DUPLIN COUNTY HISTORY TO 1810
by William Dickson.
Prepared and Edited for the Web by Jerome Tew
About the year 1736 this part of the country, (then the upper part of New Hanover County) was first settled by Emigrants from the North of Ireland and some Dutch from Switzerland: Henry McCulloh Esq. of London, having purchased a tract of land from the Crown, containing 71,160 Acres lying in the upper part of New Hanover County, between the N. E. Branch of the Cape Fear River and Black River. Encouraged a number of Irish and Dutch to come over from Europe to settle his lands with the promise with certain conditions to give them titles to certain portions of it. Their first settlements were at Soracta on the N. East River, and at the lower end of Goshen, (then called Woodwards Chase), and on the Grove where Duplin Court House now stands. About this same time, and soon after, a number of families emigrated from the Roanoke, Meherrin, (Northampton Co.) and elsewhere, and settled on the Cohera, Six Runs, Goshen, and N. East River, the county then being new. The range fresh and luxuriant, and the country abounding with wild game, their principal object then was raising stock and hunting. At the first forming of this county, which then included both Duplin and Sampson, it contained but about 360 white poll taxables, and very few Negroes. At the commencement of the Revolutionary War it contained about 900 or 1000 white poll taxables and very few of them were emigrants from Europe.
Previous to the Revolution, at the time when stamp duty was attempted to be enforced in North Carolina by Governor Tryon, most of the Respectability of the county turned out volunteers, marched down to Wilmington with Capt. James Kenan and joined Col. John Ashe to oppose the enforcement of the Stamp Duty. Afterward when Governor Tryon marched through Duplin against the insurgents, commonly called Regulators, none of the inhabitants of Duplin County could be prevailed upon to accompany him, or to enlist in that service. Only five or six Light Horsemen followed afterwards and joined him at Alamance.
Governor Tryon had requested 50 troops from Duplin and on his return; he imputed the tardiness of Duplin County in this affair and the disaffection of the Kings Government. He authorized Col. John Ashe with his militia to tarry certain days in Duplin to cause the inhabitants to take an Oath of Allegiance to the King; he issued orders to the inhabitants to report to Col. Ashe for that purpose. The people of Duplin County generally resented this order as an indignity offered them, as it was not required in other counties. Very few of the people of Duplin reported to Col. Ashe. He tarried only one day and marched on homeward without carrying out the order of Governor Tryon.
At the commencement of the Revolution the people of Duplin were generally united. They formed committees, elected their officers, encouraged the recruit-ment service, trained the Militia in the exercise of Arms, held frequent meet-ings, and sent Delegates to the convent-ions at New Bern, Hillsborough, and
Halifax. A number of young men enlisted in the Regular Army and marched northward under command of Captains Daniel Williams and Joseph T. Rhodes, both of Duplin County. No difficulty was experienced in raising our quota of Militiamen when called for.
At the time (Feb. 18, 1776) when General Donald McDonald embodied 1500 Scotch Highlanders and Tories in the vicinity of Fayetteville (then Campbellton), the Duplin Militia almost unanimously turned out, and was in motion and about 300 marched with Col. Kenan to Rockfish in the vicinity of Campbellton and there joined General Moore. At the same time two companies of Minutemen under Captains Richard Clinton and James Love marched from Duplin to Moore's Creek, and there joined Col. Lillington where they defeated and took General McDonald prisoner and dispersed the Scotch Highlanders on Feb. 27, 1776.
After this, Colonel Abraham Sheppard was sent to the aid of South Carolina, he was joined by Capt. James Gillespie with a company of volunteers from Duplin County who performed a tour of duty in South Carolina. (This was the 10th NC Regiment and part of the NC Line. Ed)
Another company of Duplin Volunteers and Drafts marched from this county under Capt. William Hubbard to South Carolina and were in the Battle of Stono on June 20, 1779.
Three Companies of Duplin Militia marched with Major John Tradwell to Camden SC and were followed by a small company of Light Horse Volunteers under Capt. William Routledge and were with General Horatio Gates when defected near Camden on Aug. 16, 1780.
Col. James Kenan, with Captains Daniel Williams and Abraham Moulton marched two companies of Light Horse to the aid of South Carolina and did three months of duty at the Pee Dee River, joining the boundary line of this state.
