A nearly 200 year old letter sent from Wayne County to Tennessee has miraculously survived
The following letter was donated to Old Waynesborough Park by Susan Evans. It was written in 1824 by Henry Daughtry in Wayne County, NC to James Boyet in Bedford County, TN.
The handwriting is clear but his grammar is terrible. There is no punctuation nor are there any paragraphs and the spelling is poor. Keep in mind though that Mr. Daughtry likely had very little formal education, no TV, internet, and probably no books except for a Bible.
After the transcript below there is information on some of the people mentioned in the letter.
In the following transcript I have added punctuation and separated the text into paragraphs. Anything in brackets are my notes.
By the beginning of the Civil War, the original county seat of Wayne had disappeared
In 1758 the General Assembly ordered the division of Johnston County and formation of a new county, Dobbs, named in honor of Arthur Dobbs, the royal governor. Almost three decades later Dobbs was broken up and a new county, Wayne, was created. The new county, named for famed Revolutionary War hero “Mad” Anthony Wayne, had a large problem- there were no towns and thus no place for a county seat.
Wayne County today is home to over 110,000 people but the late 1700’s was a very different affair, with only a few thousand residents. A prominent local landowner, Andrew Bass, offered a plot on the Neuse River as the site for a new town.
In December 1785 the North Carolina General Assembly authorized the establishment of Wayne’s Borough “on the lands of Andrew Bass, on the north side of the Neuse River, in Wayne County, where the Court house and other public buildings now stand…” The town trustees were William McKinny (actually spelled McKinne), William McKinny Jr, Burwell Moring, Matthew Turner, John Howell, William Fellow, Richard Bass, William Whitfield Jr, and David Cogdell.
The new town grew slowly but never had more than five hundred residents. The lifeblood of the town was the river. Warehouses along the banks were filled with a variety of goods and materials, primarily pine sap, a key ingredient in the manufacture of naval stores. Waynesborough also benefited from its location on the Neuse. Past the town headed west, only small boats could safely navigate the river year round making the town an important transportation hub for areas west of town. The town was also an important stop for stagecoaches running from Raleigh, New Bern, Wilmington, and Fayetteville.
Wayne County in 1833 (left) and the 1870s (right). By the 1870s, Waynesborough had disappeared from maps. Courtesy Library of Congress
As areas of the Deep South opened up in the early 1800’s some locals moved on in search of new and better opportunities. The ultimate downfall though, began with the construction of a railroad line. Completed in 1839, the Wilmington & Weldon was the longest stretch of track in the world, just over 161 miles.
The engineer in charge of its construction, Matthew T. Goldsborough, chose a halfway point just a mile north of Waynesborough for his headquarters. The line bypassed the town and residents almost immediately realized their town was lost. Townspeople began deconstructing their homes and rebuilt them around Goldsborough’s office a mile away, located today at the corner of Center and Walnut Streets where the Hotel Goldsboro now stands.
Over the next two decades, two more railroad lines, running from Charlotte to Morehead City, intersected the north-south Wilmington & Weldon in Goldsboro, signifying the end of Waynesborough. The end officially came in 1848 when the citizens of Wayne County voted to switch the county seat from Waynesborough to Goldsboro.
How big was Waynesborough?
Fortunately a plat map of the town survives today. Originally drawn in 1822 by Britton Hood, the first Wayne County surveyor, the surviving map is a copy made in 1875.
The land is divided into 100 lots, both residential and commercial, along with the courthouse and jail. There were six streets, Water, Middle, Main, and three unnamed.
The entire town measured 126 x 102 poles, an old measurement rarely used today. One pole equals 16.5 feet, meaning the town in 1822 measured just over 2,000 x 1,600 feet, equal to about 80 acres. If you overlayed this map on downtown Goldsboro it would cover an area bounded by George and William Streets and Oak almost to Chestnut.
1822 Waynesborough map overlayed on modern satellite images of Old Waynesborough Park (left) and downtown Goldsboro (right).
Near the end of the Civil War there were only three buildings left in the former town, warehouses by the river. A fire destroyed them just after the war. Local legend says that General Sherman ordered their destruction as his men approached Goldsboro in the spring of 1865. While a great story, it is not true. What started the fire is not known but there is no evidence that Sherman, or any other Union officer, ordered the fire.
For decades the land sat unused other than for farming. At one time a brick manufacturing plant operated on the premises and for a few decades Goldsboro used a portion of the property as a dump for white goods- appliances.
