Wayne County Court House - Goldsboro, North Carolina
The Act establishing Wayne County provided that the first court should be held at the home of Josiah Sasser at which time the justices were to decide on a place for all subsequent courts until a court house could be erected. By 1782, the commissioners were named. In 1787, an Act was passed establishing Waynesborough on the west side of the Neuse River on the land of Andrew Bass, "where the court house now stands." In 1845 and again in 1847, Acts were passed moving the court house from Waynesborough to Goldsboro provided the people voted for the same. Goldsboro has since been the county seat.
Created during the American Revolutionary War, Wayne County was named after Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, a Patriot officer from Pennsylvania who led a successful attack on British positions at Stony Point, New York on July 16, 1779. In this critical engagement, Major Hardy Murfree led two companies of the North Carolina Continental Line along with more than 1,200 other soldiers under Brigadier General Anthony Wayne in taking this British post.
The establishment of Wayne County in 1779 was by virtue of an Act of the General Assembly held at Halifax during the administration of Richard Caswell, the first governor of the State of North Carolina. This Act provided that Dobbs County (named after Royal Governor Arthur Dobbs) should be divided by a line run through the middle part, from north to south, and that the western half should be called Wayne county in honor of Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, a distinguished officer in the Continental Army, and that the first session of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions should be held on the second Monday of January, 1780, at the home of Josiah Sasser on Little River. Commissioners were appointed by said act to select a site and have built a court house, prison and stocks.
It may not be amiss to trace the descent of Wayne. As I have stated, it is the western half of Dobbs County. Dobbs County was formed from Johnston County by an Act of the colonial General Assembly of 1758, and included the territory later embraced in Wayne, Greene and Lenoir counties, all of which is described in the act of the General Assembly as St. Patrick's Parish. The court house, jail and stocks of Dobbs County were, in 1779, located about 12 miles from Goldsboro, near Bizzell's mill, in what is now known as New Hope township, in the new Wayne County.
After the creation of Wayne County, the courts of Dobbs County were directed to be held at the house lately occupied by Col. James Glasgow, in the town of Kinston. I have talked with some of our eldest citizens, who remember to have seen the ruins of the Dobbs County jail near the mill.
Johnson County, named after Gabriel Johnson, perhaps the best of our Royal Governors, was founded in 1746 of the upper half of Craven County, which was in 1722 one of the nine precincts which were changed in 1735 to counties. Craven was one of the three precincts of Bath County. All of these precincts were embraced in the item of Charles II to his favorites, who were known as the Lords Proprietors, and embraced a territory much wider than the North Carolina of today, and extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. So that Wayne County may claim Royal descent, if she wishes it.
A short account of the conditions in 1779, and prior thereto, may enable us to better appreciate the difficulties and advantages existing at the time of the establishment of the county.
Prior to 1730, the only occupants of the territory now known as Wayne County were Indians and wild animals. At that time the population of the entire state was only 36,000. About that year settlers gradually began to come in, but there was no general movement of immigration before 1750. Among the earliest settlers were the Quaker families, the Edgertons, Hollowells, Pikes, Pearsons, Deans, Coxes and others. At the time of the establishment of the new county, the population was about 5,000, one-fifth of whom were slaves.
In 1790, according to the first census of the United States, there were 4,576 whites, and 1,557 slaves, some of whom were probably Indians, or of Indian descent, it having been customary to hold Indians captured in war as slaves, which may account for the characteristic Indian features and color frequently observed in the descendants of former slaves. The names of the heads of families are for the most part those best known to this generation.
The largest slave owner was Joseph Green, who had 70. The Whitfields, Needham, William, William, Jr., and Lewis owned about 30 each; Alex Bass, Jr., 24; Edward Bass, 10; Richard Bass, 28; Charles Holmes, 16; and Jernigan, 26; Stephen Jernigan 24; Richard McKinnie, 16; Mary McKinnie, 16; John Adkinson, 10; William Rhodes, 15; Elisha Pipkin, 14; David Cogdell, 21; Thomas Carraway, 12; James Tinsley, 10; Burwell Mooring, 9; Ishum L. Lane, 6; William Howell, Sr., 13; James Hanley, 8; Etheldred Howell, 10; William Sherrard, 24; James Edmundson, 19; William Fort, 10; John Sherrad, 16; John Minshew, 10; Isaac Woodard, 19; Ephram Daniel, 11; Jessie Aicock, 3; Shadrick Dickinson; 14, Bridgett Cobb, 15, James Cobb, 14; Nathan Cobb, 21; John Barefoot, 25; William Hooks, 14; Charles Hopkins, 10; John Herron, Sr., 20; Sarah Ward, 17; Sarah Pope, 16; John Hanley, 11; William Alford, 11; Robert Hooks, 14; John Coorpender, 11; Moses Stanley, 12; and Ezekial Slocumb(an officer in the Continental army), 1.
In the foregoing list may be found the names of many of our citizens of today. There were many other slave owners whose descendants still live among us who owned from one to twelve slaves, but the majority of our citizens were never slave-holders. The principal business of the country was hog and cattle raising, and the principal crop was corn, though a small quantity of cotton and tobacco was grown and the turpentine industry was beginning. A great epidemic in 1760 destroyed seven-eighths of the cattle of the province. The cleared areas were small, except in a few instances. The oldest clearing in the county, and probably at the time the largest, was the farm of Josiah Sasser, upon which the first court was held, which is now owned by Messrs. I. F. Ormond and E. B. Borden, and which has been, according to well established tradition, in continuous cultivation since 1775, and probably prior to that date.
There were few roads and travel was usually by neighborhood paths on horseback. Practically all the houses were built of logs. An order in Executive Council, March 31, 1726, provides that For the saving of lands for the future, every house shall be fifteen foot long, ten Broad, made tight and habitable of clapboard and loggs squared, with roof and chimney place and a Door place. The whole acre cleared well and the major part of it broke up and planted with either fruite trees or grain. In the towns, purchasers of lots were required to build houses 16 by 24 feet. Lumber was generally sawed by hand and was scarce and expensive. There were few saw mills and North Carolina produced only about 150,000 feet of lumber a year prior to 1750, and probably twice as much in 1779. In the older settled regions along the Cape Fear, Neuse and Chowan rivers, a number of large and elegant mansions had been built and there was a degree of wealth and luxury enjoyed there which presented to the traveler a striking contrast to the humble homes and frugal lives of the people of this section. In 1730, there were only two water mills in the colony, and grain was generally ground in hand mills even to a much later date.
Clothing, shoes, and hats were made at home, home grown cotton, wool, leather and the skins and fur of wild animals being utilized for the purpose.
I note that an item of North Carolina Export Trade in 1753 was 30,000 deer skins. In 1784, 71 bags of cotton weighing 225 pounds each were exported to England from Charlestown, there being no export of cotton from any other port, and seized by the English Government on the ground that the United States could not produce so much.
A traveler, writing just before the American Revolution, says: There is but little specie in circulation, there being no occasion for it; for a planter raises his own meats, beef and bacon, his own corn and bread, his drinks, cyder and brandy, his fruit, apples, peaches, etc., and a great part of his clothing, which is cotton.
The cotton gin had a late introduction in this county; and before its advent, cotton was picked by hand from the seed around the fireside at night, and a shoe full was the task for each member of the family from supper until bed time. My friend, Capt. J. B. Edgerton, informs me that he engaged in this pleasant past-time as late as 1845, and that growers of cotton in the middle of the 40's hauled their cotton to Fayetteville to be ginned. He remembers quite vividly, that, as a boy, he accompanied his father's wagons on this long journey. Some plantation gins operated by hand were in use. The card, the spinning wheel and the loom were necessities in every well regulated house, and of the matron of that day it might have been written as Solomon wrote in praise of the good wife:
She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
She layeth her hands to the spindle and the distaff.
She looketh well unto the ways of her household and eateth not the bread of idleness.
From early times until the railroads began operation, the transportation of our products was so primitive as to excite the amused interest of the people of this age, so familiar with railroads, steam boats and automobiles, and soon to be equally familiar with air craft of various sorts.
Our ancestors rolled their barrels of turpentine on the rough ground by hand until they reached a water course of sufficient volume to raft it to New Bern. They carried their tobacco all the way to Petersburg, Va. revolving over bad roads, drawn by horses harnessed to axles skilfully placed in the ends of the stout hogsheads containing the precious weed.
The surplus hogs were made to transport themselves to the markets of Fayetteville and Petersburg. Council Best, father of George W. Best, and other large farmers of his time and before him, frequently drove 1,000 to 1,500 head of hogs along the county roads from their homes to these marts of trade.
The late Probert B. Scott among others was so successful in raising corn and hogs that he accumulated a good estate and left each of his children a valuable plantation.
In 1790, there were only four post offices in the StateEdenton, New Bern, Wilmington, and Washington,and up to 1759 no post routes. Letters were carried by travelers from plantation to plantation and forwarded as promptly as practicable, but the means of communication were inadequate and unsatisfactory. Official mail was carried by messengers or special carriers on horseback and at great expense. In 1755, upon the recommendation of Governor Arthur Dobbs, James Davis, Printer, was employed for the sum of one hundred pounds, six shillings and eight pence, proclamation money, for one year, To carry all public letters, expresses and dispatches relating to this province to any part thereof, and every fifteen days send a messenger to Suffolk, in Virginia, and to Wilmington.
There were four or five newspapers published in North Carolina at the beginning of the American Revolution, at New Bern, Wilmington, Halifax, Edenton, and Hillsborough. The publication of the North Carolina Gazette was begun in New Bern by James Davis about 1751 or 1752. It contained according to its announcement The freshest advices, foreign and domestic, and was published weekly. To James Davis belongs the honor of having set up the first printing press in North Carolina in the year 1749, and of having printed the first book in 1751, a Revisal of the Acts of the General Assembly, known as the Yellow Jacket. He was appointed postmaster at New Bern by another famous printer whose name was Benjamin Franklin. James Davis was a Virginian by birth and the ancestor of Mrs. Thomas W. Slocumb, Col. Adam C. Davis and Jefferson Davis, Esq., of Goldsboro, and James Davis, deceased, of Wayne County. Among his descendants living in other communities, I have known James W. and Thomas C. Davis and their sister, Mrs. James Murray of Wilson. All of these have exhibited the high character, fine intelligence and public and private worth, which characterized the first Editor and Newspaper and Law Publisher of the State.
The publication of these newspapers was frequently interrupted and resumed from time to time as great events stirred the minds of the people. Their intermittent appearances seem the result of scarcity of subscribers, who could read them, and the small and scattered character of the settlements.
The settlers of North Carolina were in large part as illiterate as the barons, who wrested the Magna-Carta from King John and could not read it, nor sign their names to that immortal instrument which they adorned with their seals. It is probable that at the time of the American Revolution not one in thirty of the white citizens of the colony above the age of twenty-one could read or write; as late as 1850 only one in seven could boast of those accomplishments.
There were no public schools, though as early as 1746, John Starkey, a minister of the established Church of England, introduced and procured the enactment by the colonial General Assembly of a bill making an appropriation of 6,000 pounds for the establishment of free schools, but the money was spent for other purposes.
Another appropriation of the same amount was made in 1754, but met the veto of England.
At the time of the establishment of Wayne County, there were, so far as our records show, only two schools in this state where there was any semblance of public education. The charters of the Academies of New Bern and Edenton each provided that free tuition should be given to ten poor children. Not until 1839 was there any Act of the General Assembly creating a public school system, and no poll or property tax was levied for the support of the schools until after 1850. It was provided that they should be sustained out of what was called the Literary Fund, consisting of the proceeds of the Swamp Lands, dividends upon the stocks of certain corporations held by the state, and the license tax on retailers, tavern keepers and auctioneers, all of which for the year 1850 amounted to less than $125,000. After careful examination of our histories and records, I am able to find no evidence that any school existed in Johnston, Dobbs, or Wayne counties prior to 1790, or that any was taught in Wayne County until after the passage of the Act of 1839, under which the public school system began.