Duplin County sent her quota of men to aid Georgia and they were there when General Ashe was defected at Brier Creek on March 3, 1779.
A company of Duplin Militia under Capt. Nicholas Bourden marched to the Uwharrie River, near the Yadkin, to suppress the Tories in that place (Jan. 1781, Randolph Co. NC) While General Lillington was there, British Major Craig with a body of British troops took possession of and fortified Wilmington. Col. James Kenan marched down with about 350 of the Duplin Militia and encamped at the Long Bridge 10 miles above Wilmington. Militiamen from New Hanover, Onslow, and Jones County joined him. When Gen. Lillington returned from the Uwharrie River, he took command.
When Earl Cornwallis marched from Guilford Court House to (Campbellton and then to) Wilmington, General Lillington retreated up country and the Militiamen's three months being ended, the whole Militia was discharged at Kinston NC.
Cornwallis at that time (April 25, 1781) proceeded on his march from Wilmington to Virginia. He passed through Duplin unmolested, there being no troops embodied to impede his march or harass his rear. As he approached, the inhabitants of Duplin retreated to places of safety, removing their stock and such property as they could out of the enemy's way. It was now the first week of May 1781. (Major Craig and his men remained in Wilmington)
Cornwallis now by some was considered to he Victorious and pursuing his route unmolested, the Tories and the disaffected, (of which there were many in eastern and western parts of the county) began to take courage and bid defiance. They in the western part of the county formed a camp in the Cohera Swamp, in a secret place; they declared for the King of England, took some young men who had been in the service of the county and compelled them to take Paroles, (from them). Colonel Kenan being informed of their camp, collected immediately 12 or 15 men, went in search of their camp, thinking to disperse them before they became more formidable. He found their camp; some shots were exchanged, and at the beginning of the skirmish Owen Kenan, brother to Colonel James Kenan was killed and both parties retreated. The Tories finding that they had lost nothing, began to triumph and exult and increased their camp size to about 120 men. They formed their Camp on the west side of the Cohera at the bridge on the Fayetteville Road (Now HW 24). They chose Middleton Mobley and (his brother) Biggars Mobley as their leaders. Colonel Kenan being informed of their progress, sent out and was immediately joined by about 60 Light Horse. He encamped at Mr. Clinton's plantation which was about 3 miles from the Tory Camp. There he lay for two days to watch their motions. As soon and they found that Col. Kenan was in their way and their march obstructed, they filed off in the night and retreated through the woods down toward the Black River. Col. Kenan learned of this move from a person detained as a prisoner who had escaped from the Troy Camp during the night, not wanting to move with the camp. Col. Kenan immediately pursued with his small troop of cavalry and at day break, the next morning, came upon them at Portevent's Mill where the Tories had halted to supply themselves with Corn Meal. Skirmishing ensued, the Tories retreated into the low grounds of the Black River where the horses could not go with any probability of success. Col. Kenan determined to ambuscade them at a certain place about three miles ahead, but before he got to the intended place, discovered them already a head. They had quit the swamp and were running across the woods. The light horsemen rushed upon them at full speed. The Tories posted themselves behind trees and the horses were mixed amongst them and everyone was confused as firing commenced and the horsemen then retreated in order to reload their guns as nearly no one had a sword, this gave the Tories a chance again to hit the swamp and they escaped and made it down to Wilmington to join the British and Major Craig. Two men of the Whigs (Minute Men) and four of the Tories were slightly wounded. Three horses were killed and two were wounded. All of the Tory Baggage and baggage horses were captured. (This is May 1781)
At this time, the Tories began to be troublesome in the eastern part of Duplin and were joined by disaffected persons from Dobbs, Onslow, and Jones County.
These were frequently dispersed by Capt. James Gillespie and a volunteer Light Horse Calvary. By Harassing them continually prevented them from making any successful incursions in the middle of the county.
About the latter end of July 1781, Col. Kenan embodied about 250 of the Duplin Militia at the Rockfish Bridge (Just south of present day Wallace) to prevent any British Parties from coming into the county to drive off stock etc. He was there joined by Major Griffin from Halifax and about 150 men.
On August 1, 1781, British Major Craig left Wilmington for New Bern to punish those who would not declare for the king. Major Craig had 250 regular British professional troops and 80 Tories. (These 80 Tories were the same guys that Col. Kenan had chased out of the county.) Early on August 2, Col. Kenan got notice of his approach and make such preparation for defense as he was able by hastily throwing up a slight breastwork, it was inadequate for the purpose intended.
