Organize Your Home Search!
Save Your Favorites! Get Email Updates!
Elizabeth City is located at the narrows of the Pasquotank River. The area that would become Elizabeth City soon served as a trading site, and as early as the mid 18th century, inspection stations and ferries were established. With the addition of minor roads, a schoolhouse, and soon a church, a small community was established at these narrows. In 1793, construction of the Dismal Swamp Canal, which would drive Elizabeth City's commerce, began. The name "Elizabeth" has been variously attributed to honor either Queen Elizabeth 1 of England, who 200 years earlier spearheaded the colonization of the Carolina and Virginia coasts, or Elizabeth "Betsy" Tooley, a local tavern proprietress who donated much of the land for the new town. The improvements made to the Dismal Swamp Canal made Elizabeth City a financial center of trade and commercially successful for the early 19th century. In 1826, the federal government purchased 600 stocks in the canal and, in 1829 additional funds for improvements were raised by the Norfolk lottery. With these funds, the Dismal Swamp Canal was widened and deepened, allowing for larger boats to ship their goods. During the American Civil War the Confederate States had a small fleet stationed at Elizabeth City. After the Battle of Roanoke Island the Union forces sent a fleet to take Elizabeth City. There was a small skirmish that followed which ended in a Union victory. Elizabeth City was under Union control for the remainder of the war though confederate irregulars engaged in Guerrilla warfare with Union forces in the area for the remainder of the war.
Meanwhile overland travel slowly improved and furnished greater trade between neighboring counties. However, the completion of competing canals and railroads around Elizabeth City diverted some of its financial success to neighborhing cities. The Portsmouth and Weldon Railroad, completed in the 1830's allowed for goods to be transported from the Roanoke River to be direcly transported to Weldon, and the Albemarle-Chesapeake Canal, completed in 1859, created a deeper channel for merchants shipping goods from the Eastern Albemarle Sound to Norfolk. It would not be until 1881 that the Elizabeth City and Norfolk Railroad, later renamed the Norfolk Southern Railway, would once again jumpstart the city's industry.
Industry grew further during World War 11, particularly in shipbuilding, tapering off over the following decades as industry withdrew to form the service, government and agriculture-dominate economic sectors present today.