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Person County - A brief history

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Person County is located in the Piedmont region of north central North Carolina. The county was named for General Thomas Person, a Revolutionary War patriot, who made significant contributions to Person County and surrounding areas. He was a trustee of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His generous donations were recognized by the construction and naming of Person Hall.

Person County is part of the Durham-Chapel Hill Metropolitan Area. The county seat is Roxboro. The Hyco Lake area and southern portion of the county are the fastest growing with new businesses and subdivisions. Roxboro is the only incorporated municipality in the county. There are nine townships, many with community centers or postal offices. The city of Roxboro was chartered January 9, 1855.

This area was inhabited by indigenous peoples, ancestors of Native Americans, for 12,000 years, over which time they developed varying cultures. Starting about 1,000 CE, the Mississippian culture peoples built earthwork mounds in their chiefdoms in the western part of the state, such as Joara. Some of these native people were encountered by the Spanish Juan Pardo expedition in the mid-16th century, which at Fort San Juan at Joara established the first European settlement in the interior.

Other European explorers arrived in Person County in the 17th century. European-American settlement, by immigrants of Scots, Scots-Irish, English, French Huguenot and German ancestry, did not take place until the mid-17th through 19th centuries. Some migrants brought enslaved African-Americans with them, or imported them later.

During the Civil War, Person County supplied between 800 and 1,000 soldiers to the Confederate Army. A granite monument at the Person County Courthouse honors E. Fletcher Satterfield, who advanced the Confederate flag at Gettysburg. After the war, many of the area's large plantations were divided into smaller farms.

Early 20th-century local legends claimed that the Indians of Person County (recognized by the state as a tribe in 1911) were descended from the first British colonists at the Elizabethan-era settlement of Roanoke Island. However, no verifiable links to the Roanoke Colony have been documented.

In 2003, the Indians of Person County changed their name to Sappony, to indicate their connection to the historical Saponi, a Southeastern Siouan tribe. Historians believe that this Siouan-related nation became extinct as a distinct entity in the Eastern states, although small groups of descendants continue. In the 19th century, ancestors of the current Sappony included many persons of multiracial heritage: European and African in addition to Native American. The slave societies of the colonies and early United States did not recognize American Indians separately and at different times counted them among the free blacks. The county's multiracial population was one of a number of frontier communities which anthropologists classified as tri-racial isolates.

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