Early in the history of North Carolina there were very few people living in the interior of the colony. Counties that bordered the western part of the colony tended to extend very far to the west, and then got broken up into new counties only as population increased in the interior.
But formation of new counties was always slow as it disrupted the political balance. And in the mid 18th century the eastern part of the state controlled the colonial assembly.
In 1729 the British Crown took over the government of what is now North Carolina from the Lord’s proprietors, as well as purchased most of the land rights (the Cataret family the only one refusing to sell). Thus North Carolina became a royal colony. As a royal colony it was ruled by an appointed royal governor, and a two house assembly (house of commons and house of Lords) based primarily on county representation.
The relationship between the crown-appointed governor and the county and city elected assemblies was never exactly figured out. and over the next fifty years the assembly and crown-appointed governors jockeyed for power and influence. The conflict between the British interests and the local colonial interests was always present. Politics, in the negative sense, was always at work. Sometimes the governor seemed to control the assembly, sometimes the assembly seemed to have more influence. Of course, politics impacted the formation of new county structures, which of course themselves impacted the nature of the colonial assembly. Early on, most of the counties were in the east, with only a few western counties which were themselves very large in area.
The land in what we now call GuilfordCounty was once part of OrangeCounty a huge county then with its seat in Hillsborough. As people settled in the area of what is now the upper piedmont, they had to travel all the way to Hillsborough to handle legal matters, such as property deeds, payment of taxes, marriage licenses, wills, as well as trials and grievances.
There was much corruption in the system, with outlandish fees being charged for almost every kind of service, and local agents profiting nicely. Discontentedness against the corruption rose, and those who wanted to handle, or regulate, their own affairs turned into a movement known as ‘The Regulator Movement.” When taxes were raised to build a new residence for Royal Governor Tryon in New Bern, things got serious indeed as the Regulators protested, kicked judges out of courtrooms, and reportedly threatened New Bern itself. This of course greatly displeased Governor Tryon who marched a militia into the heart of Regulator country and roundly defeated the Regulators at the Battle of Alamance Creek in present Alamance county in May of 1771.
Already introduced before the Battle of Alamance Creek, but not passed until afterward, was legislation to establish several new counties in the interior, one of which was Guilford. It seems that both the Regulators and the royal officials thought that the formation of the new county would work to help their respective own interests.
At that time GuilfordCounty consisted of what is now Guilford, Rockingham and RandolphCounties. Guilford County was named for Francis North, the earl of Guilford (England), a friend of the new king, King George III, and whose son who was the prime minister of Great Britain.
In 1774 the county commissioners of GuilfordCounty recommended locating the site of the new county seat at a site within our present day Guilford Courthouse National Military park, allocated funds for the building of a log courthouse, which was thereafter known as Guilford Courthouse.
In 1779 the general assembly of North Carolina created present day Randolph County from the bottom third of Old Guilford County, and in 1785 created present day Rockingham County from the top third of Old Guilford County. Thus the present day boundaries of GuilfordCounty were established by 1785.