In 1710 an expedition, funded by the English on behalf of Baron DeGraffenreid of Switzerland landed just north of the confluence of the Trent and Neuse rivers. A colony was established by the Swiss, but was rapidly taken over by the English. In 1747, New Bern, as the Swiss had named her, became the capitol of the Carolina colonies (including North and South Carolina). Governor Tryon, appointed by his majesty, the king of England, ran the colony from 1765 until 1773. While here, he had the Tryon Palace constructed. It was the most imposing structure in the town. Following the revolution, the capitol of North Carolina was moved from New Bern, eventually winding up in Raleigh.
By the end of the 18th century, the Tryon Palace was destroyed by fire, only the stables and cookhouse escaping the flames. New Bern remained a thriving town, doing much business in turpentine and lumber. Because of its ease of access both to the Atlantic and further inland its deep, safe harbor was always bustling. At the beginning of the Civil War, New Bern was seen as a strategic location by the Union. In 1862, The Battle of New Bern was waged (the battlefield lies about three miles south of the center of town). The Union took possession of the town, using our immediate neighbor’s home as a command post. Of note, was the fact that prior to the Civil War New Bern had more ‘free blacks’ than any other state in the union. Blacks in New Bern were important property owners and business people. It wasn’t until the imposition of the ‘Jim Crow’ laws in the 1870’s that discrimination and segregation took the form most of us are familiar with.