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Cities and Towns in Jones County

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History of Jones County

E.M. Foscue House - Trenton, North Carolina

The first court was directed to be held at the home of Thomas Webber at Trent Bridge, and to continue there until a courthouse was built unless some other place was selected. In 1784, an act was passed authorizing a town by the name of Trenton to be laid out where the courthouse stood. Trenton has been the county seat ever since.

Jones was formed in 1779 from Craven County. It was named for Willie Jones of Halifax who was one of the leaders of the Revolution and an opponent of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. It was largely due to his influence that the Convention of 1788 refused to ratify the Federal Constitution. 
While George Washington was President of the United States, which consisted of thirteen small states, he was deeply interested in the welfare and protection of the nation, but he was also interested in its people becoming good citizens. To see for himself the resources and possibilities of the new nation, Washington traveled through eleven states stopping along the road at public "ordinaries," as inns were called in those days, where he met and talked with local citizens. It was on one of these tours that the first President passed through Jones County where he spent the night at Shine's Inn in Comfort, North Carolina.

Jones County built an agricultural economy centered around the "Southern Plantation." Some were more than 50,000 acres. The Foscue Plantation House is shown above. Social and cultural life centered around the plantations and limited development of the towns within the county. The Trent River, which bordered the Foscue Plantation, was the most important transportation system for the movement of produce and supplies.

In 1860, Jones County was one of the wealthiest in the nation - the wealth primarily in land and slaves. The Civil War caused many changes in the county. A new system developed around the tenant farmer; cotton began a steady decline. The worst part was the destruction experienced during the war. Jones County was a continuous war zone for southern troops stationed in Kinston and northern troops stationed in New Bern. In some ways the county has yet to recover.

Jones County takes its name from an aristocratic radical named Willie Jones (whose first name was pronounced "Wylie"). In a day when wealthy landowners among the patriots of the American Revolution generally were conservatives, Willie Jones was a political activist.

The plan to confederate the single, sovereign states into a nation with a national government was hotly debated. Critics of the newly-signed Constitution objected that a Bill of Rights had not been included; the President had too much independence; the Senate was too autocratic; Congress had too many powers, and the national government had too much authority.

Supporters of the Constitution rallied for ratification. They became known as the Federalists. Their opponents were called Anti-Federalists. One of the most distinguished and influential Anti-Federalists in the colonies, the man responsible for North Carolina's refusal to join the Union for a year after its formation, was a shrewd and wealthy planter from Halifax, Willie Jones. It was only a matter of time before North Carolina came "under the Federal roof" as the twelfth state one year later in the autumn of 1789.

When European settlers first began to arrive in what is now Jones County, the natives were Tuscarora Indians. These Indians had earlier migrated from the area now known as New York and Pennsylvania, where they were part of the league of Iroquois Indians. The Tuscarora lived in bark wigwams and grew abundant crops of corn, peaches and other edible plants.

Jones and Craven Counties were settled about 1710 by German Palatines and by the Swiss who were led by Baron Christopher de Graffenried. These people suffered many hardships during their first years in the new land. Soon, they were caught in the midst of Cary's Rebellion and the Tuscarora War. Homes were burned, crops were destroyed, and people were killed. The Baron returned to Europe a broken man, and the settlements ceased to exist as distinct communities. Settlers were scattered along the Trent River. The river was named after the Trent River in England.

Three of the leading colonial leaders were Baron Christopher de Graffenried, the young Swiss nobleman who brought some of the first settlers to the area; Nathan Bryan, a wealthy talented man who represented the New Bern District in the 4th and 5th U.S. Congress of 1775 and 1799, a man of great piety and a good public servant; and Abner Nash, who was born in eastern North Carolina.

The courthouse in New Bern was too far away when transportation was limited to the use of horses, boats, or one's own feet. In 1778, a commission was appointed to lay out the boundaries of the new county, and choose a place for building the new courthouse, prison, and stocks. A bill was passed by the NC Legislature in 1784, which established a new town called Trenton to serve as the county seat. One hundred acres were set aside for building lots and streets. Eight men were appointed directors of the town.

Jones County contains three incorporated towns. Besides Trenton, there is Pollocksville, also located on the Trent and named after George Pollock, a large landowner in the area. Pollocksville, chartered in 1834, previously was known as Trent Bridge. Maysville is the youngest town, chartered in 1880, and is the largest town in the county. It is located near the northern boundary of Onslow County, the southern boundary of Jones County on the White Oak River. Maysville was named for the May family and was previously known as "Cross Roads." A fourth town known as Comfort is located in the southwest region.

Jones County was the birthplace of a great political leader, Furnifold McLendel Simmons, born in 1854. Simmons was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1886 and later was elected to the Senate. In the administration of President Wilson, he chaired the Senate Finance Committee and co-authored the War Revenue Act to finance U.S. involvement in World War I. His fifth term in the Senate was won by the largest re-election margin ever granted to a North Carolinian.

