A History of Williamsboro, North Carolina

To date, this Author has not been able to ascertain exactly when the town of Williamsborough, as it was first named, was founded and settlement actually began. It is currently still in existence in Vance County, North Carolina, but few records of the early times are available, at least to me. Perhaps others out there have this information, but they don't seem to care to share it with the world.

Based on all the bits and pieces that I have gathered over the years, it seems that Williamsborough was started around 1755, in what was the recently-established (1746) Granville County. Today, it is situated in Vance County, North Carolina, about halfway between the county seat of Henderson and the NC-VA state line, on the current NC Route 39.

The earliest maps that I have seen the name are from the 1770s, and even some of them incorrectly identify the town's name as Williamsburg. But, earlier maps are not all that comprehensive anyway, so just because the town is not found on them doesn't mean that it did not exist.

The town was established by the parents of John Williams - Nathaniel Williams and Elizabeth Washingon. John Williams was prominent in the early founding days of the newly-independent United States - serving in the Continental Congress and later becoming a Judge on the US Supreme Court. Earlier, he was a Lt. Colonel in the North Carolina Minutemen, a full Colonel in the 9th NC Regiment on the Continental Line, and served in the Provinical Congress and early state legislature.

Evidently, there was a "formal school" in the town of Williamsborough as early as the 1760s, because many references are made to students who went there to study as well as teachers who went there to teach.

William Mercer Green

William Mercer Green, P. E. bishop, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, on May 2, 1798 and died in Sewanee, Tennessee, on February 13, 1887. His father, a wealthy rice-planter, died when his son was a boy. On his mother's side he was of Quaker origin, and owed much to the example and strict discipline which she furnished and enforced. He was graduated at the University of North Carolina in 1818, and studied theology. He was ordered deacon in Christ Church, Raleigh, North Carolina, by Bishop R. C. Moore, April 29, 1821, and ordained priest in St. James's Church, Wilmington, North Carolina, April 20, 1822, by the same bishop.

He became rector of St. John's Church, Williamsborough, North Carolina, in 1821. Four years later he removed to Hillsborough and became rector of St. Matthew's Church, which was founded by him. In 1837, he was appointed chaplain and professor of belles-lettres in the University of North Carolina. He received the degree of D.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1845. Dr. Green was elected to be the first bishop of the diocese of Mississippi in 1849, and was consecrated in St. Andrew's Church, Jackson, Mississippi, February 24, 1850. Bishop Green devoted himself to his work with energy, but after thirty-three years of faithful service was compelled, by the infirmities of age, to avail himself of the aid of an assistant in 1883.

He was among the earliest and most earnest founders of the University of the South, at Sewanee, Tennessee, in 1860. In 1867, he became its chancellor. Bishop Green printed a few sermons on "Baptismal Regeneration" and "Apostolic Succession," and also an oration on "The Influence of Christianity upon the Welfare of Nations" (Hillsborough, North Carolina, 1831); but his chief publications were a brief "Memoir of the Right Reverend Bishop Ravenscroft, of North Carolina" (1830), and a "Life of the Right Reverend Bishop Otey, of Tennessee" (New York. 1886).

John Williams, a Delegate from North Carolina; born in Hanover County, VA, March 14, 1731; moved to North Carolina in 1745 with his parents, who settled in Granville County; donated the land and laid out the town of Williamsborough, NC; studied law; was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Williamsborough; one of the founders of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; deputy attorney general in 1768; delegate to the Provincial Congress of 1775; member of the state House of Commons in 1777 and 1778 and served as Speaker; Member of the Continental Congress in 1778 and 1779; judge of the Supreme Court of North Carolina from 1779 until his death in Montpelier, near Williamsborough, NC, on October 10, 1799; interment in the family cemetery, Montpelier, NC.
September 20, 1758: Granville Parish was formed from St. John's Parish, with vestrymen: Robert Harris, Richard Henderson, Reuben Searcy, Henry Howard, Richard Harris, Jr., James Mitchell, Andrew Hampton, Thomas Lowe, Evan Ragland, William Benford, Darian Elwick, and Sherwood Harris.

1758: Vestrymen of the old Parish of St. John's were: William Eaton, William Persons, Charles Johnston, William Johnston, Philemon Hawkins, Gideon Mackon, Osborne Jeffries, Lodwick Alford, John Pope, William Massey, Daniel Harris, and John Hawkins. Prior to 1758, St. John's Church was at Williamsborough, North Carolina.

John Penn (May 17, 1741–September 14, 1788), was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of North Carolina. He was born near Port Royal in Caroline County, Virginia, and educated at home with only a couple years of formal schooling. At age 18, after his father's death, he studied law privately with his relative Edmund Pendleton. He became a lawyer in Virginia in 1762, and, in 1774, moved to near Williamsborough in Granville County, North Carolina where he also practiced law.

On July 28, 1763, he married Susannah Lyne. The couple had two children: William who never married and Lucy who married John Taylor of Caroline, another fatherless relative trained in the law by Edmund Pendleton.

