Serving Kenly, Selma, Smithfield, Princeton & Pine Level since 1973

Carolina confusion: Far-flung cities, counties share names

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.


North Carolina has 100 counties, and for me it is good mental exercise to try to name them. There are as many as six states with more than 100 countwies. Texas has the most, with 254, Georgia has 159, Virginia has 134, Kentucky has 120, Missouri has 115 and Florida has 102.

Also, the “Old North State” is far from having the fewest counties, those being Delaware with three, Hawaii and Rhode Island with five each, Connecticut with eight, New Hampshire with 10 and Massachusetts with 14.

Two of the 50 states use other words for their geographical divisions, with Alaska having 17 “boroughs” and Louisiana having 64 “parishes.”

Knowing the locations and names of the North Carolina counties and towns can make it easier and more interesting for those who travel extensively in the state, as I have for more than seven decades. But have you ever wondered why many of the state’s towns have the same names as some counties, but they are not in the counties with the same names?

I assume it’s because some of the state’s counties are more recent in origin and came into being when much larger areas designated as counties were subdivided to make more counties needed to accommodate growing populations. Some of the later counties were given the names of already existing towns. Some of the few original county areas and names ceased to be after other counties were formed from them.

In the state’s earliest days, several large areas or counties no longer exist or have their original names. Included among them are Archdale, Albemarle, Bath, Bute, Dobbs, Glasgow, and Tryon.

Craven came from Archdale, Bertie, Chowan, Dobbs and Orange were carved from Craven and Johnston County came from Craven County.

After I began to notice this oddity about the names, I made a list of some of them. Neither Asheville, Asheboro nor Ash is in Ashe County. Instead, Asheville is in Buncombe, Asheboro is in Randolph and Ash is in Brunswick.

Washington (locally known as “The Original Washington”) is not in Washington County, but in Beaufort, while Beaufort is not in Beaufort County but in Carteret. Caldwell is not in Caldwell County, but in Mecklenburg. Lenoir is not in Lenoir County but is the county seat of Caldwell. Graham is not in Graham County but is the county seat of Alamance.

Yanceyville is not in Yancey County, but is the county seat of Caswell. Pittsboro is not in Pitt County, but is the county seat of Chatham. Clayton is not in Clay County, but in Johnston. Hertford is not in Hertford County, but is the county seat of Perquimans. Franklin is not in Franklin County, but is the county seat of Macon.

Neither Greensboro nor Greenville is in Greene County, but Greensboro is the county seat of Guilford and Greenville is the county seat of Pitt. Waynesville is not in Wayne County, but is the county seat of Haywood. Henderson is not in Henderson County, but is the county seat of Vance, while Vanceboro is not in Vance County, but in Craven.

Neither Jackson nor Jacksonville is in Jackson County, but Jackson is in Northhampton and Jacksonville is in Onslow. Scotland Neck is not in Scotland County, but in Halifax.

Cleveland is not in Cleveland County, but in Rowan. Columbus is not in Columbus county, but in Polk. Rockingham is not in Rockingham County, but in Richmond. Macon is not in Macon County, but in Warren. Davidson is not in Davidson County or Davie County, but in Mecklenburg.

Mooresville is not in Moore County, but in Iredell. Polkton is not in Polk County, but in Anson. Rutherford College is not in Rutherford County, but in Burke. Stokes is not in Stokes County, but in Pitt. Wilsonville is not in Wilson County, but in Chatham. Warrensville is not in Warren County, but in Ashe. Gaston is not in Gaston County, but in Northampton.

Few people care about this oddity, perhaps, but it shows something of how and when our state and counties came into being and may interest some of the people who travel around the state.

England’s King Charles II rewarded his supporters, called the “Lords Proprietors,” with large land grants in the colony, which included Carolina. Later, most of these men sold their land in Carolina back to the crown, leaving John Carteret, Earl Granville, of Edenton, to retain the northern half of the state, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. Then in later years. under the rule of royal governors, and after the American Revolution, the subdivisions of some larger counties continued.

Ray Hodge is a retired Baptist pastor living in Smithfield. Reach him at