Southport was founded as the town of Smithville in 1792. Joshua Potts had requested the formation of a town adjacent to Fort Johnston, and the North Carolina General Assembly formed a commission of five men to administer its founding. The town was named after a colonel in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and later governor of North Carolina. Smithville grew as a fishing village and through supporting military activity. Smithville was the county seat of Brunswick County from 1808 to 1977. In an effort to promote the town as a major shipping port, Smithville was renamed Southport in 1887.Smithville Township, in which Southport lies, and other local landmarks, such as the cemetery, retain the Smithville name. The renaming to Southport did not achieve its goal of making the town a major shipping port. Instead Southport became known for its relaxed atmosphere and Victorian era seaside charm.
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