A History of Goldsboro, North Carolina


Waynesborough Historical Village - Goldsboro, North Carolina

When Wayne County was formed in 1789, the town of Waynesborough developed along the banks of the Neuse River, around the county courthouse built there. In the late 1830s, the Wilmington and Raleigh (Weldon) Railroad line was built to the east of Waynesborough. At the intersection of the railroad and the New Bern Road, a hotel was built and a community began to establish itself. This community became known as Goldsborough's Junction after Major Matthew T. Goldsborough, an Assistant Chief Engineer with the railroad line. The town of Goldsborough was incorporated in 1847, and the name officially changed to Goldsboro in 1869.

The city of Goldsboro became the county seat for Wayne County in 1847 and has expanded to an area encompassing over twenty-five square miles. With a population exceeding 39,634, Goldsboro has developed largely as the transportation center for the area's agriculture industry. Goldsboro is renowned as the home of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.


After the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad line was completed, a hotel was built at the intersection of the railroad and New Bern Road. Because of the hotel, the village was made a stopping point for trains and began to establish itself as a community. This community became known as Goldsborough's Junction after Major Matthew T. Goldsborough, an Assistant Chief Engineer with the railroad line. The town of Goldsborough was incorporated in 1847. In 1856 the North Carolina Railroad connected Goldsborough to Charlotte and in 1858, the railroad was completed from Goldsborough to Beaufort, allowing connections in all four directions. By 1861, the population of Goldsborough was estimated to be 1,500 hundred people.

By the onset of the Civil War, Goldsborough was one of the most important railroad junctions in the South during the Civil War. Here the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad, which ran from Morehead City to Raleigh, intersected the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, which ran from Wilmington to Richmond. These railroads were vital to both sides during the war. Supplies arriving on blockade runners at Wilmington were shipped by rail through Goldsborough to the Confederate army in Virginia, making Goldsborough an important depot. Confederate troops were stationed here during the war, to guard the city and to be available to be sent quickly by rail where needed.

Hospitals were established for the wounded coming back from the front. Some of these troops are among the 800 Confederate soldiers buried in a mass grave at Willow Dale Cemetery. When New Bern fell in March 1862, breastworks were built eighteen blocks east of Goldsborough along Stoney Creek. Remains of these are found along Claiborne Street.

In December 1862, Union and Confederate troops fought for possession of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad Bridge. Union General John Foster marched from New Bern with 10,000 infantry, 640 cavalry and 40 artillery pieces and reached the area on the morning of December 17. The objective of Foster’s Raid was the destruction of this railroad bridge over the Neuse River, three miles south of Goldsborough. Supplies shipped by rail from the port at Wilmington had to cross this bridge on their way to the Army of Northern Virginia, making this bridge, and Goldsborough, vital links in the confederate supply chain. Foster also intended his raid to be a demonstration in favor of the Union army, which was then involved in an attack at Fredericksburg, Virginia.

The bridge was defended by a small Confederate force commanded by Generals Gustavus Smith, Thomas Clingman, and Nathan Evans. Union troops attacked from the other side of the railroad and, after pushing back the Confederates, succeeded in burning the bridge. Union troops then destroyed the railroad tracks atop the near embankment.

Late that afternoon, as Foster’s army was marching back towards New Bern, Confederate forces crossed these fields and attacked Foster’s rear guard on the other side of the railroad, but were repulsed by a heavy fire of musketry and artillery. The Confederates suffered around 150 casualties. Union losses were less than 100.

In 1865, Goldsborough was Union General Sherman’s objective on his march through the Carolinas. Three Union armies converged on Goldsborough to use the railroads for supply and to prepare for further action. These armies reached Goldsborough after the Battles of Bentonville and Wyse Forks in March of 1865. Union hospitals were established and the city was occupied for three weeks by over 100,000 Union soldiers. Some troops remained in Goldsborough after the war until early 1869. In 1869, the spelling was officially changed to Goldsboro.


Goldsborough was granted a U.S. Post Office on March 30, 1841, and its first Postmaster was Samuel A. Andrews. The name was changed to Goldsboro in 1893. It has been in continuous operation ever since inception.


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