Today the land, over 150 acres, is Old Waynesborough Park, with several miles of walking trails, a visitors’ center, and a dozen old buildings brought from around the county.
The only remnants of the town are the Churchill-Cogdell cemetery and possibly a channel cut in the river that would have been used by ships to turn around to head back east towards Kinston and New Bern.
You can discover so much from an old photo using online resources like city directories.
This photo of Center St., downtown Goldsboro, was taken around, but not before, 1920. The cars are a good indicator of the time frame but they’re not always the best, or only, clues in dating a photograph.
If you zoom in on the large building on the right, the Messenger Opera House, several movie posters appear. The Apostle of Vengeance, a silent Western starring William S. Hart, was released in June 1916. But to the right is a poster for another Western, Ruth of the Rockiesstarring Ruth Holland, which did not premier until August 1920.
The Messenger Opera House contained a large theater but also housed several businesses on the first floor including a bakery that can be seen in the photo. Also present is Grady & Company, an automotive accessories business. The 1923 Goldsboro city directory lists its address as 150 S. Center St. and Walter Grady as the manager.
The Messenger sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Hazel in 1954 and the top floors were removed shortly after. The first floor still remains today at the corner of Center and Chestnut Streets.
Next to the Messenger is the Magill Brothers Garage. The 1923 Goldsboro city directory lists two auto mechanics with the last name Magill, Charles Jr. and Otis.
Further down the street, at the corner of Center and Walnut, is the Hotel Kennon (below left). It opened in the 19th century and was later torn down and replaced in 1926 by the Hotel Goldsboro (below right), which still stands today.
Even further down the street, peeking above the roof line, is city hall. Behind that is a water tower that would have been located to the north of Ash Street. It might have been used by the railroad companies.
Running down Center Street in two rows are white planters with “B.P.O.E.” painted on the bases. The letters stand for the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks. Today the lodge is on Chestnut just behind the Messenger, but when the photo was taken their headquarters was on James St. between Pine and Spruce.
Where was it taken?
Judging from the photo it was probably taken from the second floor of the Keaton-Fonvielle grocery on the corner of Center and Chestnut. Alexander Keaton purchased the lot in 1847 and built a wooden grocery store that was replaced with a brick building just after the Civil War. Keaton sold the business to his son-in-law, who continued the grocery business until his death in 1918. The building is still standing and is now home to Well Travelled Beer.
There are two fantastic resources that are on the internet and free. City directories contain a wealth of information on both businesses and people. They list addresses, phone numbers (if a business or residence had one), occupation, and sometimes even places of employment. There are over twenty Goldsboro directories, spanning 1906 to 1963. They can be found online through the North Carolina State Archives.
Sanborn maps are another great resource. Sanborn created detailed maps of cities across America primarily for insurance companies to easily assess total fire liabilities for a particular town. There are several maps of Goldsboro from the late 1800s to 1920 and they are available from the UNC archives. There are a few later maps available from ProQuest, via NC Live. It is free to access but you need a library card number to log in (you can access it from any computer, not just the library).
John Burt Exum, Jr was born in Fremont, NC in northern Wayne County on December 7, 1889. In May of 1918, at the age of 28, he was inducted into the US Army in Goldsboro, NC.
Exum was sent to Camp Jackson, SC (now Fort Jackson) and assigned to the 156th Depot Brigade for training.
After training, he was transferred to Company D of the 306th Ammunition Train, 81st Division and sent to the frontlines in August 1918. An ammunition train is not an actual train but the military term for units assigned to move artillery and small arms ammunition from the ammunition depot to the frontline. It was a particularly dangerous job because it was a key target for enemy fire- no ammo, no battle.
John served in France for over ten months in Europe, returning to his home in Wayne County in June of 1919. He married May Rose and together they raised three children- Anne, John Burt III, & Charles Royall (a veteran of the US Navy in World War II).
He died on March 29, 1957 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Fremont.
The following is a letter John wrote to his mother in 1918 from Camp Jackson.
17th Co., 156 Depot Br. Camp Jackson Columbia, S.C.
Dear Mother: I received your second letter today. You ought to know that I received your first letter. If I hadn’t I would not have known where to write to you at. You said to day that you would not go home untill Tuesday so I am guessing that you will get this at La Grange before you go. Then I can write you again when you get home. I believe you had rather get short letters from me real often than for me to wait untill I get time to write a nice long letter. I am writing this in a hurry. A man in the army has to do everything in a hurry or he will find that everybody else is ahead of him. I got another shot in the shoulder today with the typhoid antitoxine and I can hardly raise my left arm. This was my second and I have one more to go. Other than this I am getting along fine. We have lots of fruits and vegitables and not much meat to eat. When we get meat it is usually beefe.
