A History of Trenton, North Carolina

Jones County Court House - Trenton, North Carolina

The court house in New Bern was too far away when transportation was limited to the use of horses, boats, or one's own feet. In 1778, a commission was appointed to lay out the boundaries of the new Jones County, and choose a place for building the new court house, prison, and stocks. A bill was passed by the NC Legislature in 1784, which established a new town called Trenton to serve as the county seat. One hundred acres were set aside for building lots and streets. Eight men were appointed directors of the town.

Steamboats on regular schedules plied the waters between New Bern and Trenton, the county seat in Jones County. These flat-bottom vessels some sixty (60) feet in length with a narrow beam drew only eighteen (18) inches of water, and barges were used to transport people, crops, and supplies. A recent discovery in River Bend in nearby Craven County revealed the remains of a ferry which is believed to have been used to transport wagons and people across the Trent River. According to historians, the remains of this ferry, constructed of cedar wood, (on display at the Beaufort Maritime Museum) dates back one hundred fifty (150) years.


Trenton was originally known as Trent Town until 1784 when a bill was passed by the General Assembly and Trenton was established. It was later incorporated in 1874.

The town of Trenton is nestled between the banks of the Trent River and Brock millpond and retains a lifestyle of country calmness as depicted in a poem written for it. It was settled about 1713-14 chiefly by German Palatines, French Huguenots, and Swiss pioneers who migrated up the river. It became the county seat of Jones County in 1779 and a small brick court house was built which was burned during the Civil War by northern troops. It was replaced with a wooden court house in 1868, which was again lost by fire and rebuilt, being completed in 1939 (as a WPA project) and is still used by the court system and many county offices.

Its early history until the 1920s was that of a riverport town which shipped farm commodities, lumber, and naval stores (tar, pitch, and resin) by steamboats as they plied their way up and down the Trent River to New Bern. There were mile markers along the way, numbering a total of 38. During colonial America and until the 1850s, a direct stagecoach line went through Trenton to Wilmington from New Bern and one from Trenton to Kinston northward. A cemetery was started in 1811. A corner of the cemetery is where the first town hall and "free" house was located which is where town and community meetings and church services were held.

Many churches were built in Trenton at the turn of the century, and many of these exist today. A dam was built prior to the American Revolution and it powered a sawmill and cotton gin during the earlier years and beginning in 1917, it provided the town with electric power. The present gristmill was built in 1944. It ceased operation in 1964. This dam was damaged during the Hurricane Floyd flood of 1999 and plans to have it restored in the near future to its prior beauty have been made.

The Bank of Jones was built in 1908. A jail was built in 1867, which still stands, however, the jail facility was moved into the lower portion of the court house in 1939. In 1941, a fire destroyed most of the southern business block, and trucks from New Bern and Kinston responded and helped save the remaining buildings along the block. A sewer line was laid in the early 1920s which emptied directly into Trent River until 1979 when a treatment plant was constructed. A central county water system became operational in 1977. A public library was built in 1974. Natural gas became available in 2004.

Trenton was nominated as a Historic District in 1974 and subsequently placed in the National Register of Historic Place


As Trenton Court House, the town was granted a US Post Office on January 9, 1799, and its first Postmaster was Mr. William Neill. It has been in continuous operation ever since.


© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved