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Goldsboro History

Listen to the legends of the past and learn why Wayne County is steeped with historical significance. Our rich history is laden with stories of Tuscarora Indians, steam boats, Revolutionary skirmishes, and Civil War battles. The world’s longest railroad once ran through our county and we are proud to be home to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, home of the 4th Fighter Wing and the 916th Air Refueling Wing.

Prior to 1700, the area encompassing present day Wayne County was largely populated by the Tuscarora Indians. By 1711, the influx of settlers and the differences in native and European culture, culminated into the Tuscarora war. The war lasted two terrible years. The natives were defeated and the war virtually eliminated all traces of Native Americans in eastern North Carolina.

Seven Springs, then known as White Hall, flourished as a colonial trade spot and was the location of Whitfield’s Ferry across the Neuse River. This ferry was used by both American and British troops during the Revolution. General Cornwallis, of the British Army, marched his army across Wayne County in 1781.

During the colonial period, another ferry, known as Dickinson's Ferry, existed in the vicinity of the bend in the Neuse River, one and one half miles southwest of present day downtown Goldsboro. A stagecoach road was very near this point and crossed the county connecting New Bern and points west. Today, it still winds its way through Goldsboro and is now known as Elm Street. The spot became a thriving community being sustained by river and stage traffic. Homes, taverns, and businesses were built. In 1779, two years before the Revolution was won, the Continental congress formed Wayne County from parts of colonial Dobb’s County, in honor of General "Mad" Anthony Wayne of Revolutionary fame. The junction was incorporated as Waynesborough in 1787 and was named the new county seat of government. River traffic flourished. Naval stores and other raw goods were carried eastward by way of barges to New Bern. A courthouse and jail were built along with warehouses, mills, and a church. Fifty years passed and the town grew to an estimated 300 citizens.

In the late 1830's, work had begun on a railroad that was to connect the port city of Wilmington to the northern parts of the state. The track was completed in 1839 and was located within a mile and a half of Waynesborough. Eventually the last tracks would be laid in Weldon, NC and for a brief time this track was known as "the longest railroad in the world." Enterprising merchants realized the significance of this new mode of transportation, and soon started building homes and businesses along the track. By 1847, the town was officially incorporated as Goldsborough, in honor of the man who was in charge of the construction of the railroad. As rail traffic increased and river traffic decreased, Waynesborough slowly died. In 1849, the vote was cast to move the county seat to Goldsborough, thus rendering Waynesborough a “ghost town.”

Other small towns sprouted-up along this line, including Nahunta Station (Fremont), Pike's Tavern (Pikeville), Dudley, and Mount Olive. A line connecting Morehead City to Raleigh was completed in the late 1850's, making Goldsborough the central lay over point for two major railroad companies. It was this strategic location that caused Wayne County to see increased troop concentration during the Civil War. In March of 1865, as the Civil War came to a close, three Union armies converged on Goldsborough, bringing with them over 100,000 troops. Wayne County, for a period, was turned into a very large Union military camp. During this time, the town of Goldsborough’s name was shortened to Goldsboro.

In 1942, early in World War II, the United States Army chose Wayne County as the site to open an Army Air Field, naming it Seymour Johnson Field. This was closed after the war, but was later reopened in the early 1950’s by the US Air Force as Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and is now the proud home of the 4th Fighter Wing and the 916th Air Refueling Wing.

Today, agriculture, manufacturing, and the military are still vital to our economy. The rail system continues to play an important role as valuable goods are transported to and from local industries. This county, steeped in history and cultural diversity, continues to flourish in the twenty first century.
Civil War History
Goldsboro was an important railroad junction during the Civil War. Confederate troops were stationed here to guard the city and report for duty by rail. Hospitals were established and over 800 Confederate soldiers were buried in a mass grave at Willow Dale Cemetery. Breastworks were built to protect the city. Remains of these are still visible along Claiborne Street. 

For information on the Civil War Trails, visit
www.civilwartrails.org .
The Union Occupation of Goldsboro
In 1865, Goldsborough was Union General Sherman’s destination on his march through the Carolinas. Three Union armies converged on Goldsborough and captured the city in March. Union hospitals were established, and the city was occupied for three weeks by over 100,000 Union soldiers.
The Battle of Goldsborough Bridge: Foster's Raid
In December 1862, Union General John Foster marched from New Bern with an army of 12,000 men to interrupt the Confederate supply chain by destroying the railroad bridge which crossed the Neuse River, three miles south of Goldsboro.

On December 17, Union troops attacked and pushed back a small force of 2,000 Confederates, then burned the bridge and destroyed miles of railroad tracks. That afternoon Confederate forces attacked the rear of Foster’s army as it was leaving the field. The Confederates suffered over 150 casualties and Union losses were under 100. 
Seymour Johnson Air Force Base (SJAFB)
Home of the 4th Fighter Wing, which flies the F-15 E Strike Eagle jet, and the 916th Air Refueling Wing, which flies the KC-135R Stratotanker, the base has an intricate history within and around Goldsboro and Wayne County. First activated in 1942, the installation was named in honor of U.S. Navy Lt. Seymour A. Johnson, a Goldsboro native, who was killed in March 1941. By 1944, the primary mission of the base was to train P-47 Thunderbolt pilots.