Future veterans of WWI and beyond: Edgar Bain, Zeno Hollowell, Kenneth Royall
This photograph was taken in 1905 and shows the local “Boys Battalion”, a mix of the Boy Scouts and Junior ROTC. The quality is not great; it is a low quality scan and the whereabouts of the original are unknown (as far as I know).
Seated in the center is their leader, Edgar Bain, who at the time would have been about 21 years old. He would later go on to serve in the 30th Division in WWI and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on October 9, 1918.
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edgar Bain, Captain, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Busigny, France, October 9, 1918. Advancing under heavy fire with orders to pass through the front line company, Captain Bain found the troops he was to relieve 1,000 yards from their position, falling back. Rallying them, he personally led the troops in advance, under terrific fire, assaulting and capturing the assigned objective.
Bain also served in World War II, attaining the rank of Colonel. He died in 1956 and is buried in Willow Dale Cemetery in Goldsboro, NC.
In the bottom left is Zeno Hollowell, who would later serve as Captain of Company K, 119th Infantry, 30th Division in the Great War. After the war he was mayor of Goldsboro and later the longtime city manager.
Seated at the far right is Kenneth Claiborne Royall, born in 1894. Royall graduated from the University of NC-Chapel Hill and Harvard Law School before the war and then served as an officer in the 317th Field Artillery, 81st Division.
Royall attained the rank of general during World War II and famously served as a defense lawyer for several German-American men caught in a botched attempt to sabotage US infrastructure.
After the war he served as the last Secretary of War and later the first Secretary of the Army in the Truman administration. He died in 1971 and is buried in Willow Dale Cemetery in his hometown of Goldsboro, NC.
Sidney Wyatt Hinson was one of the over 18 million dead of World War I
Born April 23, 1896 in Wayne County, NC, Sidney Hinson was the oldest son of Council, a carpenter, and Fannie.
Sidney joined the North Carolina National Guard on April 1, 1916 at almost 21 years of age and was assigned to the local Company D of the NC 2nd Infantry. His unit was sent to the Mexican border near El Paso, TX later the next year, where they spent several months patrolling the border during the Mexican Revolution.
Entering the fight in France
After the American declaration of war against Germany and Austria-Hungary on April 2, 1917, Sidney’s National Guard unit was called up and he was assigned to Company D of the 119th Infantry Brigade, 30th Division, nicknamed “Old Hickory”. The 30th arrived at the Liverpool docks on May 18, 1918 and France two days later.
The establishment of railroad lines was the single most important event in North Carolina history
Before the middle of the 19th century, North Carolina had the dubious reputation as the most backwards of the states (and colonies). In a world driven by maritime transit, the Outer Banks proved to be a monumental barrier, not to mention the lack of any suitable, natural deep water ports.
The emergence of the railroad transformed the state, today home to over 10 million people, some of the fastest growing cities in the nation, and numerous world class universities.
Frederick Law Olmstead, famed landscape architect and designer of Central Park, traveled through the South and in 1856 published his findings and opinions in A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States. Entering by carriage from Virginia, he wrote that the roads were,
as bad as anything, under the name of a road, can be conceived to be. Wherever the adjoining swamps, fallen trees, stumps, and plantation fences would admit of it, the coach was driven, with a great deal of dexterity, out of the road. When the wheels sunk in the mud, below the hubs, we were sometimes requested to get out and walk. An upset seemed every moment inevitable. p311
His remarks on the “character” of North Carolina were also less than kind.
North Carolina has a proverbial reputation for the ignorance and torpidity of her people; being, in this respect, at the head of the Slave States. I do not find the reason of this in any innate quality of the popular mind; but, rather, in the circumstances under which it finds its development. Owing to the general poverty of the soil in the Eastern part of the State, and to the almost exclusive employment of slave-labor on the soils productive of cotton; owing, also, to the difficulty and expense of reaching market with bulky produce from the interior and western districts, population and wealth is more divided than in the other Atlantic States; industry is almost entirely rural, and there is but little communication or concert of action among the small and scattered proprietors of capital. p366
It’s true that North Carolina suffered from a lack of easily navigable rivers and ports but as a North Carolinian, Mr. Olmstead can eat it. I also take exception to his assessment of the poor soil in the eastern portion of the state as NC is one of the highest producing agricultural areas in the nation. But I digress.
