Goldsboro, North Carolina
Before European Settlement - The Tuscarora
Before white settlers moved into the Carolina colony there were numerous Native American tribes that called the area home. The most populous tribe in eastern North Carolina during the 17th and early 18th centuries were the Tuscarora, who had migrated from the Great Lakes region of New York and Ontario, Canada. There were two major groups of Tuscarora, one centered in Bertie County in the northwest portion of the county and another located around present day New Bern. The Bertie Tuscarora lived peacefully with their white neighbors but the other band, under Chief Hancock, were under constant threat of attack from European settlers and began a series of battles to expel white settlers.
From 1711 to 1715 the Tuscarora under Chief Hancock killed several hundred settlers across the region. The Tuscarora of Bertie agreed to fight their neighbors to the south with the expectation that the the whole tribe would fall under the control of their leader, Chief Blunt, if he assisted the European settlers. Blunt captured Hancock in 1712 and he was executed. Hancock's group kept fighting but the following year around 1000 men, women, and were killed at one of their strongholds, Fort Neoheroko, near present-day Snow Hill. Although a peace treaty was not signed until early 1715, the defeat at Fort Neoheroka was the beginniing of the end of the Tuscarora in North Carolina. Chief Blunt became the head of all Tuscarora but his power waned as his lands were taken by growing numbers of white settlers. By the 1750's the Tuscarora, once the most powerful tribe in eastern North Carolina, had left the colony and returned to their ancestral lands in New York and Canada.
European Exploration - John Lawson
The first European to travel extensively through the Carolinas was John Lawson, an Englishman born around 1674. Seeking adventure in the New World, he came to Charleston, SC in 1700 and proceeded to trek nearly 600 miles through North and South Carolina. taking extensive notes of the geography, plants, wildlife, and native peoples. He ended his journey near present day Bath, NC. In 1709 he published his record of that journey, which spurred new interest among European settlers in land that had previously been unknown.
Lawson did travel through what would become Wayne County and it is entirely possible that he traversed through Old Waynesborough Park but it will likely never be known for sure. In 1711 he was again exploring, this time the Neuse River with Swiss nobleman Baron Christopher von Graffenried, the founder of New Bern. The two were captured by the Tuscarora and tried for crimes against the tribe. The pair were found guilty but von Graffenried was freed because the Tuscarora thought he was possibly the governor of the colony due to of his fancy clothes. Lawson did not fare as well and was executed. His death was one of the central events that led to the Tuscarora War of 1711-1715 which saw the eventual end of the Tuscarora in North Carolina.
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Wayne County was founded in 1779 after a portion of the now non-existant Dobbs County was directed by the North Carolina General Assembly to be split apart. The new county was named for one of George Washington’s most trusted generals, "Mad" Anthony Wayne.
Wayne needed a seat and trustees selected a tract of land donated by prominent local citizen, Dr. Andrew Bass. Bass had donated a small tract of land in 1782 near the confluence of the Neuse and Little Rivers for a courthouse. The two parties agreed to a deal where Bass would donate another 60 acres of land with the stipulation that it be divided into 100 plots and the profit from the sale of the plots would be split evenly between Bass and the town. The new town was given the name Waynesborough, which happened to also be the name of "Mad" Anthony Wayne’s home near Philadelphia, but it is not known if the town’s founders were aware of this.
Waynesborough incorporated in 1787 and had about 150 residents. In addition to the courthouse, jail, and homes, various businesses sprang up including a rosin mill, saw mill, tavern, harness and buggy shop, and a warehouse for naval supplies. Boats brought freight and passengers up the Neuse River from New Bern and had to stop in Waynesborough as the river was not navigable further west except for brief and unpredictable periods of high water levels. The town was strategically located halfway between New Bern and Raleigh and became a busy stop for fresh horses and for travellers to connect to other stagecoaches running to Tarboro and Fayetteville. Travel between these towns took several days and was expensive. Raleigh to New Bern is 125 miles and at approximately 12.5 cents per mile a round trip ticket was about $31, which today would equal nearly $400.
The Railroad and the End of Waynesborough
Waynesborough enjoyed modest prosperity into the 1800's and hopes rose in 1839 with the arrival of the McNair, the first steamboat to traverse up the Neuse to Waynesborough. Steam power provided more reliable and safe transport compared to the wind and oar powered boats of the era. Further brightening the town's hope was the completion of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad line that passed within a couple of miles from the town. Upon its completion the line was the longest in the world with 161 miles of track. Despite the celebration, in a cruel twist of fate it would be the railroad that ultimately caused the demise of the town. Residents slowly began to move from Waynesborough to a new community springing up around the Wilmington and Weldon track a mile and a half away. The final nail in the coffin was the completion of the North Carolina Railroad line in 1856. This line ran from Charlotte to the new port town Morehead City. The two railroad lines intersected at the new town of Goldsborough, only a little more than a mile from Waynesborough.
The railroad created Goldsborough and townspeople honored this importance by naming the new community after Matthew T. Goldsborough, the engineer responsible for the construction of the Wilmington and Weldon line. A year after Goldsborough incorporated in 1847, Wayne residents voted to move the county seat from Waynesborough. The former county seat did not survive yet it did not become a ghost town. Former residents disassembled most structures and rebuilt them nearby in Goldsborough. Local legend has it that when General William T. Sherman's army approached Goldsborough in March of 1865, he found three empty structures remaining at what used to be Waynesborough. Fearing that the buildings were being used by Confederate soldiers shadowing his march, he ordered them burned.
While the railroad ultimately caused the demise of Waynesborough it is nonetheless an important part of the town's history and in the Visitors Center is a small piece of that history. In 2001, workers demolishing an outdated rail bridge in neighboring Lenoir County discovered a railcart (pictured above) within one of the bridge's piers. It is held together with wooden pegs and cut nails, suggesting it dates to the mid-nineteenth century and was likely used in the construction of the Atlantic & NC Railroad line connecting Goldsboro and Morehead City. The North Carolina Railroad Company genorously donated this important piece of history to Old Waynesborough Park in 2008.
Old Waynesborough Park
Waynesborough ceased to exist with the creation of Goldsborough and for over a century the land sat mostly unused, its history largely forgotten. In 1971 a local group petitioned the City of Goldsboro to donate the land for use as an historical village. The city donated the land but further progress eluded the group. Local State Senator Henson Barnes convinced the state to take the land as a state park in the early 1980's. Due to budget cuts the state ended its operation of the park and turned the land over to the Old Waynesborough Commission, the group formed in 1971 to convert the land into a park. This group continues to operate the park today.