A History of North Carolina In the Proprietary Era, 1629-1729

by Lindley S. Butler

Recipient of the 2022 North Caroliniana Society Book Award

The North Caroliniana Society established the North Caroliniana Book Award in 2003 to recognize annually “the book that captures the essence of North Carolina by contributing powerfully to an understanding of the state.” Authors are eligible regardless of residency. However, neither authors nor publishers submit books; instead, a committee privately surveys all books published during the year and chooses the volume that it believes “makes a positive contribution and appears to have the best chance of standing the test of time as a classic volume of North Caroliniana.”

~ May 2023

On May 25, 2023, the 2022 North Caroliniana Society Book Award was presented to T. Butler, the widow of Lindley S. Butler, author of A History of North Carolina in the Proprietary Era, 1629-1729, during the Annual Membership Meeting and Awards Banquet held in Chapel Hill, NC at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center.

More information about the Annual Membership Meeting and Awards Banquet, including award recipients, can be found in Number 63 of the North Caroliniana Society Imprints, titled An Oboe Memoir by Martin Brinkley.

A video of the day’s festivities will be available on the Society’s website.


In this book, Lindley S. Butler traverses oft-noted but little understood events in the political and social establishment of the Carolina colony. In the wake of the English Civil Wars in the mid-seventeenth century, King Charles II granted charters to eight Lords Proprietors to establish civil structures, levy duties and taxes, and develop a vast tract of land along the southeastern Atlantic coast. Butler argues that unlike the New England theocracies and Chesapeake plantocracy, the isolated colonial settlements of the Albemarle—the cradle of today’s North Carolina—saw their power originate neither in the authority of the church nor in wealth extracted through slave labor, but rather in institutions that emphasized political, legal, and religious freedom for white male landholders. Despite this distinct pattern of economic, legal, and religious development, however, the colony could not avoid conflict among the diverse assemblage of Indigenous, European, and African people living there, all of whom contributed to the future of the state and nation that took shape in subsequent years.

Butler provides the first comprehensive history of the proprietary era in North Carolina since the nineteenth century, offering a substantial and accessible reappraisal of this key historical period.

Lindley S. Butler

Born June 15, 1939 in Leaksville, now Eden, NC, Lindley knew from an early age that he wanted to be a historian. He studied North Carolina history at UNC ,earning his PhD under Hugh Lefler and going on to publish numerous books and articles about the state. His explorations and advocacy for the history and culture of his home Rockingham County led to preservation of the Wright Tavern, archaeological excavations along the Dan River and at his beloved home of 51 years, North Fork Farm, and the founding of the Museum and Archives of Rockingham County (MARC), among countless other contributions.

Lindley was a devoted and inspiring teacher, reaching thousands of students over nearly 30 years as Historian-in-Residence at Rockingham Community College. His teaching was infectious, as he brought history to life and made it relevant today. His teaching career began as an intern at High Point High School where he met his future wife, Lelia T Clinard, as a student in his class. He waited patiently for her to graduate from college, and they were married March 5, 1966, the beginning of a beautiful 56 years of marriage.  Through her, he became a convinced member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). T and Lindley were founding members of the Rockingham County Friends Meeting where they worshiped and built community for more than 50 years.

Lindley’s love of water began in his boyhood, spent on the banks of the Dan River where he navigated up and down the waterway in his homemade kayak. He served as Scoutmaster for his sons’ troop and earned the Distinguished Eagle Scout award. As historian for the recovery of Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revnge shipwreck, he fulfilled a longtime dream of diving on a historic shipwreck off the North Carolina coast. He and T co-founded the Dan River Basin Associaiton (DRBA), a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the watershed’s  natural and cultural resources in North Caroiina and Virginia, which has established numerous parks, trails, and river accesses. He was instrumental in advocating for and establishing the Mayo River State Park, a crowning achievement in preservation and the impetus for his induction into the Order of the Longleaf Pine in 2021by Governor Roy Cooper.