History

Craven County and its capital, New Bern, were founded in the early 1700s by Swiss immigrants, who named their settlement after Bern, the capital of Switzerland. New Bern was the original capital of North Carolina. In 1774, it became the location of the first Provincial Congress in the colonies, a move that was in direct defiance to British orders.

The inaugural Provincial Congress met at Tryon Palace, a government mansion built in 1767. A replica of the original building, which burned down in 1798, is now home to the renowned North Carolina History Center. The entire facility has seven buildings, three galleries and 14 acres of gardens, with plants designed to depict three centuries of landscaping techniques.

Craven County also played an important role in the Civil War. New Bern was one of the largest cities in North Carolina at the time, with a railroad line that was a key supply route for Confederate forces. In March of 1862, Union forces attacked New Bern and eventually gained control of the city. It remained a Union enclave and a safe haven for escaped slaves for the remainder of the war.

Craven County’s historical prominence continued with the construction of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. Congress authorized MCAS Cherry Point on July 9, 1941, with an initial appropriation of $14,990,000 for construction and the clearing of an 8,000 acre (32 km²) tract of swamps, farms and timberland.

Actual clearing of the site began on August 6, 1941, with extensive drainage and malaria control work. Construction began in November, just 17 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Cherry Point’s primary World War II mission was to train units and individual Marines for service to the Pacific theater. The air station also served as a base for anti-submarine operations, with an Army Air Corps (22nd Anti-submarine Squadron) and later a Navy squadron each being responsible for the sinking of a German U-boat just off the North Carolina coast during 1943.

Cherry Point’s deployments to the Korean War, Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom provided much needed support. The air station and its associated support locations occupy more than 29,000 acres. Its runway system is large enough that the air station served as an alternate emergency landing site for the Space Shuttle launches out of Cape Canaveral, Florida.