Royal Governor Josiah Martin wrote in 1775 Literature was hardly known; there were in the province but two schools, those at New Bern and Edenton, but as to the latter part of this statement he was evidently in error.
It is probable that some of the more prosperous citizens employed teachers in their families, who taught their children, and sometimes the children of equally fortunate neighbors, and it is probable that now and then a boy was sent to school at New Bern, Edenton, Wilmington, or in Virginia, where there were academies and even schools of high degree, as there were also in Guilford, Granville, Bertie, Rowan, and Mecklenburg, but such education was for a limited number, and was completely out of the reach of the great masses of people.
The establishment of schools had been rendered difficult by the policy of the English Government.
Royal Governor George Burrington was instructed in 1731 that no school master should be permitted to come from England to North Carolina to teach school without the license of the bishop of London, and this instruction was given to all subsequent Governors by the Crown.
In 1771, an Act was passed by the colonial General Assembly to charter Queens College in Charlottetown, but was vetoed on the ground That this college, if allowed to be incorporated, will in effect operate as a Seminary for the education and instruction of youth in the principles of the Presbyterian church, and the Board of Trade doubted whether the King should give that encouragement to the Presbyterians of North Carolina. The same policy embraced Quakers, Baptists, and Methodists and had a depressing effect upon all efforts for the establishment of schools and colleges. The remoteness of the people from cities, their ignorance, their poverty and indifference, co-operated with this selfish and unwise purpose. The Presbyterians of the west, more than any other denomination, resented this treatment, and, in spite of the displeasure of governors and kings, built and maintained schools and colleges, and prepared their people for the great struggle soon to come for equality and independence.
At the time of which I speak, the influence of that other great factor in the upbuilding of mind and character was feebly exerted. There were but few preachers of the Gospel, few churches, and the Sunday schools, like the free schools, had not arrived. The attempt to force on the people of the province the established Church of England was resented and its ministers were to be found only in the towns along the rivers.
In 1764, there were six ministers of this church, and in 1776, 18 in the eastern and northern counties.
William Edmundson, a Quaker, preached the first sermon ever heard in North Carolina. Quarterly and Monthly meetings were held in Johnston and Dobbs counties by the Quakers prior to the American Revolution, at which time they numbered 1,000 in this state.
The Baptists came early to the state; the first churches organized were Shiloh and Meherrin, and the next Kehuka Creek in 1742. Soon their ministers began to preach in this county, and by 1776 had established churches in every county in the state.
The Methodist church began in North Carolina with the ministry of Joseph Pilmon in 1772. In 1777, John King, John Dickens, and Edward Pride were assigned to the circuit of North Carolina, and at the end of the year reported to the conference in the bounds of their circuit 930 members. It is probable that some of these preached in this county, but I am unable to find any record of it.
In 1790, the Contentenea Circuit was formed of Greene, Pitt, Craven, Lenoir, and Wayne counties, the ministers preaching mostly in private houses. The earliest Methodist preacher in the county, of whom I have been able to learn, was Phillip Hooks, who was a local preacher at Waynesboro in the early part of the 19th century.
About 1830, there was built in Waynesboro a church which was used by all denominations.
A striking illustration of the conditions existing at the time is found in the fact that when Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a Presbyterian minister and professor in the State University, on his travels through the state in 1827, spent Sunday in Waynesboro, he writes that on that day he collected a little congregation, and held forth to them at the Tavern.
Most sections of the country were destitute of religious instruction, and at this time none of the fine and up-lifting influences emanating from the churches had been present long enough to have much effect upon the inhabitants of the county. The people, however, were of English stock with all the virtues and vices of that great race, with its glorious history behind them and the promise of a splendid future in this new land before them; with stout hearts and sound heads, with resources unknown elsewhere, many of which they themselves did not dream of; and here they set out to conquer the forests, till the soil and build homes for generations yet to come.
An unfriendly writer (Chalmers) says of them that they were destitute of the kindly influences of religion and of lawand during the year 1749, North Carolina was found to be little better than an asylum for fugitivessuch are the unpleasant incidents which occupy the story of an inconsiderable settlement that gradually filled with people as the law afforded protection to the vagabond, as everyone lived without control and all enjoyed in security what a trivial labor had gained. On the other hand the impartial historian, Bancroft, writes of them: They were men who had been led to the choice of their residence from a hatred of restraint and had lost themselves among the woods in search of independence. Are there any who doubt man's capacity for self-government, let them study the history of North Carolina, its inhabitants were restless and turbulent in their imperfect submission to a government imposed on them from abroad. The administration of the colony was firm, humane and tranquil, when they were left to take care of themselves. Any government, but of their own institution, was oppressive. North Carolina was settled by the freest of the free, by men to whom the restraints of other colonies were too severe; but the settlers were gentle in their tempers, of serene minds, enemies to violence and bloodshed.
Freedom, entire freedom, was enjoyed without anxiety as without guarantees; the charities of life were scattered at their feet like the flowers in their meadows, and the spirit of humanity maintained its influence in the Arcadia, as Royalist writers will have it, of Rogues and Rebels in the Paradise of the Quakers.
It must be remembered that the county was born in the throes of the Revolutionary War. Before its formation and while it was a part of the County of Dobbs, a company of eighty of its citizen soldiers under the leadership of Ezekiel Slocumb marched from his home, at the call of Col. Richard Caswell, to join the Patriot forces in their attack upon the Loyalists at Moore's Creek Bridge, and, according to our historians, were a part of the division that made the final charge across the creek, and through the swamps, that completed the rout of the enemy and gained the first victory for American arms in that great contest.
It was at this time that one of the most interesting incidents connected with our Revolutionary struggle took place, when Mary Slocumb, the wife of Lt. Ezekiel Slocumb (acting as a Captain) of Dobbs County (later the part which became Wayne County), being left at home with an infant child, fearful of the fate of her husband and his comrades, was unable to sleep and rising in the night, saddled a fine mare and rode from near the present site of Goldsboro, through the forest in the direction of Moore's Creek, about 75 miles, until she came within hearing of the cannon announcing the beginning of the battle, when quickening her pace she soon arrived at a clump of woods near the creek and found there the wounded of her husband's command. She was greatly distressed at the sight of an apparently lifeless body covered with her husband's cloak, but, upon removing the cloak, discovered that, instead of her husband, the wounded man was Frank Cogdell. Her husband soon appeared and remonstrated with her for her daring conduct. She remained a short time nursing the wounded, and then returned to her home. At one time the British Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton, had quartered his troops on her plantation and remarked in her presence that it would make a fine estate after the war for some British officer; to which she replied that all he would ever get of her plantation would measure only two by six feet. Captain Slocumb was present as a Continental officer at the surrender of Yorktown by the British. He and his wife, who was a sister of Charles Hooks, the Representative in Congress from the Wilmington District, lived far into the 19th century, honored and respected; the husband serving in the House of Commons from Wayne in the years 1812, 1813, 1814, 1815, 1816, 1817, and 1818. They owned a large tract of land south of the Neuse River and West of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, and lie buried in the family burying ground between Mount Olive and the town of Dudley.
The sword worn by Capt. Ezekiel Slocumb in the Revolutionary War is now in the possession of his great grandson Capt. Thomas W. Slocumb, of Handley, while Mrs. Hattie Slocumb Gay is the proud owner of a silver tea pot once the property of her great, great grandmother Mary Slocumb. Junius Slocumb, Esq., of Goldsboro, is the only other surviving great grandson of Ezekiel and Mary Slocumb. I have known two others, Wm. W. and Charles Slocumb, now deceased.
But even before the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge, the inhabitants of Dobbs County were called upon to furnish soldiers to Royal Governor William Tryon for the subjugation of the Regulators. There is no evidence, however, that they responded to the call, or that any citizen of this section took part in the battle of Alamance. It seems that they resolutely refused. I am unable to ascertain whether they refrained, because they did not understand the quarrel, or because they were unwilling to take part against the oppressed and rebellious Regulators.
[Note - Richard Caswell of Dobbs County did participate at Alamance under Governor Tryon.]
I find in the Colonial Records a copy of a letter written at the time the inhabitants of Dobbs County were ordered to muster for service in that campaign, in which it is stated that only seven men in all the county responded. I find also that after the battle two of the Regulators escaped to Dobbs and upon resisting arrest, one was killed by the Sheriff and the other captured. I am sure the failure of our people to aid the Royal Governor against their fellow citizens was not due to their reluctance to fight. They furnished their full quota to the Continetal Army, a number of them were wounded, and after the close of the war some of these were pensioned by Congress.
In the midst of the stirring scenes of the Revolutionary War the County of Wayne was organized, and court was held, as the records show, on the second Monday of January, 1780, at Josiah Sasser's, pursuant to the Act of the General Assembly. The following Justices were present; Robert Simms, Ethelred Ruffin, Jesse Jernigan, John Handley, Thomas Williams, Stephen Cobb, Joseph Sanderson, and John Sheppard. Little business was transacted.
In January of 1781, the Court appointed Thomas Grey, Stephen Cobb, Joseph Sanderson, and Needham Whitfield inspectors of paper money. During the same session, having elected Robert Simms as first Sheriff of the County, and James Cobb, Clerk of the Court, it was ordered that Thomas Grey, Stephen Cobb, and John [illegible text], Esqs., be appointed commissioners of confiscated property for this county, and their bonds were fixed at 200,000 pounds each (which is equal to $1,000,000 of our money) from which it may be seen that paper money was abundant but cheap, and that the few Loyalists in the county were in great danger of losing their property.
Jurors were drawn to attend the Superior Court to be held at New Bern, and this entry appears of record: Court adjourns in-course to Mr. Josiah Sasser's on Little River.
The Court again held its session at Josiah Sasser's in January of 1782, and one of the most interesting orders is as follows: Ordered that Needham Whitfield and Samuel Blythe be appointed to Inspect the pool for the Insuing Ellection. A session of the Court was held on the second Monday of April in 1782, at the home of Mr. John Herring on Little River, an adjournment having been taken at the previous meeting Incourse to Mr. Daniel Herring's; there is no explanation why having adjourned Incourse to Mr. Daniel Herring's, the court should have been held at Mr. John Herring's. At this term the will of Josiah Sasser was proven and Elizabeth Sasser, his widow, qualified as his executrix.
The Court again met the second Monday in July of 1782 at John Herring's on Little River, and among other things William McKinnie was appointed Commissioner to collect the Specific Provision Tax as provided by Act of Assembly.
October 14, 1782, the Court was held at Mrs. Elizabeth Sasser's, and among other things the following entries appear of record: A deed of sail from John Grantham to David Jernigan for 60 acres of land is proved in court by the oath of David Jernigan and ordered to be registered. An account of sails of the estate of Josiah Sasser, deceased, was turned into the Court by the Sheriff and ordered that same be recorded.
Our ancestors seem to have extended their views of independence and to have spelled according to the dictates of their consciences.
This interesting record also appears at this meeting: John Rowell, whose wife and daughter, complaining that he had abused and threatened them prayed the peace of the State against him, he appeared and cross-examined his daughter Sabra, and, not liking some answer, assaulted and beat her in the presence of the Court. He was adjudged in contempt and sentenced to three months in jail, and to give a bond for $1,000 in specie for his good behavior.
Session of January 13, 1783 was held at the residence of Samuel Blythe.
