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Warren County

Warren County seal


COUNTY SEAT: Warrenton

FORMED: 1779

LAND AREA: 428.46 square miles

White: 40.5%
Black/African American: 51.4%    
American Indian: 5.7%        
Asian: 0.4%    
Pacific Islander: <0.1%
Two or more races: 2.0%
Hispanic/Latino: 3.9% (of any race)

From State & County QuickFacts, US Census Bureau, 2020.


Warren County

Piedmont region


REGION: Piedmont
RIVER BASIN: Roanoke, Tar-Pamlico, Map
NEIGHBORING COUNTIES: Franklin, Halifax, Northampton, Vance

Warren County, NC

See also: North Carolina Counties (to access links to NCpedia articles for all 100 counties)

by Peter Bangma, 2006

Warren County, formed in 1779 from no-longer-extant Bute County, is located along the Virginia-North Carolina line in the northeastern Piedmont. The lands that became Warren County were home to significant populations of Tuscarora, Haliwa, and Saponi Indians. Inland migration by English settlers placed these Indian groups under increasing pressure in the first decades of the eighteenth century. The modern-day Haliwa-Saponi tribe, linked to the Indian people who remained in the area, was formally recognized by the state in 1979, with Warren County as part of its home territory.

Warren County was an early center of the state's tobacco- and cotton-growing plantation economy and the birthplace of many of its early political leaders. The county seat, Warrenton, was established in the same year as the county, and both are named for Joseph Warren, revolutionary Patriot and physician killed in the Battle of Bunker Hill. The town of Macon, incorporated in 1889, was named for Nathaniel Macon (1757-1837), who called the county home and served as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and as a U.S. senator. Other Warren County communities include Arcola, Elberon, Inez, Liberia, Manson, Norlina, Ridgeway, Vaughn, and Wise.

Warren County's plantations were among the most prosperous in North Carolina. The county was also home to one of the largest free black populations in antebellum North Carolina.

After the Civil War, the county's agricultural economy failed to recover, but its black landholders and a new population of freedmen made the county an important if short-lived cradle of black political clout during Reconstruction. John Hyman, the first African American to represent North Carolina in the U.S. Congress, hailed from the county. Whites and blacks in Warren County and other surrounding "Black Belt" counties endured economic misfortunes as the state's northeastern counties failed to enjoy the industrial growth seen elsewhere in the state. After World War II, the region's blacks began to find their voices, and many of them played important roles in the local and statewide movements for civil rights. One of the most prominent was Littleton native Ella Baker, a key figure in the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In the 1970s civil rights leader Floyd B. McKissick worked to build a new town in Warren County called Soul City, a community meant to foster and celebrate the aspirations of African Americans but one that failed to meet expectations.

In the early 2000s Warren County remained largely rural, with an economy primarily based in agriculture and light industry. In warm-weather months, people from North Carolina and Virginia travel in significant numbers to Kerr Lake and Lake Gaston, two man-made lakes that are partially located in the county and offer opportunities for boating, swimming, fishing, and other outdoor activities. The area has also maintained a strong commitment to preserving its historic architecture from the early nineteenth century; Warrenton's historic district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The estimated population of Warren County was 20,000 in 2004.

Annotated history of Warren County's formation:

For an annotated history of the county's formation, with the laws affecting the county, boundary lines and changes, and other origin information, visit these references in The Formation of the North Carolina Counties (Corbitt, 2000), available online at North Carolina Digital Collections (note, there may be additional items of interest for the county not listed here):

County formation history:

Index entry for the county:

Additional resources:

Corbitt, David Leroy. 2000. The formation of the North Carolina counties, 1663-1943 (accessed June 20, 2017).

Warren County Government:

Warren County Chamber of Commerce:

DigitalNC, Warren County:

North Carolina Digital Collections (explore by place, time period, format):

Image credits:

Rudersdorf, Amy. 2010. "NC County Maps." Government & Heritage Library, State Library of North Carolina.

Origin - location: 


Revolutionary General Juthro Sumner lived and died in Warren County about 1785. He was originally buried there and then many years later moved to Guilford Courthouse Battleground. Where in Warren County was his original grave. Was it near the historical marker on US Hwy 401 South of Warrenton?


I found some information. In the book North Carolina: Guide to the Old North State on page 480 gives detailed information of where the original grave is located. The book was digitized and you can view the page at


Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library



Searching for Hannah Colvert? married Jesse Knighton. 1770 Stokes Co.

Another comment about a neighbing County: the Town of Littleton voted about 40 years ago to be entirely in Halifax County. This change was made, and now all of Littleton is in Halifax Co.

Seemingly minor details like this may seem trivial, but they really should be corrected on a website maintained by the State of NC. Having said that, there is a lot of great and interesting information in this section, but it is important that it is correct and up to date.

Thank you !

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We greatly appreciate it when readers provide us with information that helps us improve our site. I have removed the portion of the site that incorrectly locates Littleton in both Warren and Halifax counties.

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library

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