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People of Sneedsborough

The People of Sneedsborough

By John Jennings Dunlap, III


Much has been written about Sneedsborough, but we still know so little. Many of those writings are suppositions rather than factual.


In this article I plan to tell you what we know about some of the people who established and settled Sneedsborough. Many became prominent citizens of the county, state, and nation.


Sneedsborough, the second town to be established in Anson County, existed only 40 years or so, from 1795 to around 1835. It was located on the Pee Dee River, some two miles east of present McFarlan. Authorization to establish a town was enacted by the General Assembly in1795. Sixty-four half-acre lots, with convenient streets, were laid off. In 1800 the Charter was amended to include the dwelling home of William Johnson and instead of sixty-four lots, the number was increased to 250.


Sneedsborugh was the dream of Richard Edgeworth, who arrived in the Pee Dee area in the 1780s.With funds from his father, he purchased 512 acres in Anson County on September 22, 1794. He named the property Ashton.


In 1794 Edgeworth again visited England, but he became ill. Upon his return to Ashton, he suffered financial problems and was forced to sell Ashton to William Johnson. Edgeworth died August 19,1796.


William Johnson carried out Edgeworth’s plan for the town of Sneedsborough. Records show over 40 deeds from Johnson to various individuals from 1795 to 1825 for lots in the town, selling for $2 to $100. The first deed was issued to William Cupples, January 21, 1799, for four lots and had the town’s name spelled Sneedsborough. Eventually some 500 people lived in the town.


William Johnson owned a large cotton gin and a three-story mill located at the end of the canal. The structure stood for years after the town had died. It was finally washed away in a flood.


Archibald D. Murphy, a lawyer from Hillsborough, believed a great inland port should arise on the Pee Dee River and worked to create such a port at Sneedsborough. A navigation company was formed. Because of shoals discovered south of Sneedsborough which prevented the river from being navigable, the canal to connect Sneedsborough with the Pee Dee was never finished. However, remains of the canal can still be seen.


Murphy was the first and greatest leader in North Carolina to work for public schools, good roads, and other means of making the state prosperous and great. He became a noted lawyer, law teacher, and judge. Murphy Hall at UNC Chapel Hill is named in his honor.


John J. McRae was born in Sneedsborough in 1815. He was governor of Mississippi from 1854 to 1857. He was a member of the United States House and Senate and was also a Confederate Congressman. There is a state historical marker in his honor at the junction of Sneedsborough Road and U.S. 52.


John Grady clerked in the town’s general store. He later served as a member of the North Carolina General Assembly. He was an ancestor of the well-known editor of the Atlanta Constitution, Henry W. Grady.


Charles Harris, chairman of the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and its first professor of mathematics, is buried in Sneedsborough cemetery. His epitaph reads “Charles W. Harris, who departed this life January 15, 1804, after 33 years. At an early period his mind was enlightened with the beams of science. His prospects were flattering of high respectability in life. But, ah, he fell an early victim of that great destroyer DEATH.”


Charles’ brother Robert is also buried at Sneedsborough, and he, too, died at age 33. Other marked graves include William Johnson, town founder, and John Hinson, US Senator.


The Anson County Historical Society maintains the cemetery using the income derived from a gift to the society from the Johnson family descendants.


William Little, famous cabinet maker and head of the now prominent Little family of Anson, settled in Sneedsborough around 1800. He built his home and shop there in 1802. In 1815 he built a home on Jones Creek, about five miles south of Wadesboro. He is buried in what is known as the William Little Cemetery, about 100 yards east of his home. The Anson County Historical Society owns and maintains the cemetery as well. William Little was my great-great-grandfather.


Samuel Knox, another noted cabinet maker, owned the most famous landmark in Sneedsborough—the Knox Inn. Said to be three stories high with 15 rooms and a bar in its brick basement (after examining the site, I question the brick basement), the Inn was adorned with hand-carved mantelpieces and furnished eloquently. Existing until 1929, all that now remains of it and the town is part of a chimney.


Other notables that bought lots and/or lived in Sneedsborough were John McLester, Joseph Pickett, John J. Cabrol, Thomas Stegall, Jerome Lee, John Ingram, William Henry, Alexander McLeod, Archibald McLeod, Robert Troy, William Terry, Malcolm Campall, James Wade, John Taylor, John Nicholson, Willis Godwin, Ephraim Davidson, and Herbert Pearson.



(Information for this article was compiled from records in the files of the Anson Historical Society or from my private collection. —J.D)






John Jennings Dunlap, III is President of the Anson County Historical Society


Anson County Historical Society

206 East Wade St.

Wadesboro, NC  28170


Phone:  704-694-6694

Fax:  704-694-3763