The first documented mention of the area was in a written description from 1670 by Dr. John Lederer of the Native American trading paths in what would one day become Orange County. He described the Oenocks or Eno settlement near modern-day Hillsborough and made mention of the area that would one day become Alamance County. He wrote, "Fourteen miles West Southwest of the Oenocks dwell the Shackory Indians upon a rich Soyl, and yet abounding in antimony, of which they shewed me considerable quantities. Finding them agree with the Oenocks in Customs and Manners, I made no stay here, but passing thorow their town..."
Another documented European visit to the area was in a book by British Explorer John Lawson, who spent the first decade of the 1700's exploring the Carolinas, observing plant and animal life, and learning about the local Native American Tribes. In early 1701, he was exploring the area and detailed a cold, windy night spent near the stony banks of "the famous Hau-River, called by some the 'Reatkin'." He mentions a local tribe called the "Sissipahau who dwell on this stream". He described the land as "extraordinarily rich" with "plenty of good timber". He said that the land could hold "some thousands of families".
His closing comments about the area say it best:
"...no Man that will be content within the Bounds of Reason, can have any grounds to dislike it. And they that are otherwise, are the best Neighbours, when farthest of."
A New Voyage to Carolina by John Lawson.
The early history of the area was dominated by the Sissipahaw, who lived in the southern part of the county, along the banks of the Haw River. As the years went on, Europeans entered the region, largely following Native American trading paths that would one day become the basis of the railroad and interstate highway routes.