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Lenoir County

by Chris Amyette
Fall Semester 2000

Lenoir County is located in eastern North Carolina, midway between Virginia and South Carolina. It is divided in almost two equal parts by the Neuse River, which runs east and west through the county. Lenoir CountyGreene County borders Lenoir County on the north, on the west it is bordered by Wayne and Duplin Counties, on the South by Jones County, and on the east by Pitt and Craven Counties.

The area of the county is roughly 399 square feet and is mostly flat. Lenoir County reaches up to 25 feet above sea level in the southeast, and up to 125 feet in the west. Therefore the county slopes toward the east. The soil of Lenoir County is sandy and gray and many streams cover the ground, all flowing into the Neuse River or one of its tributaries (Powell 8).

Lenoir County and KinstonThe county seat of Lenoir County is Kinston. It is located on the Neuse River in northeastern Lenoir County. Kinston was established in 1762, 29 years before Lenoir County was established in 1791. Originally named Kingston after King George III of England, Kinston was the site of the Church of England in 1748 and a tobacco inspection warehouse in 1752. Prior to the Civil War, Kinston was one of the few cities in North Carolina to have a larger slave population then whites. Today Kinston has a population of about 26,000 people.

As the early population of North Carolina began to grow, the larger counties had to be divided into smaller counties. This was also the case with Lenoir County. What are now Greene, Pitt, Wayne, Craven, Johnston, and Lenoir Counties were all known as Johnston County. In the early 1760s Johnston County was split and what is now Wayne, Lenoir, and Green County became Dobbs County named after Governor Arthur Dobbs from England. In 1764 Richard Caswell petitioned to make Kingston the county seat of Dobbs County but it failed (Powell 16-19).

Governor Richard CaswellAfter the Revolutionary War, Dobbs County was changed to Lenoir named after Revolutionary War hero William Lenoir. Kingston's name was also changed to Kinston because America did not want to be associated with England anymore. When Richard Caswell became the first governor of North Carolina he made his hometown of Kinston the county seat of Lenoir County.

Probably the most important figure in Lenoir County's history is Richard Caswell. He was the first governor of North Carolina, and the first person from Kinston to be Governor. Caswell first entered politics as a deputy surveyor. In 1754 he was elected to the General Assembly and attended the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. His vital role of helping to kick the British out of North Carolina made him their most famous Revolutionary war veteran (Talmage 64-65).

Searching for Caswell's GraveThe latest news in Kinston is also revolving around the state's first governor. No one seems to know where he is buried. The Caswell cemetery in town has tombstones marking Caswell's wife and children, but there is no grave marker with Richard Caswell's name on it.

Supposedly when Caswell died in Fayetteville, North Carolina his body was to be brought back to Kinston to be buried with his family. Caswell laid out in his will exactly where his body was to be buried but this location has been a subject of many debates. Recently, students from East Carolina University were digging in an area of what was thought to be Caswell's land but came up short. As of now there is a $1000 reward to any organization that can find the exact location of Caswell's corpse (Olde Kinston Gazette).

In conclusion, Lenoir County is packed full of history and mystery. Since settlers came here so early, the population grew creating many different counties that Lenoir was once a part of. Due to all of he confusion in the records, the mystery of Governor Richard Caswell's grave and others may never be solved.


Works Cited

Discover Kinston. 2000. http://www.kinstonlc.com/.

Johnson, Talmage C., and Charles R. Holoman. The Story of Kinston and Lenoir County. Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1954.

Powell, William S. Annals of Progress: The Story of Lenoir County and Kinston, NC. Raleigh: State Deparment. of Archives and History, 1963.

Olde Kinston Gazette. November 2000. http://www.oldekinstongazette.com/main.shtml.


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Created December 2000
Updated May 16, 2003