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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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by Lindley S. Butler, 2006

Backcountry was the term used during the early settlement and colonial periods for the vast interior of North Carolina, located away from the coastline and including both the modern-day Piedmont and Mountain regions. The backcountry was first explored by John Lederer in 1670 and was penetrated gradually by Virginia Indian traders. Not until the mid-eighteenth century did large numbers of Scotch-Irish and Germans begin to spread across the region, following the "Great Wagon Road" from Pennsylvania down through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The interior population rapidly swelled to become 40 percent of the colony's total, and backcountry settlers' inadequate political representation in the colonial assembly was a factor in the increasing east-west sectional friction that led to the Regulator Movement (1765-71) and other conflicts. The backcountry was the last area of the state to be settled and, consequently, the most volatile region of North Carolina society for many years.


Carl Bridenbough, Myths and Realities: Societies of the Colonial South (1952).

C. Christopher Crittenden, The Commerce of North Carolina (1936).

Richard J. Hooker, ed., The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution (1953).

Additional Resources:

Hendricks, Christopher E. "The Backcountry Grows Up." Tar Heel Junior Historian 45, no. 2 (spring 2006). (accessed March 4, 2013).

The Journal of Backcountry Studies. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 2006- . (November 2, 2012).

Olmsted, Frederick Law. A journey in the back country. N.Y.:Mason Brothers. 1860. (November 2, 2012)