Crusoe Island, NC

About the Site

Crusoe Island, NC, located in the Green Swamp in Southeastern North Carolina, has been a relatively isolated community during a large portion of the last couple of centuries. Historically, the residents of Crusoe Island were farmers and hunters, though younger residents are finding jobs in the industries that have moved into Columbus County in the past several years.


As noted in Columbus County North Carolina Recollections and Records, there have been various speculations regarding the origin of the community, including:

  • that they were Europeans and Indians who intermarried and were mysteriously driven inland from the coast;
  • that they were English settlers, primarily from Southern regions of England;
  • that they were early settlers driven in from the coast by pirates;
  • that they were pirates seeking refuge from authorities following unsuccessful raids on coastal towns;
  • that they were the survivors of the Lost Colony. (Little, 1980: 299)

One historical story is that residents are the descendants of French settlers who left Haiti during the slave insurrections and settled in this area between 1790 and 1800 (Little, 1980). This history is, however, countered with other historical accounts that suggest primarily English historical roots. Crusoe residents have become associated with a unique English dialect that distinguishes it from other regional and social dialects, although there are many overlapping dialect features with regional varieties of the North Carolina Southeastern Coast.

For more information about this area's history, see:

Little, Ann Courtney Ward (ed.). 1980. Columbus County, North Carolina: Recollections and Records. Whiteville, NC: Columbus County Commissioners and Columbus County Public Library.

Research Questions

  1. to investigate the differences between the dialect of the Crusoe Islanders and that of neighboring European American residents of Robeson County;

  2. to examine the sociocultural factors that have caused Crusoe Island to maintain its sociolinguistic uniqueness;

  3. to investigate the effects on language caused by the expanded contacts of the younger Crusoe Islanders


Gantt, Amy. Selective differentiation in a peripheral dialect area. Crusoe Island, N.C. Paper given at NWAV 29, Michigan State University, Lansing, MI. Oct. 5-8, 2000.