This is a big question Ms. Ambrose. Let's start with a little geography.
The area that is now Lenoir county was formed in 1791 (along with Glasgow county) from Dobbs county. Dobbs, in turn, was formed in 1758 from Johnson county. Johnson was formed in 1746 from Craven, which was formed from Bath around 1705. Pre-1705, Bath and Albemarle were the only two "counties" (technically Districts) in what became North Carolina.
Given all this, listing the earliest settlers becomes a little problematic, since most records (at least those online) only reference the county/district of residence. From what I've read, many early NC residents came directly from Europe, while I've also found that there were "immigrants" from Virginia (where the rules of primogeniture made only first sons the landed heir). Oddly, some of the references to N. Carolinians written by visiting Virginians painted their southern cousins as lazy, shiftless, and slow, but that's Virginians for you.
I'd recommend a look a the early (1790, 1900) census records for surnames.