At the very instant when Major Craig made the attach on our breastwork with his cannon, we were attached in the rear by Capt. Gordon with about 60 horsemen, 10 of which were British Dragoons and two companies of infantry. They had made a circuitous march through the woods and were close upon our rear before being discovered. Confusion and dismay was the immediate consequence. The Militia broke and quit their post before one half of them had discharged their guns. Col. Kenan and some of his officers made every exertion they could to rally the men again, but to no purpose. Our ammunition, baggage, provisions etc. fell into the enemy's hands. Eight or ten of our men were wounded and made prisoners, none were killed. The British had one man killed there.
Two days afterwards Craig marched up to the Grove (Now Kenansville) and encamped at Col. Routledge's house, lay there about three days, collected some cattle, destroyed some crops of corn, burned Capt. James Gillespie's and Lieu. Henry Houston's Houses, and destroyed such of their property, as they could not carry away. Then they marched on towards New Bern, committing depredations and enticing Negroes to desert their Masters and go with them. They were followed and harassed by some Militia from Duplin, Onslow, and Dobbs Counties. Capt. Gordon of the British Dragoons was killed on the way by some of the Onslow men. This happen the first week of August 1781.
Thus two British Armies marched through Duplin in the year 1781. After they were gone, their trace was scarcely perceivable, we on their approach retired out of the way and as soon as they had passed by, we returned to our houses, which we frequently found plundered and our stock driven off.
After this the Tories made frequent attempts to embody both in the western and eastern parts of the county, but by the execution of Col. Kenan, Col. Moore, Capt. Gillespie , and other offices, they were often dispersed with loss as they attempted to collect together.
About the latter end of September 1781, the Tories were collecting on the Cohera when Col. Moore with Captains Williams, David Dodd, and Stephen Miller went out in search of their camp, surprised and dispersed them without sustaining any loss in Col. Moore's party, four of the Tories were killed in that action. They never made any considerable head in Duplin afterwards.
The spirit of the Tories was now broke, they generally came in and surrendered them selves up to the Government and complied with the requisitions of the law by going into or finding a substitute for the Army of the United States. Middleton Mobley, their leader, being abandoned by all his deluded followers was obliged to leave the county, he was afterwards taken in Martin County and brought back to Wilmington, tried, condemned, and executed.
at the Battle of Eutaw Springs (Sept. 8, 1781) in South Carolina Capt. Joseph Thomas Rhodes from Duplin, took a company of about 40 raw recruits (raised in Duplin) that behaved with as much personal bravery and intrepidity as any that were in that engagement, they had joined the army but a few days previous to the action.
When the line was formed for action, Capt. Rhodes had his post assigned to him on the main road leading down Santee, towards the Springs: General Greene in person observed to Rhodes, that he expected the enemy would endeavor to force our lines at that place, and if he could maintain his ground he might depend on being reinforced in a very short time. According to the general's expectation, the battle became violent in that part of the line, but the promised reinforcements never came till a very late stage of the action. The men under Capt. Rhodes' Command, behaved with the utmost order and bravery and sustained considerable loss; the reinforcements when they came, took the ground of the left, where at that time, the enemy began to retreat. Rhodes then with what men he had left and with the remains of Captains Goodman and Porterfield's companies (Both Captains being killed) advanced near the brick house and attacked the British Artillery and took possession of several field pieces, one of which they kept. The others were retaken by British reinforcements of a superior strength in number. During the whole of this action, which is said to be the hottest and most bloody for the number of men engaged, that occurred during the Revolutionary War, the men under Capt. Rhodes's Command, manifested such undaunted bravery as is seldom surpassed by old disciplined Vitrons. During this Action, only Captain Rhodes and thirteen of his men, came out unhurt. The others being killed or wounded and of those that came out unhurt, only three of them had no marks of the ball or bayonet.
After the war terminated, in June of 1784, the County of Duplin was divided by a line running from the head of Rockfish Creek, where the road crossed Bull Tail Branch, nearly north, crossing Stewarts Creek at the bridge and Turkey near the old Court House, and Goshen at the Mouth of Young's Swamp. All west of said line was erected into a separate county named Sampson…
The produce raised for market in the lower parts of the county is Pitch, Tar, & Turpentine, Sawed Lumber, and Staves In the upper part of the county, particularly on Goshen and its branches, where the lands are most fertile and remote from Navigation, Pork, Bacon, Indian Corn, and Cotton are the articles most raised for market and conveyed in carts and wagons.
