STATE NAME AND NICKNAMES
In the 1600's England established a royal colony in the New World. The colony was named for King Charles I of England. The word Carolina is from the word "Carolus", the Latin form of Charles.
When Carolina was divided in the early 1700's, the southern part was called South Carolina and the northern or older settlement was called North Carolina, or "The Old North State". The title, the Old North State, is one nickname often given to the state. A song by that title is the official state song.
North Carolina is also known as the Tar Heel State. There are several stories about how the state got this nickname. One story refers to the state's early production of naval stores, the tar and pitch from pine trees used to waterproof wooden ships. Workers cut pine trees to collect the sticky sap called pitch. Tar was drained from burning logs and saved for use of ships also. One story claims that workers got tar on their feet as they worked and were called Tar Heels. Because of the production of naval stores from pine trees, some people called North Carolina the Pine Tree State.
Another story about the origin of the nickname Tar Heels dates back to the Civil War. Supposedly, some troops from other states were driven off the battlefield during a battle, leaving the North Carolinians to fight the Yankees alone. After the battle, some passing soldiers asked, "Any more tar down in the Old North State, boys?" A quick reply followed. "No, not a bit. Old Jeff (referring to Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy) bought is all up." "Is that so? What is he going to do with it?" was asked. "He's going to put it on you-uns heels to make you stick better in the next fight." After hearing about the incident, General Robert E. Lee was said to have commented, "God bless the Tar Heel boys!" Like the tar, the nickname Tar Heels stuck after that.
(Adapted from Grandfather Tales of North Carolina by R.B. Creecy and Histories of North Carolina Regiments, Vol III, by Walter Clark)