The session of November in 1783 was held at Stephen Cobb's. Among other matters to which attention was given, it was Ordered that Joel Grantham name the inhabitence of Capt. Pipkings district.
Court was held at John Fleetwood's on Little River on July 12, 1784. At that meeting Joseph Pipkin, Needham Whitfield, and Stephen Cobb reported that they had let out the building of the Court House, Prison and Stocks to Col. Wm. McKinne for 335 pounds, he being the lowest bidder.
A session of the Court was held at West Point on Monday, January 2, 1785, and again at the same place April 11, 1785, at which meeting Dr. Andrew Bass was authorized to keep a public ferry at West Point over Neuse River and to keep a house of public entertainment on his land on the north side of said river.
I gather from the records that the Commissioners appointed by the Act of 1779 to select a site on which to have the Court House and Gaol and Stocks built, recommended, and had approved by the Court at a very meagerly attended session a location which appeared satisfactory to them, and that at the next court, more largely attended than any court during the period under consideration, the said order was annulled, and in 1782 an Act of the Assembly was passed reciting the failure of the former commissioners to act, and appointing Stephen Cobb, Needham Whitfield, and Joseph Pipkin to contract for three acres as near the centre of the county as may be for the Court House, prison and stocks, also to contract for building the same. From all of which it appears that a controversy existed respecting the location of the Court House. It seems that the former Commissioners and three Justices of the Peace undertook the location of the County Seat to suit themselvesbut when the great body of Justices gathered they incontinently rescinded the order of the Court and procured the passage of the Act of 1782, removing the old Commissioners and appointing new ones.
On the 14th of February in 1782, Andrew Bass, Doctor, conveyed to Stephen Cobb, Needham Whitfield, and Joseph Pipkin, Commissioners, three acres of land on the north side of the Neuse River, as a site for the Court House, and the county buildings were built upon that site, about one mile from the corporate limits of the present city of Goldsboro, by Col. William McKinnie.
Some of our older citizens inform me that they remember very distinctly this Court House. It may have been larger than the dimensions required by the statute in the building of court houses, which was 24×16 feet. It was a frame building, weather-boarded and raised high above the ground on brick pillars, leaving a large, open space underneath, in which space Capt. Thomas W. Slocumb, his boy friends and the goats used to play.
At that time the County Seat had no name, except that of The Court House, but in January of 1787, the town of Waynesboro was incorporated, as it is stated in the Act of the General Assembly, on the lands of Andrew Bass, and it was provided in the act that Andrew Bass should convey to certain trustees, to-wit: William McKinne, Burwell Mooring, William Whitfield, Joseph Green, David Jernigan, Richard Bass, and William Fellows, sixty acres of land, including the three acres theretofore conveyed on the north side of the Neuse River, where the Court House and public buildings then stood, and specific directions were given for dividing the said tract into lots, laying out streets and selling lots; the proceeds of sale to be divided between the Commissioners and said Andrew Bass. The proceeds retained by the Commissioners were directed to be used for the improvement of the town. The Commissioners were given large powers; among others, were authorized to remove all porches and buildings that projected into the proposed streets, to make rules for the prevention of the running at large of cattle and hogs, and to prohibit the erection of stick chimneys. These progressive ideas were doubtless carried out, though it is difficult to imagine that the rules prohibiting the running at large of live stock could have been very acceptable to the citizens of the new town, if its inhabitants were the genuine ancestors of the residents of some of the towns and cities I have known, in which I have seen municipal campaigns decided upon the question whether live stock should run at large upon the streets.
Our records show a number of conveyances made by the Commissioners to settlers. Among others, to Richard Washington, John Wright, Francis Castex, D. G. W. Ward, Charles J. Nelson, and Arnold Borden.
Richard Washington, the leading merchant of Waynesboro and Goldsboro, was the father of the late Col. James A. Washington, so well known and highly esteemed throughout the county, and the grandfather of Commander Thomas M. Washington, and Lieut. Pope Washington, of the United States Navy; Mrs. Jas. M. Allen and Miss Daisy Washington. John Wright was the father of Mrs. Lou M. Jones, Mrs. J. D. Brooks, and the grandfather of Mrs. J. W. Nash, and Mrs. Nellie Brenizer of Washington, D. C. Francis Castex was the father of L. H. Castex, F. L. Castex and Mrs. Winslow. D. G. W. Ward, a physician, was the father of Judge D. L. Ward and Wyatt M. Ward, of New Bern. Charles J. Nelson, a Baptist minister and prominent citizen, left no descendants living in this county. Arnold Borden died in 1846, leaving his widow, Maria Borden, and his children, Mrs. Harriet Dewey, wife of Dr. Charles Dewey; James C. Borden, E. B. Borden, Mrs. Lou Kornegay, wife of W. F. Kornegay; Mrs. John F. Miller and William H. Borden. He was one of the leading business men of Waynesboro and Goldsboro, and built the Borden Hotel, upon the square on West Centre Street, upon which the business houses of the Goldsboro Drug Company, Royall & Borden, and Dewey Brothers and others now stand. This hotel was the stopping place for travel by the old stage road from the west and east before the North Carolina Railroad was built, and from the north and south on the old Wilmington & Weldon Railroad. After the death of her husband, it was conducted by Mrs. Maria Borden for many years.
Among other residents of the town were John H. Powell, Mrs. Keziah Wellons, Dr. Daniel Cogdell, Mrs. E. A. Churchill, Dr. Andrews, and Wm. Crawford. The only living persons known to have lived in Waynesboro are L. H. Castex, E. B. Borden, Miss Sallie Churchill, W. W. Crawford, Mrs. Rowena Powell, of Goldsboro, and Mrs. Sophia Hutton, of Washington, D.C.
The first Court was held at Waynesboro on July 9, 1787, The following Justices attended: Robert Simms, William Alford, Willis Bryan, John Beck, Absolem Williams, Richard McKinne, and Josiah Jernigan. Of the earliest settlers we have little information, but as far back as the memory of living man reaches the town contained a population probably less than 100. Its principal merchants were John Wright, Richard Washington, and Arnold Borden, whose stores stood upon the river. C. J. Nelson conducted a buggy and repair shop.
The home of Francis Castex stood on the opposite side of the street, immediately upon the river bank, and the homes of Washington, Wright, Dr. Andrews, and Borden, were among the principal residences of the town. The Borden residence was afterwards moved to Goldsboro and is now the property of James W. Bizzell on Ash Street. The Washington residence was also moved to Goldsboro and is now owned by Mrs. Clara Jones and is situate on West Center Street. Richard Washington was the last resident to leave the abandoned town of Waynesboro.
The Castex residence was also moved to Goldsboro, and is now a part of the residence of Carl Griswold, a descendant of James Griswold. The only relic remaining of the old town is an ancient cedar tree standing on the bank of the Neuse River on the lot formerly owned by Francis Castex.
The site of the town is now the property of Major H. L. Grant and upon it is located the brick manufacturing plant of H. L. Grant & Son. The old cemetery is on the plantation of Capt. J. E. Peterson.
A slight glimpse of the town of Waynesboro is found in a letter written December 28, 1827, by Dr. Elisha Mitchell to his wife, from which I quote the following:
I rode down to Bass Ferry and paddled about the river a while in an old crazy canoe, to see the limestone about the mouth of falling creek, and then passed on to Waynesboro and put up at Isaac Hill's. Found there a young lawyer from Orange, who knew me and went with me to see Mrs. Andrews, formerly Miss Gunn, who was married in the meeting house in Washington the summer you were there. She lives just on the banks of the Neuse. On Sunday collected a little congregation and held forth to them at the Tavern. Dr. Williams and Tippoo Henderson and Morris called upon me, and found them all very pleasant. Took my tea and spent the evening at Dr. Andrews. Monday morning crossed the Neuse and got my breakfast at Mr. Griswold's. Griswold is a Yankee boy who came from Rocky Hill to Carolina, as he married a girl of some property, failed, and now lives in rather humble style in Wayne. He does not appear to be efficient, and I doubt his wife regrets her having married a Yankee.
The Dr. Andrews referred to kept a tavern at Waynesboro for many years and was a practicing physician and one of the most influential founders of the present city of Goldsboro. One of his sons, Rev. S. G. Andrews, was a colonel in the Confederate States Army. Another, George P. Andrews, was a Colonel in the U. S. Army. Another, John N. Andrews, was a gifted Methodist preacher, and the fourth, B. Frank Andrews, a local Methodist preacher.
Descendants of Dr. Andrews in the persons of Mrs. M. T. Breazele, Mrs. B. W. Southerland and Mrs. Fred Mintz, live in Mount Olive, Wayne County, and there are other descendants in this and adjoining counties.
James Griswold, who was denominated a Yankee by Dr. Mitchell, who was himself a Connecticut Yankee, appears not to have deserved the censure of Dr. Mitchell. On the contrary, he was one of the most prominent and influential citizens of the county. He was chairman of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions and for many years served as Clerk and Master in Equity. He was the founder of a numerous and highly respected family, several of whom still reside in Goldsboro.
Dr. Andrew Bass, the founder of Waynesboro, was a delegate from Dobbs County to the Fifth Provincial Congress of 1776, and to the Constitutional Convention held at Hillsborough in 1788. His fellow delegates to this last were William Taylor, Burwell Mooring, Richard McKinne, and James Handley, and, following the lead of Thomas Jefferson and Willie Jones, they voted against the ratification of the Federal Constitution.
I think it probable that some of his descendants still live in this county, and in that part of Wilson County which was formerly a part of Wayne, though of this I have no definite information.
In the Constitution Convention of 1789 the delegates from Wayne County were Richard McKinne, Burrell Mooring, David Cogdell, Joseph Jernigan, and James Handley, and of these, Mooring and Cogdell voted against the ratification of the Constitution, and McKinnne, Jernigan, and Handley voted for the ratification. It was at this Convention that the Constitution was ratified.
North Carolina refused at first to ratify until a Bill of Rights had been guaranteed, or the first ten amendments to the Constitution assured.
There was no Superior Court held in Wayne County until 1806. Prior to that year Wayne was a part of a district in which court was held at New Bern, and all cases of importance were tried in the Superior Court of Craven. In 1806, Superior Courts were established in each county, and in 1818, the Supreme Court was established. Before the organization of the Supreme Court the judges of the Superior Court met twice a year to settle questions of law in what was known as the Court of Conference.
All matters relating to the probate of deeds and wills, the qualification of administrators and guardians and the settlement of estates, together with the levying of taxes and the laying out and working of roads, and the trial of cases of minor importance, were cognizable in the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions.
I find throughout the records the appointment of overseers and hands whose duty it was to remove logs, trash, sandbanks, etc., which obstructed the waters of the Neuse River, over which all the freight moved from New Bern by flats, and afterwards by steamboats. The Superior Court had substantially the jurisdiction of the Superior Court of today. There were two terms held annually, and many of the famous lawyers of the state, including Gaston, Badger, Haywood, and others, attended this court from time to time, and were entertained at the village taverns. It is reported that they complained of the fare, as has occurred in the lives of numerous eminent lawyers since that time, and I have heard of one of the most distinguished lawyers of the state who was peculiarly bitter in his animad-versions upon the taverns of Wayensboro.
Although there was for the times a large business done in Waynesboro in the early part of the nineteenth century, the town never grew much in extent or population. It was the only town in the county and its leading citizens were people of refinement and culture, a number of them being from the northern states, where they had enjoyed the advantages of education.
One of the reasons why the population of Wayne County did not increase more rapidly was the stream of emigration to the southern states which set in about 1830, continued for nearly twenty years and deprived this county and other counties of the state of many of their best citizens, to the enrichment of Alabama and Mississippi.