The County being remote from navigation there is no trade in it, the general and individual wealth in it rises from the production on their lands and labor of their Negroes, none are very rich.
Soon after the division of Duplin County a town was established by Act of the Assembly on the east side of the N. East River and about 20 miles above the Mouth of the Rockfish Creek by the name of Soracta, lots were laid off and sold, but it has never been improved, no buildings have ever been erected nor trade established in it.
the first inhabitants of Duplin and Sampson Counties, built and lived in log cabins and as they became wealthier, some of them built framed Clapboard Houses with Clay Chimneys. At present there are many good houses, well constructed, with brick chimneys and glass lights (windows). There are no Stone or Brick Walled houses, nor any that can be called Edifices in the county. The greatest number of citizens yet build the old stile.
Agriculture has progressed slowly in Duplin. The citizens have not yet adapted any successful method of manureing their lands, the method heretofore has been by cowpening, but stocks of cattle are now small and very little is done that way. Some dig up and haul manure from about their barn and put a small quantity in each corn hole, others dig up swamp mud and lay it out in the same manner, but the greatest number of our citizens do not manure any of their lands, but when the land wears out and becomes poor, they cut down trees and open fresh lands.
There has not been any considerable improvement in the breed of useful domestic animals, except horses, which have been considerably improved since the Revolution, some think they have improved their breed of hogs by introducing a larger kind, but they require more feeding and pasturage. Some have lately introduced Mules, but they are yet a few. Wild game of every species is now almost quite extinct.
no labor saving machines have yet been erected in Duplin County, except saw and gristmills and Cotton Picking Machines (Cotton Gins), these are common in every part of the county where they have been wanted. Some of the able farmers, who have orchards, keep a Still to make their apple and peach brandy, but very few in Duplin make any more of it than for their family consumption.
The first inhabitants of this place were generally rude and uncultivated in their manners, but sociality and civilization has progressed considerably in all classes since the Revolution.
Soon after the Revolution an Academy was established in Duplin by Act of the Assembly and Trustees appointed. It had no state funding. It has not been constantly attended to and presently is not in use. Some young men have made considerable progress in the Latin Language, but not being sufficiently supported, none have received a finished education. The last teacher there was the Rev. Samuel Stanford, who was well approved. He continued for three years and a half with 40 or 50 students, mostly children, and not being supported any longer, declined further teaching.
The only learned professional characters now in this county who have received a classical education are the Rev. Samuel Stanford, a preacher of the gospel and Doctors Levi Bowen and Stephen Graham, both Physicians and Surgeons, these are all natives of this country. I don't know that they or any of them have received any collegiate degrees.
Prior to the Revolution and during the War, schools of any kind had not been much attended as they are since. About 25 or 30 years ago, one fifth of the grown persons in Duplin County could not read a chapter in the Bible well and distinctly nor write his name legibly. At the present it is likely 10% but many of them being taught by illiterate teachers don't read and write very correctly, nor write legible. It is mostly those who have been taught at the Grove Academy that are best qualified to do business accurately.
(The flowering from the story of Thomas James Armstrong (1813-1877)
Transcribed and posted on the Duplin Web by Stephen Carroll Pearsall.
… The first regular school I ever went to was taught by Rev Samuel Stanford where his son A T Stanford now lives in about 3 miles of Magnolia Mr. S was a very cruel teacher whipped most unmercifully and his own children worse than any others. He had a tame deer which was a great terror to me, he would meet us in the field and if you did not immediately divide your dinner with him he would back his reins and jump right on you and take a way your basket and eat all the bread stuffs in it. Mr. S was kind to me but I was as much afraid of him as if he had been a demon. This school did not last long. We then went to school at the Grove Academy to Micajah Autry. Bro. Ed, Bro. John, and sister Barbara and myself, this school continued for some two-three years. A number of young men finished their Education with this school. Mr. Autry brought to the school two grown Brothers Sterling and John, neither of them knew their letters. This was the second year of the school. We young chaps felt quite large when Sterling and John would ask us to tell them their lessons which we were permitted to do in that school. In a very short time those young men made such fine progress as to be reading Latin and both made finely Educated young men, they both soon followed teaching school. Sterling when last hear of him was a Methodist Iterate Preacher. Micajah was killed (with Davy Crockett) in the Texas War of 1836 (Alamo). John was teaching school near Kenansville.)
