A History of Jacksonville, North Carolina

Onslow County, North Carolina was formed in 1731 from New Hanover. It was named in honor of Arthur Onslow, who for more than thirty years was speaker of the House of Commons in the British Parliament. In the early years the county court, which also operated the government, sat at several different locations. After storms, a fire, and other calamities destroyed or damaged early court houses and homes where the court sat, a new court house was ordered built at Wantland’s Ferry. The first court was held there in July of 1757. Jacksonville was authorized as a town in 1842 to honor President Andrew Jackson. It was not until 1849 that the town was laid out where Wantland's Ferry already existed.

Agriculture and products that could be shipped along the New River were the mainstays of the economy during this time. Historical writer Bill Sharpe described the time as “the river yielded world-famous oysters and the hogs, world-famous hams." The county seemed heedless of the restless yearning of its neighbors for development.

That changed after December 15, 1940 when the decision was made to locate Camp Lejeune in Onslow County. Prior to that time, private business was conducted in the county court house because there was no other place. Former newspaper and magazine editor Billy Arthur wrote: “Agricultural income was $4 million from tobacco, corn, peanuts, and hams. The fishing industry was comparably profitable.” He described the town before Camp Lejeune as quiet and where the most profitable business was operating a restaurant that fed the ten-member Kiwanis Club.

Within a few days, the population doubled from 800, with hundreds more workers coming to the area to work on defense projects as part of the war effort. Property values escalated according to how close they were to the base of operations. The Riverview Hotel, where now the USO sits, was taken over by the Navy for the construction headquarters. The Register of Deeds office stayed open late into the night to accommodate the condemnation of land and the recording of the deeds.

Jacksonville has grown rapidly since 1941 when Camp Lejeune was established. The same qualities that drew the Marine Corps to build the “Worlds Most Complete Amphibious Base” in Onslow County were also some of the same qualities that caused the city to be formed along the New River.


Onslow Court House was granted a U.S. Post Office on January 22, 1813, and its first Postmaster was Eden Bell. The Post Office Department did not change the name to Jacksonville until August 20, 1873 because there was an earlier Jacksonville with a Post Office in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. The first Postmaster for the new Post Office in Jacksonville of Onslow County was Rufus F. Pelletier. It has been in continuous operation ever since inception.


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