He was elected to the Provincial Congress and to the Continental Congress in 1775 until 1780. He also served on the Board of War until 1780, when he retired to the practice of law. In 1777, he was one of the North Carolina signers of the Articles of Confederation. He was receiver of taxes for North Carolina in 1784. Upon his death in 1788, he was buried on his estate near Island Creek in Granville County but he was reinterred in Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in 1894.

Having passed through the usual course of scientifick reading, and not knowing what profession to choose, John P. Campbell went, in the Autumn of 1787, to Williamsborough in Granville County, North Carolina, where he engaged (though not yet twenty years of age) in conducting an academy. There he continued till the Autumn of 1789, devoting his leisure, which was considerable, to general reading, and partially to the study of medicine. Having bad health, he returned to his native county, in the mountains of Virginia, and devoted the succeeding winter to the study of Theology and of the Sacred Scriptures.
A meeting of the Transylvania Company was held at Williamsborough, North Carolina on Monday, 31st of July, 1797. There, they decided to continue establishing a new town in Kentucky, where they wanted to ultimately live.
Abstracts of the Wills and Estate Records of Granville County, NC 1746-1808:

Nov. Term 1807 - Richard Inge, William Murphy, Edmund Taylor, F.N.W. Burton, William Hawkins to view and value property in Williamsborough, NC - Feb. Court 1808 - the proprietors' names were given . . .

The August 25, 1831 issue of the Raleigh Register, Raleigh, North Carolina carried the marriage announcement,

"At Williamsborough, Granville county, on the 2d inst., Col. Samuel Dickens of Madison county, Tennessee, to Miss Frances H. Burton, of the former place."

This marriage was solemnized in the "mansion-house," being the former home of the bride's parents, which the family called "Montpelier" in what was then Granville County but subsequently became a part of Vance County. The bride was a member of the local patrician class and the groom was a widower, a man who had accumulated considerable wealth through estate, land dealings, principally in the western district of Tennessee.

In the middle years of the eighteenth century many families of Virginia gentry removed to the backcountry of North Carolina in the fertile region ranging from Williamsborough on the east to Hillsborough on the west. There soon arose in this section of the colony a society marked by intellectual distinction, social graces, and the leisured dignity of the landlord and the large planter.
Martinsburgh Gazette. "Married - In Williamsborough, North Carolina, Major Francis Smith, of Prince Edward County, Va., to Miss Charlotte B. Brodie. This marriage agreed upon 31 years ago at Camden SC, but the war separated them and each had thought the other dead until they met accidentally recently. Publication Friday, August 2, 1811."
Richard Henderson, pioneer, was born in Hanover County, VA on April 20, 1735; son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Williams) Henderson. His paternal grandparents came from Scotland and his maternal grandparents from Wales. His father was born in Hanover County, Va., March 17, 1700. Richard removed with his father to North Carolina about 1745 and acquired his education without instructors, after he had reached manhood. He was constable and under-sheriff in Granville County, NC, his father being high-sheriff of the same county. He was admitted to the bar, and in 1769 was appointed Associate Judge of the Superior Court by Royal Governor William Tryon.

His persistence in enforcing the law caused the displeasure of the opponents to the tax laws and on one occasion, in September of 1770, the Regulators drove him from the bench. When a state government was organized in 1776, he was re-elected, but declined to serve, being interested in the Transylvania Land company. He made the Treaty of Watauga with the Cherokee Indians in 1775, twelve hundred savages being present, by which the company became proprietors of 18,000 acres of territory for £10,000 worth of goods, an extent of territory comprising over half the area of the present state of Kentucky and the adjacent part of Tennessee.

A government was organized at Boonesborough and Henderson was made President of the proposed state of Transylvania. The first legislature assembled under an elm tree near the walls of the fort in February of 1775, and of the members, the names of Daniel and Squire Boone, Richard Calloway, Azariah Davis, Isaac Hire, William Coke, Samuel Henderson, John Todd, Richard Moore, John Lythe, James Douglass, Nathan Hammond, Alexander Dandridge, Samuel Wood, Matthew Jewit, Valentine Harmon, Thomas Slayter, John Floyd and James Harrod appeared. A liberal government was instituted, but the purchase made by Henderson was annulled by the state legislature of Virginia and as a compensation the state granted to the company a tract of land twelve miles square on the Ohio below the mouth of the Green river.

Judge Henderson was a boundary line commissioner in 1779. He removed to Nashville, TN, the same year and practiced law there one year. Afterward he settled on his large plantation near Williamsborough, NC, where he engaged in farming. The town, village, and county of Henderson, NC, were named in his honor. He was married to Elizabeth Keeling. He died in Hillsborough, NC on January 30, 1785.

Williamsborough was granted a US Post Office on March 20, 1793, and its first Postmaster was Mr. Stephen Sneed. In 1827, the US Post Office Department officially changed the name to Williamsboro. This PO closed on August 9, 1869, reason unknown. The second incarnation of Williamsborough was granted a US Post Office on Mary 14, 1879, with Postmaster Mr. John E. Haithcock. In 1881, the US Post Office Deparment officially change the name (again) to Williamsboro. On February 15, 1909, it was permanently closed.

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