A History of Waynesborough, North Carolina

Union Church - Old Waynesborough, North Carolina

The original county seat for Wayne County was Waynesborough. Once a bustling town, it began to decline with the introduction of the Wilmington-Weldon Railroad and the town of Goldsboro. By the end of the American Civil War the town of Waynesborough was gone.

Founded in 1787 as the first seat of Wayne County, Waynesborough grew quickly into a bustling town. Its location along the Neuse River promoted plantation growth and successful river boat businesses. Stage coaches brought much activity and many passengers to the town, many of whom enjoyed the local taverns.

Built just over a mile away in 1836, the Wilmington & Raleigh Railroad (later renamed to Wilmington & Weldon Railroad) led to the emergence of Goldsboro, a town built directly along the tracks. Residents of Waynesborough began to move their homes and businesses into the new town. Within a decade, Waynesborough declined and never again recovered. By 1865 only five buildings remained in Waynesborough, all of which were burned by Union Forces in the American Civil War.

The Old Waynesborough Commission, affliate of the Wayne County Historical Association, maintains all restoration and preservation efforts in the village. Waynesborough's focus begins in 1701 with the first Tuscarora visit and ends in 1900 with a complete economic and social shift to Goldsboro.

Things are moving forward on moving portions of the Griswald-Hatch house to make the Hatch museum at the park that will feature local history, children' s exhibits, games and a American Native Indian room. We had originally hoped to move the entire house and kitchen but were unable to do so because of termite and other damage from water over the years.

On Friday, May 16th, the dream of many of us who love Wayne County history came to reality when the Waynesborough State Park was dedicated on the site of the old town.

I was a guest of my good friend, Charles Norwood, who was the real father of this project. When I first remember, this site was a city dump for Goldsboro & even then, we thought that it was a desecration of the hallowed spot. This was not only the flourishing county seat from 1787 to 1847, but the leading churches of Goldsboro had their beginnings there.

The program began with a band recital by the combined bands of the Wayne County Schools. At twelve noon, there was the flag raising by the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Color Guard while the bands played the National Anthem. Ed Kelly was the master of ceremonies & the Reverend Isaac B. Hardin, D.D., gave the invocation. A welcome was extended by Goldsboro Mayor Hal Plonk & Joe Lancaster, Chairman of the Wayne County Board of Commissioners.

Greetings were given by Charles Gaylor, President of the Historic Preservation Foundation, Dr. William W. Davis, the Director of the N. C. Division of Parks & Recreation & Senator Henson P. Barnes. The Wayne County Historical Association was represented by Mrs. Frances Andrews (President), Mrs. Judy Haverkamp, James L. Williams & Charles S. Norwood. The parking of cars was handled by Boy Scouts of the Tuscarora Council.

Wayne County was created out of Dobbs County in 1779 which in turn had been created out of Johnston County. Johnston County was formed in 1746 from Craven County. Wayensborough was incorporated by the NC Legislature in 1787 & was named for Major General Anthony Wayne's estate near Chester, Pennsylvania. It was located on a bend of the Neuse River, east of where Little River runs into the Neuse. It became the county seat of Wayne & remained so until 1847 when Goldsboro became the county seat of government.

Waynesborough was laid out on a 75 acre tract conveyed by Dr. Andrew Bass, the real founder of the town. William Whitfield of White Hall was appointed to lay out the town into one half acre lots. The original town commissioners were: Richard Bass, William McKinnie, Sr, William Whitfield, Jr, Burwell Mooring, Joseph Green, William Fellows, William Whitfield, Sr, David Jernigan & William McKinnie, Jr. The town became an important landing for flat boats, rafts & barges loaded with farm products, lumber, turpentine & tar.

A court house, a Union (Community) Church & several taverns & hotels were built. Some of the leading county families built homes in the town. Presbyterian, Episcopal, Baptist, and Methodist services were held at the Union Church.

The town was located on the main stage road running from Wilmington to Halifax & from New Bern to Raleigh by the way of Smithfield. The town was flooded several times by the overflow of the two rivers. In 1836, when the Wilmington & Raleigh Railroad [later renamed to Wilmington & Weldon Railroad] was laid out, the engineers avoided the low lying town by building the railroad one mile to the east. Goldsboro grew up on the railroad & in 1847, the citizens voted to move the town to the new location. A new county court house was built in Goldsboro in 1850.

Among those who operated stores & enterprises in Waynesborough were: Mathew Albritton (carriage maker, later moved to Mt. Olive), John Wright, Arnold Borden, General James Rhodes (son-in-law of Dr. Andrew Bass), Phillip Hooks, Richard Washington, Francis L. Caster, J. E. Everett & Charles J. Nelson.

After Goldsboro became the county seat, many houses were moved from Waynesborough to Goldsboro. The town had declined by the time of the War Between the States. After the war, a brickyard was built on the site, but the Bass-Rhodes & Cogdell graveyards were preserved. Goldsboro later purchased & used the site as a landfill.

The site of the old town has been landscaped & trees & grass have been planted. A boat landing has been established. Along with the Cliffs of The Neuse & Aycock Birthplace, this will be another site for local people as well as tourists to enjoy & appreciate. This is truly another landmark in the preservation of Wayne County history.

By Claude Moore, 1985 [with minor edits]

Waynesboro was granted a US Post Office on January 1, 1795, and its first Postmaster was Mr. Arthur Jernigan. It has been in continuous operation ever since.

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