It may be interesting to recall that at the time of the organization of the court in Wayne County and for many years afterwards the administration of the criminal law had not been shorn of many of the barbarities which distinguished the English common law, and punishments for crime were inflicted which shock the sensibilities of more modern times.
I find among the old records a note written by one of the judges of the Superior Court to the Clerk, which is as follows:
Please draft the entry to be made on the minutes as follows: State vs. H. Grant, upon conviction for forgery. The defendant being put to the bar, and having nothing to offer, wherefore the sentence of the law should not be awarded against him, the court pronounces the following sentence. That the said H. Grant stand in the pillory one hour, that he receive 39 lashes on his bare back and be imprisoned five months. Sheriff of Wayne is ordered to carry out this sentence as regards the corporal punishment this day. It is ordered that he be committed to the jail of Lenoir County.
I note that it frequently occurs that prisoners are confined in the jails of Lenoir and Wake Counties, and sometimes find the recital that the jail of Wayne County is regarded as insecure.
It was customary at the time, where the prisoner claimed the benefit of clergy, in addition to some other punishment to burn him in the hand with a red-hot iron. The benefit of clergy grew up under the English law, when the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church demanded that the priests of that church should not be tried by the secular courts, but should be turned over to the ecclesiastical courts for trial. At first it seems this demand was acceded to without condition, but the secular courts afterwards began to assert their rights and a compromise seems to have been effected, and clergymen were turned over for trial to the church court, but only after having been branded with a red-hot iron, in order that they might not be able to claim again what was called their clergy, and later still the benefit of clergy was extended to laymen, and members of the nobility charged with crime were discharged for the first offense without reading, while persons of lower degree were discharged upon its appearing that they were able to read, but not until they had been branded. This blot upon the law was afterwards swept away by legislation in this country and in England, after having been modified in our courts and by statute, but while it existed a gentleman now living in this community, E. B. Borden, Esq., relates that in his boyhood he was present at a session of the Superior Court held in Waynesboro, and that he heard a prisoner sentenced to be burned in the hand and saw the Sheriff come in with the red-hot iron, and apply it to the hand of the prisoner, heard a frying sound and saw the smoke arise from the burning flesh.
The modifications were in a number of instances of severe character. A fair instance may be found in the judgment rendered in the case of State vs. Daniel Gooding, who had been convicted of burglary, which reads:
On the arraignment of the prisoner, he having pleaded guilty in part as charged in the indictment as appears under date of the 3rd instant, and Stephen Miller, Esq., solicitor for the State, who in this behalf prosecuted for the said State, being present here in the Court, saith that he admits the plea aforesaid of the prisoner, and prays judgment, etc. And it being thereupon demanded of the said Daniel Gooding, if he hath or knoweth anything wherefore judgment of death should not be pronounced against him for the felony aforesaid. He saith thereof, he prayeth the benefit of his clergy, which is allowed to him. And it is thereupon considered by the court here by force of statute in that ease made and provided, that (instead of the burning of the hand) the said Daniel Gooding be four times publicly whipped, once on Monday, the 6th inst., again on the 3rd Monday in November next, and on the 3rd Monday of February next, and the fourth whipping on the first Monday after the fourth Monday of March next, and that he receive 25 lashes on his bare back each time. And it is ordered that the Sheriff of Wayne county carry the judgment into execution and have the said Daniel Gooding in his custody until the same is executed.
Another judgment rendered during this period is as follows:
Whereupon it is considered by the Court that the prisoner, , be set in the pillory for one hour and receive on his bare back 25 lashes, and be imprisoned for the space of 12 calendar months, and that the Sheriff of Wayne county carry this sentence into execution, and cause the whipping to be inflicted on the Tuesday of the next court, and the pilloring on the Monday of the same court. And that the prisoner stand committed until the costs are paid. This, the 7th day of October, 1823.
It is gratifying to note upon the minutes that, after undergoing the corporal punishment, he was relieved by the pardon of the governor of the payment of the costs.
I am unable to find any instance in which the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in Wayne County tried any defendant for a capital felony, but as late as 1787, in our neighboring county of Duplin, the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions constituted of several justices of the Peace and without jury tried a murder case, convicted the defendants and ordered the execution. Two negroes, brothers, were charged with killing their master on March 15, 1787. They were brought to trial March 17, 1787, before the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, and confessed their guilt. The elder, who struck the blow, was sentenced to be carried to the common gaol and there to be safely kept until the next day, when he should be carried by the Sheriff to the Court House square and [illegible text] tied to a stake and burned alive, and his ashes scattered upon the ground. It was adjudged that the younger brother be committed to the custody of the Sheriff, to be carried to the county gaol and there safely kept until the next day, and then carried to Court House square, tied to a stake and have his ears cut off, the letter M branded on his cheek, and one hundred lashes laid on his bare back. (This leniency is shownas is recited in the minutes of the courton account of his youth, and the probability that he had been under the influence of his elder brother.)
From the minutes of the same Court at a later session it appears that, after a laborious session, the Court adjourned to take flip at the tavern.
This propensity, not confined exclusively to the Court of Duplin, lasted late into the 19th Century.
A gentleman who has not been practicing law more than forty years gives the following striking incident illustrative of customs which long prevailed: Soon after my friend began the practice he was attending Court in one of our eastern towns, and one evening after Court, was taking a walk with the presiding judge and several lawyers, when, passing a barroom, the judge invited the party in to drink with him. The performance of the barkeeper in preparing the drinks proved unsatisfactory to His Honor, who immediately took the barkeeper's place and apron, and soon concocted such delightful beverages as they had never seen, demonstrating a skill in the mixing of drinks, that brought much commendation from his professional brethren as well as from the laymen who witnessed this achievement.
There were many more capital offenses than in this day. The institution of slavery was responsible for the enactment of many harsh laws. It was made a crime to teach a slave to read, it was a crime for a slave preacher to preach to slaves, other than those of his own master. A slave found off his master's plantation without a pass, when caught by the patrol, was subject to be beaten with many stripes. A runaway slave could be outlawed on the application of any person by two justices of the peace, upon its appearing that he was supposed to be lurking in the woods or swamps and killing cattle, and it was expressly provided that such slave might be killed by any person who might find him, and in any manner that he saw fit, and that the slayer should not be in any manner called to account therefor. The stealing of slaves was punished by death, without benefit of clergy.
So fearful were the lawmakers and the people of negro insurrections that no books or papers of any sort were permitted to be distributed among the slave population, or among the free negroesan unintentional recognition of the power of enlightenment. The legislation in reference to slaves was a stronger indictment of the system than the phillipics of all the abolitionists.
While the laws were severe in some respects, they were mild in others. Offenses involving moral turpitude, such as forgery, larceny, and fraud, were severely punished, while crimes of violence were dealt with more gently. Violations of law resulting from impulse or the natural frailities of human nature were treated with great tenderness.
The court records of today show that we have inherited many of the feelings and practices of our ancestors.
Laws were passed to correct the morals of the people by mild punishments. It was enacted that every person swearing in public should be fined 25 cents for each offense; that every person convicted of being publicly drunk should be fined 25 cents if the offense was committed on a week day, and 50 cents if committed on the Sabbath, and that every person committing fornication should be fined $2.50 for each and every offense. In view of a contention advanced in recent years that the law should not deal with questions of morals, the action of the early lawmakers of the State is quite significant.
During the period of which I speak a citizen of Wayne County performed one of the bravest and most daring acts in the history of the state. About the year 1816, John Coor-Pender, who had been Sheriff of the county and also member of the General Assembly, was assassinated as he drove along the road from his home to the County Seat. The assassin, who was understood to be David Jernigan, fled and every effort was made to apprehend him. At last, Paul Coor-Pender, a son of the murdered man, learned that Jernigan had taken refuge among the Seminole Indians in Florida. This young man, not quite of age, traveled through the uncleared country by horse and wagon from Waynesboro, through the states of South Carolina and Georgia and into the Everglades of Florida. He introduced himself to the Chief of the Seminoles and demanded the surrender of his father's murderer. The Everglades at that time constituted a secure refuge for criminals from the older settlements, and Jernigan claimed the right of hospitality and protection, which the Chief generously extended; but when he learned that the son was demanding the murderer of his father in order that his death might be avenged, his natural sense of justice prevailed and he surrendered the prisoner to young Pender, who, without assistance, conveyed Jernigan back to Waynesboro and delivered him to the Sheriff.
The prisoner was indicted for murder at the September term of 1816, and upon his application the case was removed to Lenoir County for trial and P. C. Pender was recognized to appear as a witness against him. It was provided in the order that the trial should take place on the succeeding Thursday. The prisoner was convicted and executed. There are few instances in history of a more heroic exploit.
As there seemed no prospect for growth for the town of Waynesboro, probably because the location was not conducive to health, but principally because the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad was in process of construction through the county, about the year 1840 agitation began for the removal of the County Seat to the location afterwards known as Goldsboro. As in every proposition for the removal of a County Seat, a great controvery arose between the advocates and the opponents of the movement. Waynesboro was vigorous in its opposition and other sections of the county were equally so. All the citizens were aroused on one side or the other of the proposition; public meetings were held, speeches made and much warmth of feeling shown.
A great meeting was held in Goldsboro in the large oak grove where are now situate the residences of Mrs. Henry Weil, Mrs. Sol Weil, and Mrs. Arnold Borden, at which eloquent speeches were made, and much barbecue and much good, home-made liquor consumed. There is a tradition that one of the ardent advocates of removal on the morning of the meeting deposited in the well on the premises several barrels of ice, which he had surreptitiously procured from Wilmington, and that the assembled multitude drank at the well, after partaking of dinner and of the other liquids, and pronounced it the coldest and best water in the county, and became enthusiastic for Goldsboro as the County Seat.
Tradition further says this story was started after the election by some disappointed advocate of the town of Waynesboro, and that the water of the new location was naturally so pure and cool that it would have been absurd to have polluted it with Wilmington ice.
After much agitation and discussion, at a session of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions held at Waynesboro on November 15, 1847, a majority of the justices being present, it was moved, That they take a vote whether they should have a new Court House or not. Among others, William K. Lane, Thomas T. Hollowell, Uriah Langston, S. P. Cox, Hardy Yelverton, William B. Edmundson, Benjamin Aycock, and James Griswold, twenty-six in all, voted in favor of the proposition, and ten others voted against it; among whom were John C. Slocomb, John Everett, Ira Langston, John Coley, James F. Kornegay, and William Hollowell. An order was made for a vote of the people on the first Thursday in August next, to ascertain whether the majority of the voters favored building a new Court House in Goldsboro or Waynesboro.
At the August term of 1848, Ollen Coor, Esq., Sheriff, reported that at an election held on August 3, 1848, a majority of the votes polled were in favor of the removal of the Court House from Waynesboro to Goldsboro. The following order was thereupon made: The Court doth thereupon appoint commissioners from each captain's district in said county, namely: James Griswold, John Kennedy, Hardy Yelverton, Benjamin Aycock, T. T. Simms, Ethelred Sauls, W. H. Gardner, John Everett, Bryant H. Pate, William Carroway, John Becton, and Willis Hall, to prepare a plan for a new Court House and gaol of such size and built of such material as they shall deem requisite and expedient, which plan, with the estimate of expense and particular description of such contemplated building, be shown to the said board before the said Court of Wayne County on or before the third Monday of February next, and the commissioners or any majority of them shall likewise, without delay, lay off a site for said Court House and gaol of not less than two nor more than four acres in size, within one half a mile of Mrs. Borden's hotel, and purchase the same and draw upon the County Trustee for the payment thereof, and take a deed therefor to the Chairman, according to the Act of Assembly, and said commissioners or a majority shall and may contract for the building thereof upon said place according to the terms of said Act, and report their actions thereon to the Court.
