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Wilson City

Wilson City Hall is located at 112 Goldsboro Street, Wilson, NC 27894; phone: 252-399-2000.

Beginnings [1]

Located on the broad upper coastal plain of eastern North Carolina, the City of Wilson grew from the trading settlement of Toisnot in the late 18th century. The name is said to be derived from Tosneac, the name of a Tuscoroa Indian town located in the area in the early 18th century. The first settlers of this area, which became part of Edgecombe County in 1741, came in the second quarter of the 18th century. The Toisnot Baptist Church was organized in 1759 and the nearby village of Hickory Grove soon became a center for the production and marketing of naval stores. The development of Hickory Grove as a trading center was dependent on the availability of transportation, which was first supplied by Contentnea Creek. Hickory Grove also was a stop on the Raleigh to Greenville post road which supplied a measure of regular delivery of goods and services into the community.

North Carolina from ca. 1815 until ca. 1835 suffered from a sluggish economy and rural isolationism, a situation which earned it the nickname of the "Rip Van Winkle State." As throughout much of North Carolina, it was the advent of the railroad in the mid nineteenth century which brought economic and cultural development to the community of Hickory Grove. The construction of the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad began in 1836 and its completion in April 1840 connected Hickory Grove and Toisnot to Petersburg, Virginia and the port at Wilmington. This gave area merchants and farmers, for the first time, a dependable, rapid, and comparatively inexpensive means of transportation to both the northern and export markets. A permanent depot was built at the Barnes Street crossing and the Toisnot Depot post office was established.

The railroad brought an immediate influx of new settlers to town, including brothers Jonathan (1819-1865) and Moses Rountree (1824-1887) who established a general merchandise store in 1846, General Joshua Barnes (1815-1890), whose name became "synonymous with progress and enterprise," Amos Battle, a minister of the Disciples of Christ Church, who came in 1843 and opened the town's first hotel, the Battle House Inn, in 1852, and members of the Barnes, Daniels, Farmer, Joyner, Rountree, and Tomlinson families, who would play leading roles in the growth and development of the town throughout the 19th century. In 1847 a group of progressive citizens established the Toisnot Academy for boys and another school opened for girls; this began Wilson's reputation as a leading educational community in eastern North Carolina. In 1848 a Masonic Lodge was chartered.

In 1849 Oswald Lipscomb (1826-1891), a master builder, and farmer, moved to town; he dominated building design here until his death. His two marriages to daughters of the Rountree and Barnes Families furthered his influence in town, where he designed impressive Italianate residences for some of the leading men in town. Unfortunately, few of these houses survive.

Growth was rapid and on January 29, 1849 the town of Wilson was chartered, incorporating the settlements of Toisnot Depot and Hickory Grove. The town was named for General Louis D. Wilson, a native and state senator from Edgecombe County who died of yellow fever in 1847 during the Mexican-American War.

Adapted from Tom Butchko, Preservation Consultant, Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse Historic District, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C. Adaptation copyright © 2012, The Gombach Group.

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