Greenville is the county seat of Pitt County and principal city of the Greenville, North Carolina metropolitan area. Greenville is the health, entertainment, and educational hub of North Carolina's Tidewater and Coastal Plain and in 2008 was listed as the Tenth Largest City in North Carolina. In January 2008 and January 2010, Greenville was named one of the nation's "100 Best Communities for Young People" by the America's Promise Alliance. In March 2008, Greenville was ranked in the top ten of the nation's "Best Places For Business And Careers" by Forbes Magazine. In 2010 Greenville was ranked twenty-fourth in mid-city business growth and development by Forbes Magazine. In 2004, Greenville was named Sportstown USA for the state of North Carolina by Sports Illustrated and the National Parks & Recreation Association. The city is also known as "BMX Pro Town USA", as it is home for many top professional BMX riders. The city's official population as of the 2010 United States census is 84,554 residents. The Greenville Metro Area includes 183,000 people. It is the home of East Carolina University and Pitt County Memorial Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in North Carolina and employs over 6,000 people.
Greenville was founded in 1771 as "Martinsborough," after the Royal Governor Josiah Martin. In 1774 the town was moved to its present location on the south bank of the Tar River, three miles (5 km) west of its original site. In 1786, the name was changed to Greenesville in honor of General Nathanael Greene, the American Revolutionary War hero, and later shortened to Greenville.
During Greenville's early years, the Tar River was a navigable waterway; and by the 1860s there were several established riverboat lines transporting passengers and goods. Cotton was the leading agricultural crop, and Greenville became a major cotton export center. Before the turn of the century, however, tobacco surpassed cotton and became the leading money crop. Greenville became one of the state's leading tobacco marketing and warehouse centers.