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N.C. Highway Historical Marker Honors Colonial Mapmaker

One of many surveys by William Churton.

There were few clear borders in North Carolina when William Churton arrived in 1748. Assigned to the Granville Land Office in Edenton, the cartographer and surveyor, along with lawyer Daniel Weldon, established a border between North Carolina and Virginia. Churton went on to establish borders for several North Carolina communities and will be honored with the dedication of a North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Nov. 4, 10 a.m., in Hillsborough.

Churton surveyed the 98,451-acre tract for the Moravians that became known as Wachovia, after exploring lands west of the Blue Ridge with Bishop August Gottleib Spangenburg and other Moravians.  The difficult topography and harsh weather led them to select a new location in the present Forsyth County.

Churton and another Granville agent were appointed trustees for 635 acres in 1753 that led to the establishment of Salisbury. The following year he was appointed trustee for 663 acres that led to the establishment of the Hillsborough. Initially called Corbin Town, the community was renamed Childsburgh and took the name Hillsborough in 1766. Churton became the public register for Orange County and a town commissioner for Childsburgh, and also represented Orange County in the General Assembly. He was appointed county surveyor and justice of the peace in 1757.

With the death of the Earl of Granville in 1763 and the closing of the land office, Churton’s responsibilities for the district ended. He completed a map of North Carolina in 1766 based on his own surveys and maps from other sources. Gov. William Tryon urged Churton to do an in-depth survey of the coast that he started in 1767. He died in December that year before he could complete the project. Gov. Tryon assigned its completion to others.

Churton played a significant role in creating the maps used by early explorers and settlers in the North Carolina colony. He was a key figure in development of the colony and charting its boundaries.

The N.C. Highway Historical Marker will be unveiled on the east side of Churton Street just south of downtown Hillsborough before the Eno River bridge.

For additional information, please contact Ansley Wegner, (919) 807-7290. The Highway Marker Program is a collaboration between the N.C. Departments of Transportation and Natural and Cultural Resources.

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