Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James P Whittenburg


The backcountry of colonial Virginia and North Carolina saw a process of urbanization during the third quarter of the eighteenth century uniquely shaped by a large-scale migration from colonies to the north, aided by the westward extension of local government. This rapid development did not lead to the creation of a hierarchical economic system of central places, but rather linear networks shaped by the geography of the region. Ironically, this phenomenon occurred in an area of two American colonies usually considered to be devoid of towns.;This dissertation is a study of twenty-eight towns established from 1744 to 1776 in the Piedmont Southside and Great Valley of Virginia and in Piedmont North Carolina. The towns are categorized by their primary function (administrative, migrant, or trade), and then analyzed individually, taking into account the circumstances of their establishment, their intended purpose, their design, and actual development.;The goal of this work is not only to provide a regional town study, but also to identify commonalities in town development, including methods of establishment, economic activities on local and regional levels, the roles of public institutions, and what factors helped determine success or failure. The interaction between towns is also explored to determine trade and communication links, any network systems, and areas of urban influence. The study is an attempt to identify and describe the growth of a significant colonial urban movement.



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