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The first permanent European settlement in the area started in the 1720s with English colonists.In September 1732, a community was founded on land owned by John Watson on the Cape Fear River, at the confluence of its northwest and northeast branches.The World War II battleship USS North Carolina is held as a war memorial; moored across from the downtown port area, the ship is open to public tours.Other attractions include the Cape Fear Museum, and the Wilmington Hammerheads United Soccer Leagues soccer team.City residents live between the river and the ocean, with four nearby beach communities: Fort Fisher, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, all within half-hour drives from downtown Wilmington.

At the time of European encounter, historic Native Americans were members of tribes belonging to the Algonquian family.

As the indentured servants gained their freedom and fewer could be persuaded to leave England because of improving conditions there, the colonists imported an increasing number of African slaves to satisfy the labor demand.

Many worked in the port as laborers, and some in ship-related trades.

On October 19, 1765, several hundred townspeople gathered in protest of the new law, burned an effigy of one town resident who favored the act, and toasted to "Liberty, Property, and No Stamp Duty." On October 31, another crowd gathered in a symbolic funeral of "Liberty".

But before the effigy was buried, Liberty was found to have a pulse, and celebration ensued.

At the time of European encounter, historic Native Americans were members of tribes belonging to the Algonquian family.As the indentured servants gained their freedom and fewer could be persuaded to leave England because of improving conditions there, the colonists imported an increasing number of African slaves to satisfy the labor demand.Many worked in the port as laborers, and some in ship-related trades.On October 19, 1765, several hundred townspeople gathered in protest of the new law, burned an effigy of one town resident who favored the act, and toasted to "Liberty, Property, and No Stamp Duty." On October 31, another crowd gathered in a symbolic funeral of "Liberty".But before the effigy was buried, Liberty was found to have a pulse, and celebration ensued.Naval stores and lumber fueled the region's economy, both before and after the American Revolution.