Carolina historian.


Stockard, Sallie Walker. The History of Alamance. Burlington, NC: Alamance County Historical Museum, 1986. C971.1 S86s


First published in 1900, this history of Alamance covers only the early period of the county's history, up until about the mid-nineteenth century. It also includes histories of prominent county families.

>Back to the top

Related Research Guides at the NCC

The North Carolina Collection has a number of other research guides on its website. The ones listed below contain information pertaining to the history of Orange County.


City Directories http://www.lib.unc.edu/ncc/ref/phone/citydirectory.html


This guide lists the city directories available at the NCC by city. City directories for Chapel Hill and Carrboro are available from 1957 on and Hillsborough city directories are available from 1962 on.


Desegregation of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1930-1955 http://www.lib.unc.edu/ncc/ref/unc/uncdesegregation.html


Lists a few books and many newspaper articles available in the clippings collection related to desegregation at the University.


Education in North Carolina http://www.lib.unc.edu/ncc/ref/study/education.html


A guide listing resources about K-12 education in North Carolina past and present.


Phone Books by City http://www.lib.unc.edu/ncc/ref/phone/phone.html


Similar to the city directories, this guide lists phone directories in the collection with their call numbers.


Presidents and Chancellors of the University of North Carolina http://www.lib.unc.edu/ncc/ref/unc/uncpres.html


A chronological list of all the University Presidents and Chancellors and the Presidents of the University of North Carolina System.


Student Protest Movements http://www.lib.unc.edu/ncc/ref/unc/protest.html


Provides brief histories of various significant student protest movements and a list of related print resources.


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill http://www.lib.unc.edu/ncc/ref/resources/unc1.html


A list of online resources about the history of the University, such as the archives of The Daily Tar Heel and This Day in the History of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

>Back to the top