Wayne County History in Maps: Early America through the Civil War

This is part 2 of a three part series. Click here for part 1.

With the defeat of the British and formation of the United States, the North Carolina General Assembly created Wayne County in 1787 from the former Dobbs County. With a new nation came new demand for surveys of everything from national borders all the way down to private property.

While surveyors combed the nation though, the first maps differed little from the maps of the Colonial Era.

Map of North and South Carolina, 1796, by J. Denison
Click for an enlarged version.                                 North Carolina State Archives

Above: Map of North and South Carolina, by J. Denison, published in 1796.

This map does feature counties but does not show any boundary lines, owing to the fact that comprehensive surveys had not yet been completed across the state.

Wayne County is shown a bit too far south and not enough to the east of Raleigh. The Neuse River is shown to the north in Nash County when in fact the river cuts through Wayne.

Another point of interest is the western potion of the state. It shows the Appalachian Mountains but the boundary line simply follows the mountains from northeast to southwest. Tennessee did not join the Union until 1796, the same year this map was published and the boundary had yet to be properly surveyed.


Carte des Etats-Unis: provinces meridonales, 1799, by P.F. Tardieu
Click for an enlarged version.                                            UNC, North Carolina Collection

Above: Carte des Etats-Unis: provinces meridonales (Map of United States: southern provinces) by Pierre Francois Tardieu, published in Paris, 1799.

Whereas the previous map lists counties, this one omits them but it does show many more towns, including Waynesborough.

The brown lines running throughout are roads. Waynesborough was an important stop on the stagecoach line from the former capital and port of New Bern to the new capital Raleigh. Waynesborough offered several inns, eating establishments, and fresh horses.


New century…better maps

The early 19th century brought about a massive improvement in the quality of maps in the United States, from the national level down to the local.

A new nation needs accurate maps; where does one county end and the next begin? How many people live in a particular town, county, or state? How does a county tax your land without knowing its exact size?

There was no GPS, computer, internet, or any other modern technology available so the task of surveying and transmitting that data took time which is why it took a couple of decades for the maps to reflect new information.


First actual survey of the state of North Carolina, 1808, by Price & Strother
Click for an enlarged version.                                             Library of Congress

Above: First actual survey of the state of North Carolina, by Johnathan Price, published in Philadelphia, 1808.

Wayne County from First actual survey of the state of North Carolina, 1808, by Price & Strother
Click to enlarge.

The above map is one of, if not the first, map of North Carolina that resembles what we today would recognize as accurate.

The state border, county boundaries, natural features, and towns are accurate. The western portion of the state however is still not complete. This area was still the frontier and accurate surveys still not available due to the mountainous terrain and distance from population centers.

Wayne County looks very similar to its actual boundaries. The location of Waynesborough, where the Little River meets the Neuse, is correct, although misspelled “Wainsborough”.

The northern portion of the county (around the Black River) is correct but several decades later this area was transferred to the newly formed Wilson County.


North Carolina, 1814, by Mathew Carey
Click to enlarge.                                                                Library of Congress

Above: North Carolina, by Mathew Carey, published in 1814.

Wayne County from North Carolina, 1814, by Mathew Carey
Click to enlarge.

There are always exceptions to the rule and the above map is “exhibit A” of this phenomenon. Despite the advances in maps of North Carolina, this example is lacking to say the least.

The state boundary is correct but at the county level things fall apart.

Wayne County has been slimmed considerably and looks more like an artist’s interpretation than the actual county.

Only two roads and three waterways are depicted.

Perhaps the only redeeming piece of the map is the western state boundary.


A new map of the state of North Carolina, 1833, by Robert Brazier
Click to enlarge.                                                                   Library of Congress

Above: A new map of the state of North Carolina, by Robert Brazier, published in Fayetteville, NC, 1833.

Wayne County from A new map of the state of North Carolina, 1833, by Robert Brazier
Click to enlarge.

Continuing the trend of more accurate maps (the above Carey map an exception) the Brazier map is an excellent representation of both the state and Wayne County.

Features include numerous roads, waterways, bridges, ferries and settlements.

In the southeast corner an “F” marks a ferry crossing that is likely Seven Springs.

North of Waynesborough are two settlements, one of which is labeled “Sherrad”. This is likely a reference to Sherard Cross Roads, which would later become Pikeville.

The small group of black squares to the south is another settlement. It is possible that this is actually the future Pikeville and that “Sherrad” was mislabeled and is in fact the future Fremont.


The railroad emerges

A new map of the state of North Carolina, 1854, by Wellington Williams
Click to enlarge.                                                                    Library of Congress

Above: A new map of the state of North Carolina by Wellington Williams, published in Philadelphia, 1854.

Wayne County from A new map of the state of North Carolina, 1854, by Wellington Williams
Click to enlarge.

No other advancement in the history of the state has been as impactful as the emergence of the railroad during the middle of the 19th century.

The most important of those early lines was the Wilmington & Weldon, completed in 1840 and running through Wayne County (the solid black line at left).

This line, the longest in the world at the time, created Mt. Olive and Goldsboro, and led to the decline and eventual disappearance of Waynesborough.

The dashed line running east and west, although it looks like one line, is in fact two railroads. The North Carolina RR, running from Charlotte to Goldsboro, and the Atlantic & NC RR, running from Goldsboro to Morehead City.

One bit of information that had perhaps not been known by the mapmaker is that in 1848 the county seat was transferred from Waynesborough to Goldsboro, but in the map, Waynesborough is labeled in a larger, bold font.

Civil War

Eastern portion of the Military Department of North Carolina, 1862
Click to enlarge.                                                      Library of Congress

Above: Eastern portion of the military department of North Carolina, US Army Corps of Engineers, May 1862.

Wayne County from Eastern portion of the Military Department of North Carolina, 1862
Click to enlarge.

By the spring of 1862, Union forces controlled the North Carolina coast from the Virginia border to New Bern.

The Corps of Engineers created the above map, which would have been used by General John Foster for his raid into eastern NC from New Bern in late 1862.

Foster made it as far as Wayne County, where his Union troops clashed with Confederate defenders at Seven Springs (Battle of Whitehall, December 15) and the railroad bridge over the Neuse River (Battle of Goldsborough Bridge, December 16).

There are no boundary lines for counties, likely because there was no need for such information in a military map. Officers needed to know the locations of towns, railroads, rivers, lakes, swamps, and the like.

The map lists all settlements in the county including Jericho (originally known as Whitehall and today called Seven Springs), Everettsville (Dudley), Mt. Olive, and Nahunta (Fremont).

Goldsboro was a critical strategic location for both sides during the Civil War due to the railroad intersection. This map correctly shows, unlike the 1854 Williams map above, that the NC RR and the Atlantic & NC RR lines do not meet at the same point along the Wilmington & Weldon railroad line running north and south but are offset by a short distance.


The maps in the series were all taken from two collections and they, along with countless others, can be viewed and downloaded from the Library of Congress and the North Carolina Maps project.


  • Look for part 3 of this series coming soon. For part 1 click here.

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