Long before the west found its way to the east, there
existed in Agusan a thriving settlement having brisk
trade with its Asian neighbors. The extent and volume
of artifacts that have been dug around Butuan City attest
to the fact that Agusanons were trading with Chinese
merchants as early as the 11th century.
A close scrutiny of early records, reconciled with certain unalterable physical facts and geography, made local historians propose that the first Christian Mass was celebrated in Masao, presently the municipality of Magallanes, a settlement at the mouth of the Agusan river.
Agusan del Norte was formerly a part of Agusan, which was a politico-military commandancia of the Province of Surigao during the Spanish colonial administration. It was then referred to as "Manobo Country".
Agusan like other provinces of Luzon and the Visayas, also took up arms against Spain. The revolutionists were led by Lieutenant Colonels Martinez, Luis Cassion and Timoteo Calo.
The province was separated from Surigao by Act. No. 1306 which was passed by the Philippine Legislator in 1914. Frederick Johnson was appointed as the first governor of the province. In March 1922, the first provincial elections were held and Apolonio Curato was elected Provincial governor.
On June 17, 1967, Republic Act No. 4979 divided Agusan
into Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur.
Agusan's pre-Hispanic cultural history is traced back to the great influence of the Majapahit Empire through the discovery of an eight-inch tall image of a woman in pure gold at Ma-asam, Esperanza in the early 20's and molten jars unearthed at Bahbah, Prosperidad in the early 60's.
The Spaniards and their galleons dropped anchor at Masaoa (Butuan) after an apparent long and weary journey commanded by Fernao Magalliao, also known as Fernando Magallanes. Rajah Siagu expressed his noble hospitality to his new friend, Magalliao, who visited his place on Eastern Sunday, April 8, 1521. And the First Mass in Masaoa (Butuan), Agusan, and for that matter, in the Philippines, was celebrated.
Spanish troops came with the friars who at once converted the natives with the sword and the cross, the most famous of whom is Father Saturnino Urios recognized as the "Apostle of Agusan".
The revolt in Luzon had repercussions in Agusan and she took up arms against Spain. After the signing of the treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898, the Americans took over the civil government and again Agusan took arms, this time, against the American soldiers. But bolos and spears were no match to powerful guns, and in January 1890, Agusan yielded. Then followed the peaceful road toward self-government which was halted by the Japanese' treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The day of liberation came and in 1945, Agusan was very busy picking herself up for rehabilitation.
A very interesting sideline in the history of the province is her name. In the long time past, Agusan was only known as "Agusan" or "Where the water flows". In the ensuing years, the archipelago was discovered by a Portuguese navigator flying a Spanish flag. The greatest impact of this serenely winding river was when it laid itself as a highway for the penetration of the Spanish explorers. These intrepid "conquistadores" had their penchant of corrupting the native pronunciation and the place "where the water flows" or "agasan" came to be called "agusan" to the civilized world.