On May 9, 1777, Camden County became a separate county from Pasquotank County and was named in honor of Sir Charles Pratt, first Earl of Camden, England, as a token of gratitude because of his vigorous defense of the colonists in their complaints against the mother country. The new county was too busy with the Revolution to build a courthouse until 1782.
In 1790, General Gregory was appointed by President George Washington to be the first collector of customs for the Port of Camden or "Plank Bridge." This port of entry was on Sawyer's Creek in the Camden community and was a port of considerable maritime activity, bringing commercial benefits to the entire community. Joseph Jones made an attempt to establish a town here called Jonesboro. Wharves and warehouses dotted the banks of the creek to Murden's Landing on the Pasquotank River. However, due to the shallow creek and ships of heavier tonnage being built, the once flourishing trade vanished. The port of entry was moved to Elizabeth City in 1830.
The Dismal Swamp Canal was built in the northern end of the county between the years 1793 and 1805. Dirt removed for the Canal was thrown up to form a bed for a toll road which quickly became the route for a stagecoach line between Norfolk and Elizabeth City. Highway 17, the original Ocean Hiway, now utilizes this roadbed. Building of the Canal brought economic benefits to Camden and South Mills, where mills were erected at one of the locks. Seven men in Camden invested in the Canal Company, buying a total of 12 shares.
On April 19, 1862, a Civil War battle called the Battle of Sawyer's Lane, also known as the Battle of South Mills, was fought near South Mills. Here, Confederate troops fought Union troops attempting to blow up the Dismal Swamp Canal Locks. After a brisk battle, the Federal troops withdrew.
Further information is available from:
Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center