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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions

by Johanna Miller Lewis, 2006

The Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions served as the civil, administrative, and judicial arms of North Carolina county government beginning in the Proprietary period (1663-1729). Staffed by justices of the peace and appointed by the governor, the court heard cases in which the amount of litigation was between 40 shillings and 20 pounds, as well as a variety of minor civil and criminal actions. The Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions played an important role in the daily administration of county life, as it oversaw the construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, and public buildings; the distribution of licenses for ferries, mills, and taverns; and the apportionment and collection of taxes by the sheriff. Justices also acted as an Orphans' Court for the county and supervised the settling of estates. At the close of the colonial period, the county Courts of Pleas and Quarter Sessions remained virtually intact, but the state legislature now appointed all officers of the court. Following the Civil War, the new state constitution replaced the justices of the peace with a county commissioner form of government in 1868.


Paul M. McCain, "Magistrates Courts in Early North Carolina," NCHR 48 (January 1971).

William S. Powell, North Carolina through Four Centuries (1989).

Additional Resources:

"Types of Government Records at the State Archives." State Archives of North Carolina. (accessed November 1, 2013).



Can you please tell me how can I get a copy of Charlton vs. Lindner from Inferior Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, 1773, at Winfield. It was Pasquotank County apparently.
Thank you!


Dear Gail,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and especially for taking the time to post your question.

Original county court records for North Carolina are kept by the State Archives. Here is the link to their website:  And here is a link to their services page where you will find information about ordering copies:

I hope this information helps.  Please let me know if you have additional questions or need further assistance.

Best wishes,
Kelly Agan, State Library of NC


I would like to get a copy of the "Deaths recorded Minutes of the Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions Burke Co NC 1791-1834" Abs from the Original & Anointed by Clarence A. Winters that includes William McAfee's death. Thank you.


Dear Frances,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and taking time to share your question.

I am forwarding your email address and your question to reference services at the NC Government & Heritage Library. A librarian will contact you shortly.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan


Is it possible to obtain a copy of Court of Pleas and
Quarter Sessions by Ms. Johanna Miller Lewis. Thank for your assistance .


Dear Harold,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and for taking time to share your question.

I have looked in WorldCat (an online catalog that searches the holdings of libraries around the world) and I do not see a book by Johanna Miller Lewis about the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions.  Here is the link for WorldCat if you are interested in taking a look there as well: I am also including results in WorldCat for works about the North Carolina Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions: These might be useful for you as well.

If you have seen this book and know if it has an alternate title, I would be glad to do some additional looking.

Please let me know how I can help further with this question.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan

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