At the same term H. W. Husted, Esq., resigned as County Attorney and William T. Dortch was elected County Attorney in his stead.
On February 19, 1849, the said commissioners purchased from James Rhodes for the consideration of $250 four acres of land, and he executed a deed therefor to James Griswold, chairman. James Rhodes conveyed the whole of the square upon which the Court House is now situate, except 120 feet along the western side thereof.
It is an interesting circumstance that James Rhodes, the grantor of the Court House square, was the uncle of James R. Hatch, Esq., the accommodating and obliging Clerk of this Court at present and for the past eight years. It is also a pleasant reflection that Isaac F. Ormond, Esq., the active and efficient chairman of the present Board of Commissioners, now owns the land on the south side of the county road at Hooks bridge over Little River, formerly belonging to Josiah Sasser, upon which the first Court for the county of Wayne was held, and that he served eight years most acceptably as Clerk of the Superior Court of the county, and that Charles F. Herring, Esq., a member of said board, was for eight years an admirable Clerk of this Court.
The contract for building the Court House and jail was awarded to John E. Becton and Joseph Kennedy. At the August term of 1850, the commissioners reported that they had purchased a lot and had received from the contractors the Court House and jail. I find no record of any report of the commissioners, required by the order of the August term of 1848, nor of any payment made to the contractors, but have understood that the contract price was about $17,000.
At the August term of 1850, the last Court held in the town of Waynesboro, it was ordered That the wilful defacing, cutting or in any other manner injuring the walls, or any other parts of the Court House shall be held an offense in the contempt of the Court, and the officers of the court are ordered to bring all persons so offending forthwith before the Court to be dealt with in the premises.
The first Superior Court held in the new Court House was on September 30, 1850, when Hon. John W. Ellis, afterwards governor of the state, presided. The first Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions was held in the new Court House on the 18th day of November in 1850. The minutes recite, Justices present, the Worshipful William K. Lane, John C. Slocumb, Thomas T. Hollowell, and John Hayes, Esqs.
I note that at the November term of 1851, an order was made allowing William T. Dortch, County Attorney, the sum of $32.50 for his services at this term and at the three preceding terms.
John A. Green, a descendant of Joseph Green, who in 1790 was the largest slave owner of Wayne County, was Clerk of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions. He served in that capacity from August term of 1833, to September term of 1853, when he was succeeded by Benjamin Aycock, who served until 1862.
John A. Green was the father of Mrs. George L. Kirby, the late Mrs. Susan Gulick, and the late George D. Green, of Wilson.
At the same time William G. Bryan was Clerk of the Superior Court. He served from 1849 to 1861, and was the father of John W. Bryan, Esq., formerly a member of the firm of Grainger & Bryan, attorneys, of Goldsboro, and now one of the officers of the Eastern Hospital for the Insane.
At the same time James Griswold was Clerk and Master in Equity. He filled that office from 1829 until 1853. He was succeeded by George V. Strong, who performed the duties of office until 1860.
At the same time Ollin Coor was Sheriff. He served for 22 years. Sheriff Coor was the father of Capt. Hopton H. Coor, of Fork Township. Ollin Coor and his kinsmen, who preceded him, filled the office of the Sheriff of Wayne County for many years.
In the 63 years intervening between the first court held in Waynesboro and the first court held in Goldsboro great changes had taken place. Much of the land had been cleared, many large plantations stocked with numerous slaves were to be found in the different sections of the county. Among the large land owners and slave owners was John W. Sasser, the father of Mrs. Ellen Dortch, deceased, and Mrs. Millie McKee, of Raleigh. It is related that he could ride on horseback from Goldsboro to his home, some six or seven miles distant, without getting off his own land. Other large land and slave owners were William K. Lane, George W. Collier, Theophilus Best, Council Best, Sam Smith, John Coley, W. B. Fort, John Everett, David Everett, Levi D. Howell, Capt. R. P. Howell, William D. Cobb, the numerous Whitfields, John C. Slocumb. David F. McKinne, Thomas Uzzell, Peter Peacock, Thomas Yelverton, Rigdon Dees, Gabriel and William Sherrard, E. B. Borden, W. F. Atkinson, and others.
The cultivation of cotton had become general. The population had increased to 7,802 whites and 5,020 slaves and 664 free negroes.
The free schools had begun their work and a number of private schools had opened in Goldsboro, and in some other sections of the county. Among the other teachers were William Robinson and John Robinson, graduates of Dublin University and natives of Ireland. About that time they conducted successful private schools.
John Robinson was the father of Hon. W. S. O'B. Robinson, Col. Jos. E. Robinson, Miss Eliza Robinson, Mrs. D. B. Frazier, deceased, Mrs. M. R. Cox, of Newton Grove, and Mrs. Mary Morris, all of whom, except Mrs. Cox, reside in Goldsboro, and Dr. George Robinson and James Robinson, deceased.
Ministers of most of the denominations preached in almost every neighborhood. Illiteracy had been reduced at that time to such an extent that one in every seven white persons over 21 years of age could read and write. There was no development of manufactures except along the railroad turpentine stills were everywhere to be found. There were gin houses and a few saw and grist mills. There were no banks and the money lenders and their customers attended the courts, where loans were made and collected. The town of White Hall, situated on the Neuse River, was beginning to grow and become a center of trade. Nahunta, now Fremont; Eureka, Pikeville, Dudley, and Mount Olive did not exist. Goldsboro was growing into a thriving and prosperous village and the center of trade.
The town was rich in newspapers The Patriot Republican, Democratic, was published by W. B. Gulick; the Goldsboro Telegraph, by W. T. S. Alston, and the Goldsboro Patriot, Democratic, by William Robinson, the father of our townsmen, Dr. M. E. Robinson and Thomas R. Robinson.
About the time the county seat was moved to Goldsboro, Miss Indiana Wills, afterwards Mrs. J. B. Whitaker, conducted the first school, and was succeeded after her marriage by Miss Emily Webb.
The old Academy, which used to stand at the head of John Street and which is now the property of W. H Godwin, was used by John and William Robinson, as a school for boys on the lower floor, and by Miss Webb as a school for girls on the upper.
The first church was a small frame building on the corner of John and Chestnut streets, where St. Paul M. E. church now stands, in which ministers of all denominations preached, and in which one of the earliest schools was conducted.
The Methodist Church, now belonging to the Primitive Baptist denomination, was built about 1853, and the Presbyterian and Episcopal Churches, about 1857, and the Baptist Church later.
A hotel was built on the corner now occupied by the Kennon Hotel and operated by James Griswold.
During the 70s the towns of Mount Olive and Nahunta, now Fremont, were established, and have since grown into prosperous and thriving towns, among the most progressive in the state. The name Nahunta was changed to Fremont in honor of Col. S. L. Fremont, for many years connected with the old Wilmington & Weldon Railroad Company.
I believe I neglected to state that Goldsboro was named after a civil engineer in the employment of the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad Company.
Later the towns of Dudley, Pikeville, Eureka, came into existence, the old town of White Hall on the Neuse River having preceded them by many years, and now known as Seven Springs.
It would be interesting to compare the conditions under which our people live at this day with the conditions that existed at the time the Court House just removed was completed. We hear much said about the palatial homes of the old-time planter and slave-owner, but the fact is that the average man today lives in a better home than they enjoyed. There are hundreds of homes in Wayne County that are more comfortable, better furnished and have more of the luxuries of life than were known to even the most prosperous of our citizens in that day. Their owners are more intelligent, have higher ideals, and lead better lives.
The Superior Courts were presided over by learned and able judges, the law enforced with some severity, and the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions intelligently dispatched the business of the county and tried the cases both civil and criminal within its jurisdiction. Lawyers from New Bern, Fayetteville, Wilmington, and Raleigh were usually in attendance upon the Courts, and our people were brought in contact with some of the brightest intellects of the state. The local bar was small but able, consisting of William T. Dortch. George V. Strong, W. T. Faircloth, and W. G. Morrisey. The officials of the county were men of character, intelligence and property, and leaders in social and political life.
Ollin Coor, the Sheriff, was a man of marked peculiarities and of unbounded popularity, and withal a man firm and determined. Near the middle of his term of office occurred what was known as the Holleman War. A feud existed between the Holleman Clan and Lewis Cogdell, growing out of trespassing of stock upon the lands of each other, and partly, I am informed, from the purchase by Cogdell of some lands of the Holleman's at public sale, which the latter claimed were improperly sold, and at a sacrifice. Not caring to resort to law for the vindication of their rights, the Hollemans waged war upon Cogdell. On several occasions they shot at him and on one occasion shot through his carriage in which he and his wife were riding to their home. They surrounded his residence and shot at anyone appearing in his yard after nightfall. They were considerate of the employees of Cogdell and notified them that when they were moving about the premises after night it would be advisable for them to whistle, that if they failed to do so they might be the recipients of bullets not intended for them. On one occasion one Pennington, an overseer of Cogdell, who had received this caution, in haste to get his horse and ride off, forgot to whistle, but fortunately for him the horse he was riding passed too close to the gate post of the lot and hurt his foot, whereupon, forgetful of the statute forbidding the use of profane language, he cursed the horse. He was afterwards informed by one of the Hollemans that it was well for him that he violated the statute, for that otherwise he would have received a dose of lead. Warrants were sworn out for the members of the Holleman family and placed in the hands of Sheriff Coor, who made diligent effort to apprehend the offenders, but was unable to do so. They retired to their home which they converted into a castle, and prepared for a siege, denying admittance to all comers, including the High Sheriff.
Sheriff Coor, a most considerate man and on very friendly terms with the Hollemans, who had always been his political supporters, resorted to every species of diplomacy in order to induce them to surrender, but in vain. While expressing profound regard for him personally they declined to accede to his official request or to receive him in his official capacity; finding that mild measures were without avail, the Sheriff summoned a posse of determined men who with arms in their hands surrounded the Holleman home and the Sheriff, as was his duty, demanded admittance. The defenders announced that they would be very glad to receive the Sheriff, whereupon he was admitted, endeavored to induce the garrison to capitulate which was very firmly refused; but in order to show their regard for their personal friend, they insisted that he should drink with them. Brandy was produced and the Sheriff and the members of the Holleman family drank together. Thinking that this social intercourse had probably softened their resolution, the Sheriff again insisted that they accompany him. They positively refused and he retired. The besieging force drew closer to the dwelling and soon the besieged opened fire with the result that one of the Sheriff's posse was wounded in the leg; whereupon they withdrew out of range and the Sheriff, feeling that patience had ceased to be a virtue and that his forbearance might be misconstrued, dispatched Blount King, one of his posse, to Goldsboro with instructions to bring the cannon which was used in firing fourth of July salutes. King proceeded immediately upon his errand, shortly returning with this weapon of destruction, and under the order of the Sheriff, after another demand made for surrender, leveled his deadly artillery upon the house and fired. The charge went through the house and wounded one of its defenders. Thereupon, being unable to resist further, they surrendered. The kind-hearted Sheriff took the entire family, including the wounded man, to his home, where he kept them until the succeeding term of court, when he had them duly appear.
It is not recorded whether the jail was still out of repair, or whether the Sheriff's fine sense of hospitality induced him to pursue this unusual course.
From 1850 to the breaking out of the hostilities in 1861, there was continued progress and growthmore land being cleared and cultivated and more slaves being brought and worked upon the farms. The wealth of the county greatly increased. The State Bank of North Carolina in 1860 established an agency in Goldsboro in charge of E. B. Borden.
