The Duplin County Courthouse is located at 112 Duplin Street, Kenansville, NC 28349; phone: 910-275-7000.
The first white settlers to inhabit what is now Duplin County consisted mainly of Swiss, Germans, English, and Scotch-Irish colonists who had originally settled in coastal North Carolina or in other colonies. Under the sponsorship of Swiss land company George Ritter & Company, a colony of persecuted Swiss and German Palatines under the direction of Baron Christoph von Graffenreid had left England in 1710 and landed in Virginia. Their numbers reduced by the time they reached the North Carolina coast, these Palatines eventually settled between the Neuse and Trent Rivers. Graffenried, with a hundred Swiss settlers in tow, later joined the Palatines and officially established the town of New Bern.
In the second decade of the 1700s, after yellow fever and Indian attacks decreased the settlers' numbers, Graffenried returned to Europe to settle a mounting debt he owed Colonel Thomas Pollock. Graffenreid, who had used the settlers' land for security against the loan, failed to settle the debt so Pollock foreclosed on the mortgages on the New Bern property. By 1743, Cullen Pollock, Thomas's son, had evicted the colonists and many of them had migrated westward to northern New Hanover County (now Duplin County).
Among other early settlers were English who came from both the upper and lower Cape Fear River regions and from the colonies of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Others came from the Albemarle region to the northeast and from counties adjacent to Duplin. But by far the greatest number of early settlers to present-day Duplin County were Scotch-Irish from Northern Ireland who came to America in the 1730s under the direction of London merchant Henry McCulloh. Haying been initially granted a total of 60,000 acres of land in eastern North Carolina by King George II, McCulloh transported a group of colonists from Ulster in northern Ireland to the southern Coastal Plain. Although McCulloh's efforts at colonization virtually failed and the validity of his land titles became the center of court battles Jay 1736 small communities were established throughout present-day Duplin County.
Under the terms of the land grant, colonists first established a settlement in the county at Soracte (now Sarecta) on the Northeast Cape Fear River. According to county historian A.T. Outlaw, ten houses had been built at Soracte by John Pidcock, John Porter, and William Lewis by the 1730s. Settlers established communities throughout the county at the same time: Beasley's Mill near present-day Magnolia; Goshen near Millers Bridge, northeast of present-day Kenansville; Grovemont (present-day Kenansville); Red House (near present-day Wallace); on Turkey Branch; and at what is now the town of Faison. Settlers from neighboring colonies and from other North Carolina counties settled mostly along the Northeast Cape Fear River and its tributaries.