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Hillsborough - A brief history



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Historically, the site of a Native American village for hundreds of years spanning from AD 1000 to 1710 where the Great Indian Trading Path crossed the Eno River, long before the first European-American settlers arrived to the area. Ultimately, the Siouan-language groups, Occaneechi and the Eno, were displaced to Virginia in the early 18th century. 

In 1754, Hillsborough was laid out by William Churton on land amounting to 400 acres granted by the Honorable John Earl Granville. Hillsborough took its present name in 1766 after the Irish peer, William Hill, Earl of Hillsborough, Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1768 to 1772 under George III in 1754.

Hillsborough was a center of political activity during the Colonial, Revolutionary and Civil War periods. Several royal and elected governors lived here, as did a signer of the Declaration of Independence, William Hooper, whose house still stands. The War of the Regulation (1766-1771) ended here. The town hosted the third Provincial Congress in 1775, the state’s constitutional Convention of 1778, which demanded that a Bill of Rights be added to the U.S. Constitution, and five General Assemblies from 1778-1784. General Cornwallis raised the Royal Standard here in 1781.

Hillsborough remained a political and cultural Courthouse center in the nineteenth century. It was from temporary headquarters near town that General Joseph E. Johnston rode out to surrender the largest of the Confederate armies to General Sherman in 1865.

The Burwell family ran a girl's academy called the Burwell School from 1837 to 1857 in their home on Churton Street. Elizabeth Keckley was enslaved in the Burwell household as a teenager. She later became the dressmaker and confidant of Mary Todd Lincoln and wrote a memoir.

There remain more than 100 late eighteenth and nineteenth century structures that illustrate the Town's early history. In addition, there are numerous secondary buildings, bridges, millsites and dams along the Eno River, and Native American relics from the locations of ancients towns stretching back thousands of years. The colorful and historical significance of Hillsborough has earned the reputation “the small town with a giant history.”

Visit Hillsborough today!

Historical Occaneechi Indian Village, Recreated Along the Banks of the Eno River

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