Settled at the junction of the Tar and Pamlico rivers, Washington, North Carolina was once the stomping ground of the Tuscarora Indians. When the town was founded in the 1770s, it was referred to simply as "Forks of the Tar." The town served as a supply outpost during the Revolutionary War, and in 1776, its name was changed to Washington in honor of General George Washington. Thus, this coastal North Carolina town is the original Washington --the first in the nation named in honor of the president.
From the late 1700s, the town's nearness to water made it a vital trade center. At any given time, as many as 20 vessels were docked in the harbor. Washington was a source of tar, pitch, turpentine, rosin, shingles, furs, tobacco and beeswax, among other things.
By 1830, its population had significantly increased, and the harbor teemed with river trade. The residents sought more than harbor trade to occupy their time. They also wanted to keep up with the culture and politics of the day. In keeping with that pursuit, there was a Literary and Scientific Circle. Washington women also held high teas in their homes, and, surprisingly, men were often invited. The town also had a very successful rum distillery, which probably accounted for the growth of the local Temperance Society. By all accounts, Washington was a prosperous town until the Civil War.