Following World War II, the base was inactivated. In 1954, Goldsboro Mayor, Scott B. Berkely Sr., and a group of business leaders successfully lobbied to have the base reopened. A groundbreaking ceremony was conducted in 1955, Seymour Johnson was reactivated in April 1956 and officially reopened on July 8. Two years later the storied 4th Fighter Group, then known as the 4th Fighter Day Wing, arrived.

In 2001, former Department of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld named SJAFB the winner of the 2001 Commander-In-Chief’s Award for Installation Excellence. The award recognizes outstanding and innovative efforts of thepeople who operate and maintain U.S. military installations. As one of five recipients of this award, SJAFB was selected for its exemplary support of the Department of Defense mission and received $1.1 million in base improvements.

Base tours for the public are offered monthly through the Goldsboro Wayne County Travel & Tourism office. For more information, call (919) 734-2241.
National Register of Historic Places
  • Charles B. Aycock Birthplace Site - Fremont 02/26/70
  • Barnes-Hooks Farms - Fremont 09/01/95
  • Eureka United Methodist Church - Eureka 08/26/82
  • First Presbyterian Church - Goldsboro 05/29/79
  • L.D. Giddens & Son Jewelry - Goldsboro 03/19/79
  • Goldsboro Union Station - Goldsboro 04/13/77
  • Harry Fitzhugh Lee House - Goldsboro 03/01/84
  • Former Mount Olive High School - Mt. Olive 10/22/98
  • Mount Olive Historic District - Mt. Olive 05/27/99
  • Odd Fellows Lodge - Goldsboro 08/03/78
  • Perry-Cherry House - Mount Olive 03/13/80
  • Southerland-Burnette House - Mount Olive 02/08/88
  • Former United States Post Office - Mt. Olive 06/02/95
  • Soloman and Henry Weil Houses - Goldsboro 12/22/76
Historic Markers
  • Charles B. Aycock: Governor, 1901-1905. Birthplace stands 2/3 miles east. US 117 south of Fremont.
  • Waynesborough: First seat of Wayne County. Incorporated 1787. Site is here. US 117 bypass in Goldsboro.
  • Sherman’s March: Sherman’s army, on its march from Savannah, entered Goldsboro on March 21, 1865. NC 581 (West Ash Street) in Goldsboro.
  • North Carolina Railroad: Built by the state, 1851-56. Eastern terminus a few miles north. NC 581 (West Ash Street) in Goldsboro.
  • Curtis H. Brogden: Governor, 1874-77; Home is two miles northwest on US 13 south of Goldsboro.
  • Foster’s Raid: Union troops led by General J.G. Foster attacked Goldsboro, December 17, 1862. NC 581 (West Ash Street) in Goldsboro.
  • Wm. T. Dortch: Confederate Senator. Home is 1, grave 6 blocks south. US 70 Business (Ash Street) and William Street in Goldsboro.
  • Dobbs County Court House: Formed in 1758 and named for Gov. Arthur Dobbs. 3 miles south. US 70 at SR 1719 (Best Station Road) east of Walnut Creek.
  • Seymour Johnson Air Force Base: Field used, 1942-46, for flight training by Army Air Forces; reopened in 1956. Berkeley Boulevard at Elm Street in Goldsboro.
  • Torhunta: Large Indian farming community. Destroyed in 1712. US 13 at SR 1572 (Saulston Road) 3 miles northeast of Goldsboro.
  • Mount Olive College: Original Free Will Baptist. US 117 Bypass in Mount Olive.
  • Battle of Whitehall: On December 15-16, 1862 Union troops led by Gen. J.G. Foster damaged the Confederate Ram “Neuse.” NC 55 at Main Street in Seven Springs.
  • North Carolina Press Association: Organized May 14, 1873. J.A. Engelhard elected first president at meeting held near this spot. Walnut Street in Goldsboro.
  • Kenneth C. Royall: Last Secretary of War and first secretary of the Army, 1947-49. Home was here. NC 581 (West Ash Street) in Goldsboro.
  • Odd Fellows Home: Orphanage and school opened in 1892. The original 20-acre tract is now a city park. US 70 Business (East Ash Street) at Herman Street in Goldsboro.
  • Cherry Hospital: Opened by the state in 1880 for black citizens with mental illness. US Hwy 581 at SR 201 (Stevens Mill Road) just west of Goldsboro.
  • General Baptist State Convention: Statewide association of black Baptists organized October 18, 1867 at First African Baptist Church, then located .2 mile west. US Hwy 177 Business (George Street) at Pine Street in Goldsboro.
  • Gertrude Weil: 1879-1971; Advocate for extending voting rights to women, 1920; Home was here. 200 West Chestnut Street, Goldsboro.


*****All historical information has been provided by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce web page.

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Melanie Gates
Real Estate Broker

Coldwell Banker Advantage
507-B N. Spence Avenue
Goldsboro, NC 27534
Phone: 919-922-9035
Email: mygoldsbororealtor@gmail.com
Web:  www.mygoldsbororealtor.com

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