Kenansville Town Hall is located at 141 Routledge Road, Kenansville, NC 28349; phone: 910-296-0369.
Duplin County was created in 1750. By 1816, county officials had decided to build a new courthouse and expand the county seat. In October 1817, county surveyor Hugh Maxwell laid off a one-acre square with the 1785 courthouse at the center and eight lots arranged around the square. The area around the village was laid out in 1818 and the name changed to Kenansville in honor of Duplin County resident James Kenan, a member of the House of Commons and delegate to the North Carolina Provincial Congress. That same year lots in the town were sold to the highest bidders and the new courthouse built. This frame structure was rectangular, stood on eight-foot piers, and was painted white with a brown door. Kenansville's growth and prosperity came earlier than that of other county towns and was virtually unrelated to the later boom period associated with the growth of the railroad in the late nineteenth century. As the center of county government, Kenansville played a more limited role in the maturation of the county-wide economy. Eventually a commercial area developed around the courthouse square, but the town's specific role was as the nucleus of local government and with its academies and churches, the focal point of county social and cultural life.
Founded in Kenansville in 1796 by Henry Farrior and Dr. J.W. Blount, the Presbyterian Female Institute had been established to educate girls of the Wilmington Presbytery. By the mid-19th century the institute became the James Sprunt Institute in honor of a prominent local educator, James Menzies Sprunt. Born in Scotland in 1818, Sprunt came to Wilmington in 1839 where he responded to a newspaper advertisement for a teaching position in Duplin County. From 1839 to 1845, Sprunt taught at Hallsville, a community on the Northeast Cape Fear River. In 1845, he moved to Kenansville where he became headmaster of Grove Academy. In 1860, he became headmaster of the Female Institute. Sprunt also served as a pastor in churches throughout the county and as a chaplain in the Civil War. He served as Register of Deeds for Duplin County until his death in 1884.