As to Religion, it has not been Progressive in this county as in some other parts of the state. The first settles here being emigrants from Northern Ireland were Presbyterians, they remained many years without a Resident Pastor until the Rev. Hugh McAden became their pastor in 1759 and remained about 10 years. During the Revolutionary War, they had none and it remained that way for several more years. Then (1793) Rev. John Robinson became their pastor for about seven years. After him, the Rev. Samuel Stanford became their pastor and he now continues as their pastor.
Soon after the county was established and the inhabitants became more numerous, most of the people and the principal characters in the county professed themselves to be members of the Episcopal or the Established Church of England. Readers were appointed to read the Morning Service etc on every Sunday at different houses throughout the county and a tax laid by the Vestry to pay them. About the year 1760 or soon thereafter, the Rev. William Miller was invited by the Vestry to become the Pastor in Duplin County, which he accepted and was accordingly inducted. He was a man of some talent preaching extempore and was for a year or two very popular. His places for preaching were circuitous round the county at individual's houses, there being no chapels or meeting houses erected for worship. He soon became unpopular and charges on immorality and practices in life derogatory to the character of a Preacher of the Gospel were made against him. He would not or did not refute these charges. At length he had no friends in the county and upon paying him up his arrearages of salary; he consented to leave the Parish.
Not long after Mr. Miller left, the Rev. Hobart Briggs succeeded him and became the Parochial Minister. Mr. Briggs was an Englishman who had come over at the Patronage of Governor Tryon. Briggs was a very different character than his predecessor. He was sober, Grave, and not addicted to any vice. He occupied the same Circuitous appointed places of Preaching as his predecessor but was considered to be of weak Intellect, but was a good reader. He read all of his sermons, which he brought with him in Manuscript form from England. He continued in the Parish until the Revolution, when finding his annual salary was discontinued, he departed without dismissal or formally taking leave. No Preacher of the Regular Episcopal Church of England has visited Duplin since he left.
It was several years after the settlement of this place before any preacher of the Baptist Church visited this county. The first was of note was Philip Mulkey a man of talents and then a popular preacher. After him came some Itinerant Baptist Preachers from various parts of the state. The first local Preacher was the Rev. William Goodman, who established a Church at Bear Marsh in 1763 on the Goshen Swamp. After him came Rev. Charles Hines and after him came Rev. Francis Oliver became the Pastor. He died in 1807.
The first Methodist Preacher who visited this county was the noted Beverly Allen; he visited this area immediately after the Revolutionary War. He was followed by other Itinerant and Circuit Methodist Preachers.
(The following is a letter by William Dickson written in response to the Wilmington Star's request for him to write this History of Duplin County. JDT)
Sirs, when your letter of the 30th of March, last, came to hand, several persons were requested to undertake the business therein requested, I at first declined it, but when none else could be prevailed upon, I reluctantly undertook it, not thinking myself adequate to the task, but expected the assistance of some able pen. But those, whom I depended upon, declined it altogether.
I have run through this business in the best manner I was able. My composition and stile in writing will not bear public inspection. I have however, endeavored to be correct in stating facts.
Being an infant when this place was first settled, I became an early acquaintance of the first settlers and many occurrences
which then happen. In early life I became a land surveyor in the county in which practice I continued till long after the Revolution. During the War, I was most continually in the Militia Service for the county, but never out of the state. At commencement of the Revolution, I was put in possession of the Records of the County Court, which office I yet hold. These circumstances have enabled me in some measure to state some facts with more precision perhaps than any others in the county at this time.
Perhaps I have been more minute in detailing some occurrences than necessary, and perhaps omitted some that ought to be noticed. You may however extract from the whole, what you may deem necessary for your purpose and correct the stile in which it is written. I am Gentlemen, Your Most Obedient Servant. Wm. Dickson Nov. 23, 1810
Published 1811 in the Wilmington Star and reprinted 1928 in The North Carolina Historical Review. Prepared and Edited for the Web by Jerome TewReturn to the Duplin County Database Index Page
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