The first and only loss of territory occurred in 1854, when the northern part of the county was taken by Act of the General Assembly to aid in the creation of the new county of Wilson. Before that, Contentnea Creek had been a part of the northern line of Wayne, and Black Creek was in Wayne. Two Sheriffs, Sims and Thompson, had come from the territory now given to Wilson County. The line established by the Act contained a peculiar crook which is recited to have been caused by the determined resolution of Jacob Hooks to remain a resident of Wayne, and it was provided that it should be so run as to leave his land on the south side of the Wilson County line.
When the state threw in her lot with the Confederacy there were no more loyal supporters of the movement for secession.
Wayne, like many other counties, had contained a number of Union men, but after President Abraham Lincoln called upon the state for volunteers, like most of the other Union men, they entered heart and soul into the cause of the Confederacy. The county sent twenty-two companies into the Confederate Army, containing about 2,500 men.
Captain Thomas W. Slocumb, a great grand-son of Ezekiel Slocumb, became first lieutenant of one of the companies, the Goldsboro Rifles, and was afterward promoted to Assistant Adjutant General with the rank of Captain.
Among the officers now living, I recall Col. John P. Cobb, now of Florida, Capt. H. H. Coor, Capt. J. B. Edgerton, Capt. R. P. Howell, Capt. D. J. Broadhurst, Capt. D. A. Cogdell, and Capt. Thomas W. Slocumb.
No troops in the Confederate Army conducted themselves with more galantry than the contingent from Wayne County.
The inhabitants of Wayne County escaped the greatest rigors of the war until near the close when General William T. Sherman's army passed through the county and destroyed much property. General Sherman with his lieutenants, Generals Scofield, Terry, and Logan, and a very large army encamped at Goldsboro for some time, soon after the battle of Bentonsville.
Many of our citizens remember distinctly hearing the roar of the guns while this battle was in progress. After the close of the war the town was garrisoned by Federal soldiers, a large part of whom were negroes. In 1867, companies of negro federal troops were concentrated in Goldsboro, and a reign of terror followed during which depredations of all sorts were committed, and the conduct of the troops was so violent that it was unsafe for women to leave their homes. These troops remained until some time in 1869. Some bummers or camp followers, who pretended to be connected with the army, engaged in forays into the surrounding country, robbing, pillaging and insulting women, until at last a band of Confederate soldiers who had returned from the war, after their surrender, found it necessary to pursue and destroy these marauders. One of them, whose name was Wilson, at the head of his band of ruffians, was on one of his usual expeditions in the summer of 1865, between Goldsboro and the Wilson County line, when a party of ex-Confederates under the command of Dr. B. Thomas Person, now of Wilson, hastily gathered, attacked and pursued them and ran their leader into Goldsboro, where he sought protection from the garrison, and shot and killed him on the steps of the store on the corner of Boundary (now Holly) and East Center Streets, then occupied by the late Sol. Keaton. This act, daring in the extreme, brought relief to the people of the county. Among those who participated in it I recall Frank M. Aycock, a gallant soldier, patriotic citizen and excellent farmer, and Gilbert Ward, who won distinction in war, and never in his life feared man or devil, whose affectionate loyalty to his friends was unsurpassed by any man I ever knew.
Dr. Person, a man of dauntless courage, capacity for leadership, and greatness of heart, after practicing his profession for many years, during which no sufferer, however poor, ever sought his service in vain, still lives far beyond his four score years, enjoying the confidence and love of troops of friends. A kindred spirit representing the gallant soldier, loyal citizen and old time physician, whose life has been spent in unselfish devotion to his neighbors, is Dr. J. B. Kennedy, of Grantham Township. It is a delight to pay tribute to these old time country doctors, among whom I should like to include John F. Miller, W. H. H. Cobb George L. Kirby, J. D. Spicer, and Thomas Hill. of Goldsboro, who have passed away and M. McI. Tatum, of Mount Olive, who still survives.
One of the most celebrated trials that took place in the Court House just removed was the trial of the Worley murderers, in April of 1878. On February 11, 1878, James Worley and his wife, Appie Jane, humble but industrious and worthy citizens, living in the low lands of Fork Township, were found murdered in their humble home, in the presence of their infant child and little five year old daughter. On investigation it was found that a crime, even more horrible than murder, had been perpetrated. David A. Grantham was at that time Sheriff of the countya descendant of one of the oldest and most respected families, a man of unusual intelligence, energy and character. He organized an investigation, aided by the citizens of the neighborhood, which resulted in the arrest of four negroes, Noah Cherry, Harris Atkinson, Robert Thompson, and Jerry Cox. So careful and thorough had been the investigation that the last named defendant finding himself in the toils of the law turned states evidence. There was great excitement when the facts of the tragedy became generally known, and there was imminent probability that an attempt might be made to lynch the prisoners, which the coolness and courage of Sheriff Grantham prevented; and the prisoners were duly brought to trial on April 30, 1878, in the presence of a numerous and highly excited multitude. Hon. John Kerr presided at that session of the court. The state was represented by Hon. L. J. Moore, Solicitor, assisted by William T. Dortch and W. E. Clarke.
The defendant, Harris Atkinson, was represented by John D. Kerr, now of Clinton; Noah Cherry, by George T. Wassom, a negro lawyer of Goldsboro, and Robert Thompson by Swift Galloway, afterwards Solicitor of the district.
The evidence was fully developed by able and experienced counsel, both for the state and defendants, argued with great ability and the charge of the presiding judge was clear and impartial. The defendants, Cherry, Atkinson, and Thompson were convicted, sentenced and on the 14th day of June, 1878, executed by Sheriff Grantham in the presence of an immense multitude.
The investigation of this case begun by Sheriff Grantham, and his assistants, participated in by the Coroner's Jury, presided over by Dr. George L. Kirby, the Coroner; the quiet courage and determination of Sheriff Grantham, which prevented the application of lynch law, and the impartial trial, sentence, and execution taught a most salutary lesson, and furnished an example, not only to the citizens of Wayne County but to those of the state worthy to be followed in tragedies, which are calculated to arouse the strongest passions of men, and to precipitate them into lawless conduct, bringing the law into disrepute and involving those who participate in the guilt of murder.
Among the citizens of Wayne County who have been greatly honored in the past are Jesse Slocomb, the son of Ezekiel Slocumb, who after serving as clerk of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, was elected to Congress from this District, and served from 1818 to 1823. He died in Washington, DC and was buried in the Congressional Cemetery; William H. Washington, who served in Congress from 1841 to 1843it is sometimes claimed that when he was sent to Congress he was a resident of Craven, but the authorities differ on this point; Thomas Ruffin, an attorney at this bar prior to 1850, who served in Congress from 1853 to 1861 inclusive, was a gallant Colonel in the Confederate army, and died of wounds received in battle; Curtis H. Brogden, after whose family one of our fine townships was named, after having served the county repeatedly as a member of the House of Representatives served for many years as Comptroller of the State, as Lieutenant Governor and upon the death of Governor Tod Robinson Caldwell, as Governorhe was elected to Congress in 1877, and afterwards served in the State Senate; Swift Galloway who was first elected in 1878 and served two terms as Solicitor of the district; and Benjamin F. Aycock, who served as State Senator at the sessions of 1889, 1891, 1893, 1901 and 1907, where he was regarded as one of the ablest, wisest and most progressive of Senators, who formulated and procured the enactment of many useful and far-reaching measures. He was elected a member of the Corporation Commission in 1908 and served most ably until his death.
The district has again honored us in the election to Congress of our countyman, George E. Hood, a member of this bar, who has served as County Treasurer, Mayor of the City of Goldsboro and as a representative in the House of Representatives from Wayne County.
Before 1880, there had not been much improvement in farming, though twenty-five to thirty thousand bales of cotton were marketed in Goldsboro. Since then improved methods have been introduced and have resulted in the production of larger crops of corn, tobacco and cotton, and there has grown up the great industry of truck raising in one of the finest sections, around the prosperous and progressive town of Mount Olive, which has added to the wealth of the citizens of that portion of our county.
Prior to 1880, there were but two manufacturing establishments in Wayne County, W. F. Kornegay & Company's Machine Works and the Planing Mill of W. H. Underhill.
In 1881, J. H. Strauss & Co. built the Rice Mill and operated it. It has since become the Carolina Rice Mills. In 1882, the Goldsboro Oil Mills were erected and operated. In 1884, the Goldsboro Lumber Company erected and operated its mill, since removed to Dover. In 1885, Royall & Borden organized the Mattress Factory for the manufacture of the Royal Felt Mattresses. Dewey Bros. built their machine shops in 1885. In 1885, The Goldsboro Furniture Company was incorporated. In 1886, Wayne Agricultural Works was organized. In 1887, The Enterprise Lumber Company began business; in 1900, The Borden Manufacturing Company; in 1905, A. T. Griffin Manufacturing Company; in 1907, the Goldsboro Buggy Company; in 1907, the Goldsboro Knitting Mills, now the Durham Hosiery Mills; in 1907, the Utility Manufacturing Company; in 1910, the Empire Manufacturing Company, and in 1911, the Wayne Hardwood Company. H. Weil & Bros., H. L. Grant & Son, Borden Brick & Tile Company, and the Wayne Red Brick Company have been engaged in manufacturing brick and tile. The capital of these various corporations amounts to about one million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The output of these institutions is three million, three hundred and sixty thousand dollars a a year, the monthly pay roll exclusive of office force, is forty-seven thousand and five hundred dollars. Then there are the Mount Olive Lumber Company with J. R. Bell as its president, and the Fremont Oil Mills under the management of J. T. Hooks, President and J. B. Lane as Secretary and Treasurer.
Goldsboro is developing, too, into a tobacco market. There are gins and saw mills throughout the county. One of the best things about these enterprises is that they have been built and operated with Wayne County money. We made the money and saved it and put it into these industries that are giving employment to thousands of our citizens and bringing wealth into the community.
The men who have done these things, I regard as constituting a roll of honor, and as such they should occupy a place upon the records of the county. W. F. Kornegay, W. H. Underhill, Street & Hyman, Charles Dewey, E. B. Borden, Henry Weil, Solomon Weil, W. H. Smith, W. H. Borden, F. K. Borden, John L. Borden, Nathan O'Berry, George C. Royall, M. E. Robinson, Robert Kornegay, J. S. Carr & Sons, A. T. Griffin, A. H. Edgerton, H. L. Grant, I. F. Ormond, George A. Norwood, Thomas H. Holmes, J. R. Bell, and J. T. Hooks.
You remember in the opening part of my address I stated that only about three hundred thousand feet of lumber were manufactured in the early days in all North Carolina. Statistics show that now we are manufacturing over a billion feet per year, and in recent years the lumber companies are devising ways to preserve the timber, and every time they saw a thousand feet they try to arrange that the lands's young growth shall be left intact to bear a thousand more.
Another class of institutions has been of vast benefit to this county. I refer to the banks, and first I mention the Bank of Wayne. The last statement of the Bank of Wayne, June 30, 1914, showed the bank had resources of one million five hundred thousand dollars; the statement of the National Bank of Goldsboro, made at the same time, showed that that bank had resources of five hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars; the Savings Bank, had one hundred and fifty thousand; the Peoples Bank three hundred and fifteen thousand; total in Goldsboro two million five hundred and forty thousand dollars, resources for the development of our enterprises, the cultivation of our fine farms and the general business of the county. The Bank of Mount Olive had resources of two hundred and twenty-one thousand eight hundred and three dollars. The Citizens Bank of Mount Olive one hundred twenty-eight thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight dollars; the Bank Fremont two hundred eighty-six thousand one hundred and thirty-nine dollars, making the total banking resources three milion one hundred seventy-six thousand dollars. These institutions are managed by men of character, excellent business qualifications and experience, and have the confidence of all classes. The capital and deposits are made up almost entirely of local money.
