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Ghost Towns of North Carolina

North Carolina is a state rich in history and natural beauty, but it also has its share of ghost towns. Ghost towns are abandoned settlements that have been deserted by their inhabitants for various reasons, such as economic decline, natural disasters, war, or disease. 

Some ghost towns are completely forgotten, while others are preserved as historical sites or tourist attractions. 

Here are some of the most fascinating ghost towns of North Carolina.

Buffalo City:

Buffalo City was once a thriving logging town turned moonshine capital of the United States. Founded after the Civil War, it was located in the swampy area of Dare County, near the coast. Both logging and moonshine provided the income for this city, which had a population of over 3,000 people at its peak. 

However, after a successful federal raid in 1920 that shut down the illegal liquor production, Buffalo City declined rapidly. By the 1950s, it was completely abandoned and swallowed by the swamp.

Brunswick Town:

Brunswick Town was once a prosperous port city and the seat of political power for southeastern North Carolina. It was founded in 1726 and became the first royal governor’s residence in the colony. It also played an important role in the American Revolution, as a site of resistance against British taxation and oppression.

However, Brunswick Town was burned by British troops in 1776 and never rebuilt. Today, you can see the ruins of colonial buildings and a Confederate fort at the Brunswick Town Historic Site.


Cataloochee was once a flourishing settlement in the Great Smoky Mountains, with a rich history and culture. It was originally a Cherokee hunting ground, then a pioneer community that grew crops and raised livestock. It also had schools, churches, stores, and a post office.

 During the Civil War, most men left to fight and the town suffered from Union raids. After the war, Cataloochee recovered and became a successful logging town and a center of moonshine production. 

However, in the 1930s, the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park forced most residents to sell their land and move away. Today, you can visit the preserved buildings and cemeteries of Cataloochee Valley.

Diamond City

Diamond City was a fishing village on the eastern end of Shackleford Banks, an island off the coast of North Carolina. It was named for its diamond-shaped pattern of streets and houses. It had a population of about 500 people, who lived off fishing, whaling, and trading.

 However, in 1899, a devastating hurricane destroyed most of the town and killed many residents. The survivors relocated to nearby towns or islands, leaving Diamond City abandoned.

Roanoke Colony

Roanoke Colony is perhaps the most famous ghost town in North Carolina, and one of the greatest mysteries in American history. It was the first English settlement in North America, established in 1585 on Roanoke Island. 

However, after three years of hardship and conflict with the natives, the colonists decided to return to England. A second group of colonists arrived in 1587, led by John White. He left for England later that year to get more supplies and promised to return soon.

 However, due to war with Spain, he was delayed for three years. When he finally came back to Roanoke Island in 1590, he found no trace of his family or friends. The only clue was the word “Croatoan” carved on a tree. 

No one knows what happened to the lost colonists of Roanoke.

Other Ghost Towns

There are many other ghost towns in North Carolina that you can explore or learn about. Some examples are:

  • Mortimer: A logging town that was flooded by a hurricane in 1940.
  • Portsmouth: A fishing village that was abandoned due to isolation and declining population.
  • Judson: A town that was submerged under Lake Fontana when a dam was built.
  • Lost Cove: A remote mountain community that was deserted due to lack of access and economic opportunities.
  • Henry River Mill Village: A textile mill town that was used as a filming location for The Hunger Games movie.

Ghost towns are fascinating places that reveal stories of the past and offer glimpses into different ways of life. If you’re interested in history, culture, or adventure, you might want to visit some of the ghost towns of North Carolina.

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