Sometimes, at certain moments when the day begins to lean into evening; when the sun is nodding her tired goodbye and filters of moonlight are slipping through the veins of time; there it is. You may find yourself almost listening for hoof beats on the streets of Clinton.
Gentlemen’s horses trotting slowly by from an earlier time, pausing for a glimpse of the elegant Shield House.
In Wallace or Warsaw, Roseboro or any of the small towns along the “Sweet way” you might turn only to see a stately, horse-drawn carriage roll past; especially in Kenansville, where the past sits gently on every corner.
You might wind your way along Kenansville streets, stroll up to read the historical markers, and with warm lights blinking in the twilight, and moss shrouded trees still guarding its privacy, the Kenan House gleams like a portrait from days long past.
Illusions? Yes and no. Granted you can certainly see some real reenactments of earlier times. Complete with ruffled maidens, stately gentlemen, and rosy cheeked children. The illusion comes in imagining them as they really were in their private yesterdays, when the day was theirs and there were no tomorrows, only then.
If we walk over to the year 1736, a large part of the (now) Duplin and Sampson, was then the upper part of New Hanover County and was quickly being settled by emigrants from the north of Ireland; Dutch and Swiss.
Henry McCulloch, Esq. of London, England, had purchased a tract of land from the Crown containing 71,160 acres, lying in the upper part of New Hanover Co. between the northeast branch of the Cape Fear River and Black River. It was an investment he could easily afford to make. He then began an all-out effort to persuade a number of Irish and Dutch to come over
from Europe to settle his lands. The deals were sweetened with promises of certain conditions that would give them titles to portions of the land as part of the package.
Their first settlements were at Sarecta on the Northeast River and at the lower end of Goshen, (then called Woodwards Chase) and on the “Grove” where the Duplin Court House in Kenansville now stands.
Around this same period, a number of families emigrated from Roanoke, Meherrin and elsewhere and settled on Cohera, Six Runs, Goshen, and the Northeast River.
The new county was rich and abundant with wild game, so their principal livelihood was raising livestock and hunting.
At the first forming of this county in 1750, which then included both Duplin and Sampson; it contained about 360 taxables. At the commencement of the Revolutionary War, it contained 900 to 1000 taxables. We were growing.
“The first inhabitants of these places were generally rude and uncultivated in their manners and bearing, wrote William Dickson, a writer born about 1740 in Pennsylvania, who relocated in 1745 to Duplin. He goes on to tell that the first inhabitants of Duplin/Sampson built and lived in crude log cabins.
By 1810 there were, however, many good houses, well-constructed, with brick chimneys and glass lights. There were no stone or brick-walled houses yet, and the greatest number of citizens built in the old-style. But things were changing, and there were at least a few stately, ‘horse-drawn carriages.’ in evidence.
Moving on down through the years from the early 1700s to 1750s; coming west from Warsaw, (according to the writings of Claude Moore, Oscar Bizzell, Dr. Dallas Herring, and others) about three miles down, one could see on their left the site of the first Duplin courthouse and jail which was built around 1750 and served as the county center until Sampson and Duplin were divided
Near this location was the home of the first sheriff of Duplin, Felix Kenan. The old road proceeded westward across a ford on Turkey Creek.
A few hundred yards to the right, after crossing the creek, was the home of General James Kenan, which had also been the home of his father, Thomas Kenan. This fine old home was burned by the British but was rebuilt and stood until about 1818. A few hundred yards westward stood, “Pleasant Retreat” the antebellum plantation home of William A Faison. This handsome
old home was burned in the 1880s, and today the home which stands there, was moved to the location from Kenansville.
The old Clinton to Warsaw road is rich in history and every mile is a path through time.
About a half-mile north of this road stood the home of Miss Sallie Fryer. In Miss Sallie’s backyard stood a giant pecan tree which was originally given to Thomas Kenan by James Madison.
To the west, on this old road in colonial days, stood Hollingsworth Tavern, built around 1760, a lively and ‘beneficial place to refresh.’ Moving further alone one will pass the site of the old Spring Vale post office and the Spring Vale Presbyterian Church, later used as a school. About a quarter of a mile further was the plantation of Thomas I. Faison, known as “Summer Hill.”
And there is so much more. Sadly most have not stood the test of time. But the memories are vividly alive. And as Claude often said, “so rich in our heritage of the South.”
Remnants of those colonial days, when our country was hungry for development, are woven tightly into the tapestries of our roots, in everything from language to our food and customs. The past is never very far away.
We share this legacy every time we bite into a grape hull pie, or enjoy a homecoming. We are history’s children, bearers of the past. And always the hoof beats from our ancestor’s time will walk beside us, and continue to provide us with an occasional glimpse when our land was young, our quest was for freedom, and our voices were never silenced.
* From the October 2007 issue of the Huckleberry Historian