Some things that have helped conditions are the extension of the telephone, and the rural delivery routes and the circulation of newspapers, and these useful agencies have served to bring our people close together, to harmonize and unite them.
I do not think I should close this address without some reference, which I hope will be pardoned, to a gentleman born in Waynesboro, who came early to Goldsboro, where his whole life has been spent, organized the first banking institution in 1860 as an agency of the State Bank of North Carolina, and who in 1873, calling to his assistance Capt. R. P. Howell as the cashier, and George W. Dewey as assistant cashier, organized the Bank of New Hanover, which was afterwards merged into the Bank of Wayne. I refer to its honored president E. B. Borden, who for fifty years has stood at the head of this business world, and who by his good life, high character, clear intellect and fine business sense has done much to mold and shape the business community, which is regarded by the entire state as one of its most steady and reliable. I think it but just to say in this connection what every citizen of Wayne County feels and knows.
In passing I should wish, if time permitted, to refer to all the officials of our well managed and prosperous financial and other institutions. I cannot go into particulars about these gentlemen, but recent events in this community compel me to make reference to a gentleman, who is president of one of the banks of this city. I refer to George A. Norwood, President of the National Bank of Goldsboro, a man of high character and fine intelligence who has grown upon this community, interested in its development, and alive with public spirit. It is a fortunate thing for a county like ours that its manufactures, its trade, its banks, and its business are in the hands of men of character and men of intelligence.
When I came to practice at this bar I was greatly impresed with the sturdy character of the citizens of this county. In every township, there were strong, vigorous men, men of character and of real power who had a leadership which they used wisely, and well; they could be relied upon in any contingency to take positions which would do honor to the state. I have known many of them. I would like to name them all if I had time. Some of them had gone through the war. Many participated in the bitterness that existed before the war, passed through that great ordeal and some of them came out wounded for life. They bore with courage the evil conditions that came in the wake of war. They had to rebuild this country. They got down to the hardest sort of labor in order to feed and clothe their families. They endured great privations. In the midst of all they never forgot their duties as citizens. They grew strong through adversity, and sometimes when I think of them in contrast with the generation now growing up, I take the privilege of an old man and wonder whether our young people will attain the stature of these splendid men. They should do it. They should do more, because they have more advantages.
There is another thing I want to mention in the development of this county. In 1850, there was spent in Wayne County for the education of the children one thousand four hundred and seventy-two dollars. Last year, 1913, the amount ran up to $86,094. My friend Mr. E. T. Atkinson, our County Superintendent of Education, pronounced by the school authorities of the state to be one of the best on the list of North Carolina Superintendents, and a descendant of one of the earliest of the settlers, has given me the figures. What a contrast! Against one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars in 1850, we spent in 1913, for the education of the children of the state four million dollars for better schools, better teachers and longer terms. The school property of the county is worth five times as much today as it was worth in 1900. Nothing is of more importance than the education of all the children, for upon the character and intelligence of the coming generations depends the future prosperity of the county. I take pleasure in talking about the material growth of this county. I rejoice in it; but there is something I rejoice in more than that; it is the moral growth of this community, its growth in intelligence and high ideals. If we could let some old citizen compare the intellectual and moral conditions existing here fifty years ago with the intellectual and moral conditions existing today, and show us the difference, we should be astounded and delighted. Never has progress been more wonderful. Wherever progress has been made, it has been the result of the work of the church, the school and the home in the uplifting of a citizenship that is growing morally and intellectually higher every year.
The first vote I ever cast was for the establishment of the Goldsboro Graded School. I came in 1881 to this bar, and in that year we had a bitter controversy about the establishment of public schools. We had nothing of much worth but private schools, and it was a fight to a finish whether this community should take charge of the great function of government, the training up of its future citizens. I remember a man who has passed away who was a great power in that day, and some of you gentlemen remember him, Julius A. Bonitz. He was heart and soul in favor of that movement. I remember that he came to Aycock and your speaker and asked us to write the editorials in his great and useful paper, The Goldsboro Messenger, in favor of the establishment of the Goldsboro Graded School; and Aycock and I, from week to week, wrote the editorials for the paper. Sometimes Aycock started to write, was interrupted, left the editorial half finished, and when the editor called for it, I would finish the other half. Sometimes conditions were reversed; I would start and he finish. I should like to see those old editorials. I should like to see them because the governor's style and mine were entirely different, but our hearts were together on that great proposition. The fight was won. How about it now? Why, it is the most popular institution in Goldsboro. If a man in Goldsboro who cares for popularity wishes to destroy himself utterly, let him put himself in opposition to the progress of that splendid institution. Some of the finest educators in the state have gone out from its halls. I might mention, Moses, Alderman, Claxton, Joyner, Foust, and Brooks and others.
While I admire this modern education, while I have the highest respect for those useful institutions, the State Normal and Industrial College, at Greensboro, and the Teachers Training School, at Greenville, while I know that it is almost a liberal education for our boys and girls to come in contact with those refined and cultured young women who come from these institutions to teach our children, I wish to stop just a moment and talk about some old teachers I knew. I want to say that in this community when there was no public school, worthy of the name, that the little children were taught and trained and influences exerted upon their characters which will last through eternity by four good women, two of whom have gone to their reward; the others linger here honored and revered by this whole community. I refer to Miss Mary Carrow, Mrs. M. D. Crayton, Mrs. M. O. Humphrey, and Mrs. Mary B. Griswold. I do not think my task would have been complete until I had paid this just tribute to these noble women.
In this connection it should be added that in the '70's J. B. Williams and E. M. Nadal conducted an excellent school at Fremont.
Another great factor in the education of the people has been the press represented in this county by The Argus, The Record and The Headlight, of Goldsboro, The Tribune of Mount Olive and The Messenger of Fremont, always conducive to the public welfare.
In 1881 four young men were licensed by the Supreme Court and came to practice at this barCharles B. Aycock, William R. Allen, Joseph E. Robinson, and Frank A. Daniels, and in the next few years a fifth, William T. Dortch, Jr They were intimate personal friends and their youthful regard for each other deepened with the years without interruption and bound them together as with hooks of steel. Of widely differing temperaments and gifts, antagonists who met each other in this arena in many a hotly contested debate, their affection and loyalty for each other, cemented by generous and manly rivalry, never faltered. I regard my friendship and lifelong association and communion with these golden hearted gentlemen as one of the great joys with which my life has been blessed.
Joseph E. Robinson in a few years left the practice, which I am sure he would have adorned, for newspaper work, established the Goldsboro Argus, which he still edits and which has been for more than thirty years the eloquent advocate of every measure that tended to the material advancement and moral uplift of the community. After many years of service to the cause of public education he still presides over the Board of Education of the county, with Barnes Aycock and W. F. English as his faithful associates. His valuable and constant services to the cause of charity and humanity aided greatly in the establishment of the Goldsboro Hospital, and other benevolent agencies; and are known and appreciated by all his fellow citizens. No worthy cause will ever lack an advocate so long as he presides over the sanctum of the Argus. He was on the staff of Governor Charles Brantly Aycock and wears with distinction his title of Col. Robinson.
William R. Allen, the student and at the same time the practical man of affairs, of well balanced and highly discriminating mind, from his youth prepared his cases with scrupulous care and argued them with unusual clearness and directness. He early became a well grounded, accurate, and painstaking lawyer. His familiarity with the decisions of our Supreme Court, his facility for putting his hands upon them at a moment's notice as well as his able use of them, won early the admiration and the despair of his less fortunate brethren. A man of tact and delicacy of feeling and thought, considerate of the opinions of others, while tenacious of his own, quiet, persuasive and logical, he has had a large measure of success in impressing his views upon his associates. He is regarded as a man of great self control, and he is, but at the same time of feeling and emotion seldom exhibited unless when deeply touched. Steadfast in his friendships, loyal to his convictions, always actively interested in the welfare of his county and his state, his career has been one of great usefulness. He served the county as a member of the House of Representatives during the sessions of 1893, 1899, and 1901, where he rendered valuable service as a wise, constructive legislator, and where he stood in the front rank of the ablest statesmen of that body. He was in June of 1894 appointed a Judge of the Superior Court. He served until January of 1895. In 1902, he was elected Judge of the Superior Court and served until January 1, 1911. In that capacity his learning, ability and character made a great impression upon the profession and the people. Everywhere I go, I hear expressions of regret that he no longer rides the districts of the state. His conduct of the business of the court, his tact and courtesy, his impartiality and evident love of justice, the clearness of his charges which enabled juries easily to grasp complex and troublesome questions of fact and law, marked him as one of the ablest trial judges the state has produced. In 1910, he was elected one of the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, and worthily upholds the traditions of that great tribunal. His opinions, clear, concise and exhaustive, furnish evidence of his learning, good sense and almost infinite industry.
William T. Dortch, Jr., soon after his majority was elected Tax Collector of the county for two terms and is now serving as United States Marshall for the Eastern District of North Carolina under the appointment of President Woodrow Wilson. He is a son of William T. Dortch, for many years the leading citizen and lawyer of the county, and has inherited and cultivated a large measure of the great talents of his distinguished father. He has always had a strong hold upon the affections of the people of the county and has been one of its most popular citizens. An experienced and capable lawyer, and an advocate of great power, he has for many years enjoyed a large practice and a great influence. His kindness of heart, genial disposition and excellent common sense have won him many friends in all sections of the state. Generous and so loyal that he counts not the cost when he can render service to a friend, long live this gallant gentleman and close neighbor of mine.
Charles Brantly Aycockand what shall I say of the friend of my boyhood, my school and college mate, and for nearly a quarter of a century my partner in the practice of the law, bound to me by ties as close and tender as those that bind brothers of the same mother? What a heart he had, that beat in sympathy with all mankind! What a generous hand that impoverished itself to relieve human suffering! How the poor and the weak and the helpless appealed to him who was strong, helpful and rich in the love of his family and his friends! How from his early youth the passion for the enlightenment of those that sat in darkness burned in his great soul! Shall I tell in my feeble words of the great campaign that he made for the little children of the state who were crying for the light and with no language but a cry? It is written in the hearts of the people of North Carolina who responded to his brave words and are fulfilling his prophecy that knowledge should unfold its ample page to the gaze of every child born of woman. Shall I say how in a distant state while making his great appeal for the enlightenment of all mankind his great heart forgot to beat and he rested from his labors? Is it worth while to tell of his political campaigns, of the splendid eloquence that convinced, thrilled and moved to action a whole people, of his service as District Attorney and Governor? Great as they were, his greatest service was his educational campaign, and such will, I think, be the verdict of future generations. No purely technical lawyer could he be, though he knew the technical side of the law. No mere case lawyerlost unless he found a decision in point, but a lawyer who knew and loved great principles, had assimilated them and made them a part of his speech as well as a part of his life. How on this spot was exhibited his greatness as a lawyer, and his power over the minds and hearts of men? Here in some splendid passage clothed in language unapproachable, when mind and soul seemed lifted above ordinary limitations, he satisfied the judgment and stormed the citadel of the emotions. He was the greatest among us, standing, like Saul, higher than his brethren; and, though we envied his great gifts, there was no jealousy, but only admiration and love. No other man of his generation, and I doubt, of any other generation of North Carolinians, has had in so full a degree the respect and confidence and love of his people.
Frank A. Daniels served as Senator in the state Senate in 1899 and 1900, and was elected Judge of the Superior Court in 1910, since which time he has served in that position.