During the colonial days, water provided by the Trent River and various lakes served as the primary means of transportation for people, crops, and supplies. The Trent River, which flowed through Onslow County, Jones County, and Craven County was a main supply tributary.

Steamboats on regular schedules plied the waters between New Bern and Trenton, the county seat of Jones County. These flat bottom vessels some sixty (60) feet in length with a narrow beam drew only eighteen (18) inches of water, and barges were used to transport people, crops, and supplies. A recent discovery in River Bend in nearby Craven County revealed the remains of a ferry which is believed to have been used to transport wagons and people across the Trent River. According to historians, the remains of this ferry, constructed of cedar wood, (on display at the Beaufort Maritime Museum) dates back one hundred fifty (150) years.

Jones County is located in southeastern North Carolina, eight miles from the Atlantic Ocean and 85 miles east-southeast of Raleigh. Jones County is bounded by Carteret, Craven, Lenoir, Duplin, and Onslow Counties. In area, Jones County consists of 467 square miles of flat to undulating land making it 50th in size in the State. The Trent River meanders through the County causing one to suggest that every farm in the county drains into the Trent.

However, the southern boundary with Onslow County is formed by the White Oak River. Much of the county is contained in the Great Dover Swamp in the north, White Oak Pocosin lies in the south-central portion, and Lake Pocosin to the east. The areas are fertile, but to date have been of somewhat limited usage. They do provide excellent forest lands and excellent environments for a rich variety of wildlife.

To this end, Jones County has been a leading provider of lumber and has become well-known among outdoorsmen. Jones County, along with Onslow County, contains the largest forest laboratory in the nation, Hoffman Forest. The 78,000 acre laboratory, which covers the White Oak Pocosin was established in 1934 by the NC Forest Foundation and is used as a forestry laboratory by students of NC State University. Another large part of the county makes up a part of the Croatan National Forest. Formed in 1932 from parts of Jones, Carteret, and Craven Counties, it consists of 294,610 acres. These areas make up 65% of Jones County.

In 1886, Jonathan Haven, in a promotion booklet, described Jones County as a land inhabited by kind, hospitable, and intelligent people. Land was cheap and fruitful. "Tickle it with a plow," he said, "and it will laugh with a harvest."

Jones County, typical of many rural counties in North Carolina, is relatively poor. The county is still basically an agricultural county deriving most of its income from farming and timber activities. Farm commodities consist of tobacco, cotton, soybeans, swine, turkeys, chickens, cattle, goats, beef, and milk cows. Other crops include wheat, corn, barley, oats, peanuts, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, strawberries, and sorghum. The county ranks second in North Carolina and ninth in the United States for dependency on tobacco.

In 1880, Trenton had two saloons operated by W.H. Cox and C.C. Green; the druggist was Charles C. Green; and there were two hotels operated by Mrs. M.E. Pritchard and Joseph A. Smith.

There are many historic homes and establishments in Jones County. One of the most interesting old homes is the John Martin Franck House on Tuckahoe Creek; another is the Foscue Plantation House on US Highway 17. The Waller-Sanderson Home is distinguished by its graceful double chimney serving two downstairs rooms; the Lavender-Barrus House with its double front porch and its exterior stairs.

The Grace Episcopal Church in Trenton is one of the most charming churches in eastern North Carolina. Lees Chapel United Methodist Church is the oldest Methodist church in Jones County, founded in 1790. There are approximately 50 churches in Jones County representing at least twelve different denominations.

The recreational and sports facilities of Jones County are unlimited because of the rivers, ponds, and forests. Irvin S. Cobb once wrote of the Trent area that it offers "practically everything an outdoor man could ask." Fox hunting used to be popular, but deer, ducks, geese, and quail are the favorite targets now. If you cannot till it or tax it, you sure can hunt on it, and that is what both natives and visitors do in Jones County.

- Source: J.D. Lewis - Little River, SC


More Information

As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 10,381 people, 4,061 households, and 2,936 families residing in the county. The population density was 22 people per square mile (8/km²). There were 4,679 housing units at an average density of 10 per square mile (4/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 60.97% White, 35.87% Black or African American, 0.36% Native American, 0.15% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.70% from other races, and 0.92% from two or more races. 2.72% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 4,061 households out of which 31.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.20% were married couples living together, 15.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.70% were non-families. 24.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 2.99.

In the county the population was spread out with 25.70% under the age of 18, 6.80% from 18 to 24, 26.90% from 25 to 44, 25.20% from 45 to 64, and 15.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 93.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.90 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $30,882, and the median income for a family was $35,180. Males had a median income of $28,662 versus $19,536 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,916. About 14.20% of families and 16.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.30% of those under age 18 and 16.70% of those age 65 or over.

- Source: Wikipedia