The longest railroad in the world
At just over 161 miles long, the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad was the longest line in the world upon its completion in 1840. Running from the port of Wilmington in the southeastern corner of the state up to the town of Weldon on the Virginia border, the W&W created the town of Goldsboro, which sprang up around the offices of the line’s engineer Matthew Goldsborough.
With access to the port at Wilmington and connection to both the Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad (to Portsmouth, VA) and the Petersburg (VA) Railroad to the north, merchants and farmers had access to new markets across the East Coast and beyond.
The “Tree of Life”
The success of the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad lit a fire under the political and business classes of the state. Led by former governor, John Motley Morehead, calls became louder for a state sponsored line running East and West to complement the North and South running Wilmington & Weldon.
In a speech to the General Assembly in 1854, Morehead proclaimed,
Let the North Carolina Railroad, like a huge tree, strike its roots deeply into the shore of the Atlantic, and be moistened by its waters, and at last stretch its noble trunk through the center of the state, and extend its overshadowand protecting branches through the valleys and along the mountain tops of the west, until it becomes, indeed, the Tree of Life to North Carolina.
Authorized in 1848 and completed in 1856, the North Carolina Railroad ran 223 miles from Charlotte to Goldsboro, where it met the Wilmington & Weldon line. The three largest cities in the state today, Charlotte (873,363), Greensboro (290,519), and the capital Raleigh (476,746) all owe much of their growth and development to the NCRR, not to mention countless other smaller towns along the line, including my hometown of Goldsboro.
Railroads drive development
Goldsboro, NC owes its existence solely to the railroad and profited doubly as the site of a major intersection of railroad lines running North-South and East-West. Just over 50 years after its creation, the town was one of the largest in the state and a major transportation hub.
Like so much of human history though, the town turned on its creator. By the 1920s, residents had come to resent the noise, smoke, and activity of trains running through the center of town at all hours.
The Southern Railway Company refused to relocate the track running down Center Street so in March of 1926 the town council secretly agreed to tear up the line. On the night of April 2, town manager Claude Grantham organized over 100 men downtown to do the work. None had been told beforehand what the job would be yet they managed to dismantle the track before dawn, going so far as to neatly stack the rails and wooden crossties in the Southern Railway yard north of Ash Street.
Southern sued City Manager Claude Grantham and all the alderman. Judge R.A. Nunn ruled that the City of Goldsboro would pay $3500 in damages plus Southern’s lawyer fees. However, because neither Southern or the NC RR had a title or easement for the track, Judge Nunn decreed that neither had claim to rebuild the track downtown.
The railroad connected North Carolina to the rest of the world and ushered in an era of growth that continues today. From 1854 to 1872 the freight receipts of just the North Carolina Railroad Company totaled nearly $8,000,000 which today would equal roughly $166,000,000.
The railroad created thousands of jobs, including John R. Coltrane, father of legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. His 1958 song “Goldsboro Express” was inspired by his father’s work on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, the successor to the Wilmington & Weldon.
Sometimes lawyer jokes are just too easy. The photo, taken in 1938, shows this lawyer asleep at his chair, probably on a hot North Carolina summer afternoon.
The photographer was John Vachon, one of countless men hired by the New Deal Farm Security Administration to document rural American life in the late 1930’s. This photo was taken in downtown Goldsboro, NC, likely on “lawyer’s row” on E. Walnut St. across from the county courthouse which still stands today.
Who is he?
Unfortunately it’s not listed in the Library of Congress file, and while not a large town, the 1938 Goldsboro directory lists no less than forty lawyers. All I can say for sure is that it is not George E. Hood, a former U.S. Representative, or Kenneth C. Royall, the last U.S. Secretary of War.
There is a calendar in the center left of the image and possibly a thermometer hanging on the door frame just behind sleeping beauty but both blur too much when magnified.
In a previous post I covered the 30th Division, 119th Infantry of World War I but there were some images that were left out and I couldn’t resist posting them.
Many of men of the 30th came from the great state of North Carolina and I profiled a few of those men from my home in Wayne County. The common thread for many was their National Guard service leading up to the war.
Birth of the US National Guard
The US regular army in the 18th and 19th centuries was a small force numbering only in the tens of thousands. In 1914 that number was just 98,000 men. From the Revolutionary War through the 19th century the United States relied heavily on local, volunteer militia forces under the authority of each state. This system was flawed to say the least.