Material vestiges from the Upper Paleolithic (40,000 – 10,000 BC), specifically stone and flint tools, were discovered in the present territory of the Bistrita – Nasaud County at Mintiu and Cepari. More frequent, however, are habitation traces from the Neolithic (5th – 4th millennium BC) identified in the surroundings of the localities Bistrita, Slatinita, Archiud, Nasaud, Sintereag, Coldau, Chiochis a.s.o., where ceramic remains, stone and flint tools (axes, blades, maces) fireplaces etc. have been discovered.
The beginning of the second Iron Age (450 BC — 1st century AD) called La Tene Age, characterized by the development of crafts and trade, as well as by the assertion of the Dacian native elements in the area of the Bistrita — Nasaud County, is marked by a series of discoveries of human settlements and houses with rich inventories in Bistrita, Sanmihaiu de Campie, Archiud, Saratel, Ardan, Feleac, Arcalia a.s.o. Traces of the Roman rule were identified near the northern boundaries of Dacia, defended by the Roman forts (castra) at Ilisua, Orheiu Bistritei, Livezile a.s.o.
Following the two wars carried out by the Romans for the conquest of Dacia in 101-102 and 105-106, respectively, a part of Dacia was turned into a Roman province. According to the archaeological discoveries in this area of Transylvania, the border of the Roman Empire was running along the line Caseiu (Cluj County ) — Ilisua — Spermezeu — Zagra — Nasaud — Livezile — Orheiu Bistritei — Domnesti — Monor and Brancovenesti (Mures County), so that a good part of the territory of the present county of Bistrita — Nasaud remained outside this frontier, further belonging to the free Dacians.
The Daco — Roman, and then the Romanian population in this area dwelt here without interruption even after the withdrawal of the Roman armies and administration (in the period 271 — 275), organized in village communities and pre-state political formations that will continue to exist even after the conquest of Transylvania by the Kingdom of Hungary and after the integration on these territories of the population of German origin in the second half of the 12th century.
The period when the Romanian people appears as fully formed is illustrated by vestiges discovered in Bistrita, Archiud, Sintereag, Fantanita, Sirioara and others, where above-ground houses, indigenous ceramics, necropolises and fortresses have been identified. At the end of the 12th century, the first documentary evidence appears for some localities, such as the village Sieu-Sfantu, which is mentioned in 1172 — 1173 under the name of Villa Igalia; in the first half of the 13th century, the contemporary documents mention the existence of the Saxon district (Districtus saxonicus) with 23 settlements situated near the locality of Bistrita, and of the Romanian district, called Districtus Rodnensis or Districtus Valachorum (known later on, in the 15th century, as Vallis Valachalis or the Land of Nasaud).
The territory of the present-day county suffered major damage during the invasion of the Tatars in 1241, with the localities of Bistrita, Rodna and Beclean bearing the worst brunt of the rampage.
The locality of Bistrita, the center of gravity for the surrounding area, is for the first time mentioned in documents on July 16, 1264; it became a town (civitas) in 1349 and obtained the right to organize annual fairs in 1353. The town of Bistrita witnesses a period of great prosperity in the 15th — 18th centuries, due to intense trade with the Moldavian towns.
In the early 18th century, during the Kuruc uprising (1703-1711), the locals on the valley of Bargau joined these armed anti-Habsburg rebels, especially during the siege of the town of Bistrita (June 27, 1704), which later on brought upon them harsh penalties ruled by the Bistrita magistrate after the uprising was defeated.
A milestone in the history of the Bistrita — Nasaud County was represented by the militarization of these lands following the establishment at Nasaud, in 1762, at the order of Maria Theresa — Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, of the Romanian 2nd Border Regiment, which included 44 Romanian villages on the valleys of the rivers Somes, Bargau and Sieu. Many peasants refused to take the oath of enlistment into this regiment, but as long as the 2nd Border Regiment existed (it was disbanded in 1851), the border guards — also called the “black soldiers” — proved discipline and bravery on the battlefields of Europe, with their bold deeds reaching a pinnacle in the Battle of Arcole (November 14 to 17, 1796) in northern Italy, where many of them died a heroic death in the fights between the armies commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte and the Austrian troops led by Field Marshal Joseph Alvinczy, which ended with the victory of Napoleon.
In 1851 the imperial government in Vienna decided the disbanding of the Transylvania border regiments, including the one in Nasaud. Against the backdrop of the Romanian peasants’ determination and the major issues besetting the Habsburg Empire, the Vienna Court approved on March 24, 1861 the establishment of the Autonomous Romanian District of Nasaud, comprising the 44 border communes on the valleys of Somes, Sieu and Bargau.
During the existence of the District (1861-1876), the Romanian High School was established in Nasaud, as well as the Nasaud border funds, which promoted along with other schools and cultural associations the national sentiment, by fostering Romanian culture.
The current territory of the Bistrita — Nasaud County was many a time the scene of significant social movements, the most notable of which are the 1514 peasant uprising led by Gheorghe Doja, the 1784 — 1785 uprising led by Horea, Closca and Crisan, the June 1849 revolutionary movements, the actions towards defeating the Austro-Hungarian armies and the creation of the Romanian national unitary state (1918), the ample manifestations of protest against the Vienna Award (of August 30, 1940) organized on September 8, 1940 in Bistrita, etc.
On November 4, 1918, in a great assembly held at Bistrita, the Romanian National Council of the Bistrita — Nasaud County was established, chaired by Gavrila Tripon — a member of the memorandist movement in favor of the Romanians’ rights — and also the Romanian National Guard. The election of the 12 delegates to the Great National Assembly in Alba Iulia took place in the same atmosphere of patriotic effervescence.
The news about the Vienna Award under which Romania was obliged to relinquish to Horthyst Hungary northern Transylvania, an area of about 43,000 square kilometers, including the current territory of the Bistrita — Nasaud County, sparked a wave of indignation in the souls of the Romanians.
“We cannot believe — a newspaper of the time wrote — that this is possible! Transylvania split up in two; Hungary neighboring Moldova; the border customs office just 22 km from Brasov; Maramures, the realm where the fathers of the country once dismounted, Cluj — the young adornment of our culture; Nasaud, iconic for its border guards, thousands of purely Romanian villages, the worthiest and bravest peasant denizens of our nation being kept as of tomorrow behind a foreign border. We find this unbelievable.”
During the battles for the liberation of Transylvania, the population of the communes of Urmenis, Sopteriu, Visuia, Cosbuc and Salva supported the Romanian forces providing them with food and water. Over 1,400 soldiers and 170 officers from Nasaud participated in the liberation of Transylvania and then of Hungary, Austria and Czechoslovakia.