The bar to which these young men came had a high reputation throughout the state for learning, ability and character. Indeed, probably the principal reason why I came to this bar was the advice of a wise friend, and he advised this course not only because Goldsboro was at the time a railroad center and the county seat of a fine farming country populated by sterling and industrious people, but principally because it had one of the ablest bars of the state. The leader of that bar was William T. Dortch, who from the building of the Court House in 1850, and for many years afterwards, had as his principal antagonist George V. Strong. W. T. Faircloth, H. F. Grainger, John W. Bryan, Stephen W. Isler, A. K. Smedes, I. F. Dortch, W. S. O'B. Robinson, Swift Galloway, Col. W. A. Allen, Col. L. W. Humphrey, and Nixon P. Clingman were the other lawyers practising here at that time.
William T. Dortch, a native of Nash, was county attorney for many years, was a member of the House of Commons in 1860, and Speaker of that body. He was elected to the Confederate States Senate in 1862, in which he served until near the end of the Confederacy. He afterwards served in the sessions of 1879, 1881, and 1883 as State Senator, and won the reputation of a wise legislator and a safe political leader. He had been in his early years a diligent student of the law, and as early as 1855 was one of the best lawyers of the state. Judge Strong once told me that when he came to the bar of Goldsboro, a few years after Mr. Dortch, he regarded him as one of the best informed lawyers that he had ever seen. Mr. Dortch was a man of great vigor of intellect, strong common sense and practical judgment; a wise counselor in his office, noted for the careful and thorough preparation of his cases, for consummate management in the court, master of the art of examining and cross-examining witnesses, exhibiting great power in presenting the law and the evidence to the court and jury. I have known some lawyers who surpassed him in some one or more of these qualities, but taking him all in all, I have thought that he was the best lawyer I ever knew. No man has lived in Wayne County who gained in so great a degree the confidence and respect of all classes of its citizens. Three of his sons, I. F. Dortch, W. T. Dortch, and J. T. Dortch, have been members of this Bar.
William T. Faircloth, who was long one of the most prominent practitioners at this bar, was a native of Edgecombe, a diligent and careful lawyer, of good judgment, who when aroused presented his cases to the jury with much vigor. He was at one time solicitor of this district, served as a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1865, was Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1876 to 1879; elected Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1894, and served from January, 1895, to his death in December, 1900. His opinions are usually brief, clear and strong. His excellent common sense enabled him to see and present the determining principle of the case, and to fortify his decision by the citation of the authorities sustaining it. In this last position he won much reputation among the lawyers of the state.
It is interesting to recall that in 1878 and 1879 Hon. F. M. Simmons, now senior Senator from North Carolina, lived in Goldsboro and practiced law as the junior member of the firm of Faircloth & Simmons, and that while living here he married his first wife, Eliza, daughter of Col. L. W. Humphrey.
H. F. Granger, a native of Greene County, associated with John W. Bryan, was doing a practice almost equal to that of William T. Dortch. He served as a member of the House of Representatives at the session of 1881. Mr. Granger was a sound lawyer, careful and industrious, and an advocate of real strength. He was one of this strong array who died in the year 1884.
John W. Bryan, his partner, a native of Wayne County, a quiet, studious lawyer, who was not attracted to the contests of the courtroom, devoted himself to the study of the law and the business of the office. It was the general impression of the young men who came to the bar that his opinion on a legal question was as valuable as that of any of his associates. On account of ill health, he retired from the practice about the year 1887. He served as a member of the House of Representatives at the session of 1891.
Stephen W. Isler, one of the most eccentric but kindest of men, was a great student and for many years read law for about fourteen hours a day. It was said that he had read, among other things, the Revised Statutes of the United States including every decision cited in them. He was exceptional in being a man of large property, the management of which engrossed much of his attention. He afterwards removed to Kinston where he has recently died.
George V. Strong, a native of Sampson, had shortly before I came to the bar removed to Wake County, retaining, however, his practise at this bar which he always attended, and at which he was a great figure. Shortly thereafter he formed a partnership with Charles B. Aycock and F. A. Daniels which lasted until 1886 or 87. He was a gentleman of fine manners, a most industrious lawyer who never rested content until he had seen and thoroughly examined every authority on every side of every proposition. His acute and somewhat subtle mind enabled him to see a subject at so many angles that there resulted sometimes an uncertainty of conviction, which, however, did not militate against his eloquent and persuasive presentation of his views to the court. He was not the equal of Mr. Dortch in the practical management of his cases, but I have never known his superior in the domain of law. He surpassed all his associates in literary attainments, and in beauty and felicity of speech. In his youth he was a poet and published a volume of verse about which later he became sensitive and endeavored to recall from circulation. He afterwards represented the county of Wake in the House of Representatives, and served as Judge of the criminal court of that county. He served as a member from Wayne County in the State Convention of 1861.
A. K. Smedes was at that time in the full meridian of his powers. A man of great ability, fine judgment and thoroughly immersed in the study of the law. He read law, talked law, thought law, but still had leisure for the cultivation of literature and intercourse with his friends. His genial and cordial manner, dignity, kindness of heart, and unselfish service to the young men of the bar won their hearts, and have kept his memory green. He died in 1884 at thirty-eight in the full maturity of his great faculties. There was no honor to which a lawyer could aspire that could not have been his if his life had been spared. His last argument to the jury in a capital case was so able a presentation of the law of circumstantial evidence that it has ever since served as a model to his brethren. I have heard it substantially made by members of this Bar at least a hundred times.
I. F. Dortch, son of William T. Dortch, a well informed lawyer, strong speaker, and elegant conversationalist, did a large office practice, wrote most of the deeds and wills and settled most of the estates of the county. He also appeared in most of the important litigation. In clearness and directness of speech, in the grouping of the facts of his case, and in his ability to impress the jury, he had few equals. He represented this Senatorial District in the General Assembly of 1876 most acceptably.
William Smith O'Brien Robinson, a native of Wayne County, the son of John Robinson, for four years District Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, and for eight years, from 1895 to 1903, Superior Court Judge of this District. I have found in traveling over the state that he made many friends who keep him in remembrance. He is a brilliant lawyer and advocate. I recall several of his arguments before juries which in real eloquence and power stand out in my memory as among the best I ever heard. He is endowed with the Irish gift of humor which brightens and illuminates not only his public speeches but his private conversation. In many counties of this state, as well as in his home county, his love of justice and his hatred of oppression, and the original and brilliant manner in which they have been demonstrated have left a lasting impression. Social, genial, and loyal to his associates, he has drawn and held a multitude of friends. He is the only practicing member of the old bar, John W. Bryan being the only other survivor. I trust that he may be long spared for the delight of his brethren and the good of the community.
Swift Galloway, a careful and accurate lawyer and model Solicitor, was possessed of extraordinary powers of eloquence which often produced great effects. His sense of humor and his goodness of heart are cherished by those of us who knew him. After leaving the county he represented the county of Greene in the House of Representatives.
Col. W. A. Allen came from Duplin County to Wayne County shortly after the young men I have mentioned began to practise. He had been a practicing lawyer for many years in Duplin where he had made a great reputation as an able, safe and learned lawyer. He was the father of Hons. O. H. and William R. Allen. He took a large part in public affairs in his early life; served in the General Assembly with much reputation as a wise legislator, and rendered valuable services to his state. It was always his ambition to go upon the bench, and he would probably have been elevated to that position but for the fact that while a member of the Legislature in the early 70s he introduced and secured the passage of a usury act which so grievously offended a number of the bankers of his District that they secured his defeat when he was a candidate for that position. He did not live to appreciate the honors conferred upon his sons, but his wife and their mother lived until both her sons were known, honored and respected throughout the state. Col. Allen died in 1884.
Col. L. W. Humphrey, a native of Onslow County, moved to Goldsboro in the spring of 1865, and engaged in the practice of his profession here, and was an able and accomplished lawyer, but with strong bent towards business. With Hon. W. A. Smith in the early '70s, Col. Humphrey built the hotel now known as the Kennon, on East Centre Street, and he was the first to engage in the erection of brick business buildings. He served as president of the Atlantic & North Carolina Railroad, and I have heard it said, made one of the best presidents that corporation has ever had. He was the father of Earle A. Humphrey, at present a member of this Bar, County Attorney and Solicitor of the County Court, and of D. C. Humphrey a member of this bar and City Attorney of Goldsboro.
Nixon P. Clingman, not actively engaged in practice, a man of fine literary attainments and poetical taste, whose numerous poems found many admirers.
W. C. Munroe, a genuine Scots Presbyterian and a native of Bladen County, came from Greene County to this bar in the early 80s, after a successful career there. He was a man of unusual intellectuality, of fine literary taste and a learned, industrious painstaking lawyer, a delightful companion and conversationalist, devoted to his friends and unswerving in his loyalty. He was the author of Munroe's Annotations, greatly prized by the bar of the state. At the request of the members of the bar, among whom he was regarded as better fitted by learning, training and patient industry than any lawyer of the state, he had begun shortly before his death the preparation of a digest of our Supreme Court Reports, but failing health prevented the completion of this great undertaking and deprived the profession of a much needed work. He represented the county in the session of 1895 of the General Assembly.
I have the most pleasant recollections of the kindness of every one of these gentlemen from the eldest to the youngest. Their helpfulness and kindly consideration for their younger brethren begot in us an affection that the lapse of years has left undimned.
In 1881, when I came to the bar, the officers of this court were W. T. Yelverton, clerk, and D. A. Grantham, sheriff. I have already spoken at some length of Sheriff Grantham. W. T. Yelverton belongs to one of the oldest families in the county, and is a man of intelligence and high character and one of the best officials I have ever seen. He taught me about all I ever knew about the probate practice. He soon after retired from office and with W. H. Smith formed the hardware business of Smith & Yelverton, to which on the death of Mr. Smith, he succeeded.
In conclusion let us trust that while this building shall stand the lawyers who practice here shall have a high sense of their responsibility to their clients and to the court, may grow in ability, learning and character, and maintain the high standard established by the old time bar; that the officers of the court may sustain the reputation bequeathed to them by their predecessors; that the jurors shall measure up to the requirements of the statute, and always be men of good moral character and of sufficient inteligence to discharge properly the great duties committed to them; that the judges who shall preside here may be men who know the law, lovers of justice, endowed with great abilities of high character, who shall know neither the person of the poor nor the person of the rich, administering the law in the spirit of humanity, doing judgment in righteousness. May no innocent man ever be convicted within these walls, and may no guilty man escape.
Let us remember the language of the great Webster that The Chief concern of man on earth is justice. Let us write over our portals the immortal words of Jefferson Equal and exact justice to all men.
I am indebted for much of this address to that great mine of information the Colonial and State Records, Wheeler's History, J. Bryan Grimes Notes on Colonial North Carolina, Diary of a Geological Tour of Dr. Elisha Mitchell, edited by Dr. Kemp P. Battle, L.L.D., the records of the Courts, unpublished notes on Goldsboro by Mrs. Julia Winslow, address by Nathan O'Berry, Esq., before the Chamber of Commerce of the City of Goldsboro, 1912, Hon. M. O. Sherill, State Librarian, Hamilton's Reconstruction in North Carolina, many citizens of Wayne County, and especially to Vol. I History of North Carolina by Capt. Samuel A. Ashe, the only history of the state that deserves the name. I regard it a serious reflection upon the patriotism of our people that so few volumes were sold that, though the material for the second volume completing the work is ready for publication, the means are not available to secure it. There are in the state enough patriotic citizens who have the ability to insure the publication of this great work who will do it when their attention shall be directed to this public duty.
The people of the state and their children should not lose the benefits of the labor of this able, scholarly and industrious North Carolinian whose family and himself have largely contributed to our past achievements.
Directly above is from - "History of Wayne County" - An address by Judge Frank A. Daniels, at the opening of Wayne County's New Court House on November 30, 1914. Opening remarks have been omitted and minor edits have been made. Click Here for the entire text. Link is current as of December 2019.