The condensed version:
The Catawba Native Americans settled Mecklenburg County (present day Charlotte area). By 1759 half the Catawba tribe had been killed by smallpox. At the time of their largest population, Catawba people numbered 10,000, but by 1826 that number dropped to 110.
Mecklenburg County was initially part of Bath County (1696 to 1729) of New Hanover Precinct, which became New Hanover County in 1729. The western portion of New Hanover split into Bladen County in 1734, its western portion splitting into Anson County in 1750. Mecklenburg County formed from Anson County in 1762, with further apportionment in 1792, with Cabarrus County formed from Mecklenburg, and in 1842, with Union County formed from Mecklenburg’s southeastern portion. These areas were all part of one of the original six judicial/military districts of North Carolina known as the Salisbury District.
The area that is now Charlotte was settled by people of European descent around 1755, when Thomas Spratt and his family settled near what is now the Elizabeth neighborhood. Thomas Polk (granduncle of U.S. President James K. Polk), who later married Thomas Spratt’s daughter, built his house by the intersection of two Native American trading paths between the Yadkinand Catawba rivers. One path ran north–south and was part of the Great Wagon Road; the second path ran east–west along what is now Trade Street.
Nicknamed the Queen City, like its county a few years earlier, Charlotte was named in honor of German princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who had become the Queen Consort of Great Britain and Ireland in 1761, just seven years before the town’s incorporation. A second nickname derives from the American Revolutionary War, when British commander General Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis occupied the city but was driven out by hostile residents, prompting him to write that Charlotte was “a hornet’s nest of rebellion”, leading to the nickname The Hornet’s Nest.
Within decades of Polk’s settling, the area grew to become “Charlotte Town,” incorporating in 1768. The crossroads, perched atop the Piedmont landscape, became the heart of Uptown Charlotte. In 1770, surveyors marked the streets in a grid pattern for future development. The east–west trading path became Trade Street, and the Great Wagon Road became Tryon Street, in honor of William Tryon, a royal governor of colonial North Carolina. The intersection of Trade and Tryon—commonly known today as “Trade & Tryon,” or simply “The Square”—is more properly called “Independence Square”.
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While surveying the boundary between the Carolinas in 1772, William Moultrie stopped in Charlotte Town, whose five or six houses were “very ordinary built of logs”.
In 1775, local leaders came together and signed the Mecklenburg Resolves, more popularly known as the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. While not a true declaration of independence from British rule, it is among the first such declarations that eventually led to the American Revolution. May 20, the traditional date of the signing of the declaration, is celebrated annually in Charlotte as “MecDec,” with musket and cannon fire by reenactors in Independence Square. North Carolina’s state flag and state seal also bear the date.