A Brief History of Sampson County

Welcome to the second largest county in the state: the county which ranks third in the state in farm income, the county that is the ninth largest producer of flue-cured tobacco in the state, and the county that is among the nation's top 120 counties in the production of hogs.

Sampson County covers 947 square miles in the coastal plain of North Carolina and is 60 miles long. The topography is gently rolling, even though many flat areas occur. The elevation above sea level ranges from sixty-three to two hundred feet. The mean annual temperature is 61.7 degrees and the annual rainfall is 47.5 inches. Farming is still the principal occupation in Sampson, although the county has considerable industry. Farm income for 1987 was $174, 730,091.60. Approximately 50,000 people live in the county.

Sampson County was created in 1784 from Duplin County. Later it annexed portions of New Hanover County and Wayne County to arrive at its present size. Settlers began arriving in the county as early as 1740, moving up South and Black Rivers from the seacoast at Wilmington. The southern end of the county once contained large cotton plantations, but this end of the county today is largely devoted to the growing of pine trees. The dense woods has provided shelter for a large number of deer which make hunting quite good during deer season.

Not far from the banks of the Black River at Ivanhoe is the Black River Presbyterian Church, whose first pastor arrived from Scotland, via Wilmington, in a boat up the river. Tradition has it that a part of the lumber from the boat was used to build the first church there. Services were held in Gaelic for many years and the population of the area contained many Scotch-Irish.

Sampson has eight incorporated towns, of which Clinton, the county seat, is the largest and oldest, having been incorporated in 1852. Other incorporated towns are Roseboro, Autryville, Salemburg, Garland, Turkey, Newton Grove, and Harrells. The town of Lisbon, located on South River, has completely disappeared, a victim of the coming of the railroad.

Clinton, near the geographical center of the county, was incorporated in 1852. 9,005 people live within the city limits. Clinton is governed by a mayor, city council, and city manager.

Garland was incorporated on February 8, 1907. The government of Garland is composed of a mayor, commissioners, a town clerk, and a deputy clerk. The population of Garland is 745 with approximately 350 residential dwellings and 45 small enterprises.

The July 1990 census estimate for Newton Grove was 543. Newton Grove is located at the northern end of the county and was incorporated in 1879 and again in 1935. A mayor and fire commissioners comprise the government of Newton Grove. Bentonville Battleground is located approximately five miles outside the city limits.

A mayor and board of commissioners govern the 1,441 Roseboro residents. Incorporated in 1891, the town of Roseboro was named after John M. Rose, the Secretary of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway. Roseboro has several diversified industries.

The outdoor drama, Micajah, recognized by the Institute of Outdoor Drama, salutes the memory of Micajah Autry who was born in the town of Autryville. The town of Autry was founded by Captain James L. Autry, in 1890. Autry was instrumental in the location of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad through town. A mayor and five commissioners comprise the town government for the 220 residents and the 17 businesses located throughout the town.

Sampson County's most prominent citizen was William Rufus King, ambassador to England and France and Vice-President of the United States. He died in 1853, shortly after taking the oath of office for the Vice Presidency. Another notable citizen was Governor Gabriel Holmes. He was Governor for three one-year terms, from 1821-1824. Other historic figures were Theophilus Holmes, Lieutenant General in the Confederate Army; Richard Clinton (1721-1796), the highest ranking officer in NC during the Civil War, the first mayor of Wilmington in 1760, and for whom the city of Clinton was named; Col. John Sampson, an active figure in the Revolutionary War affairs for whom Sampson County was named; Micajah Autry (1794-1836), county native who died with Davy Crockett in the Battle of the Alamo; James Kenan (1740-1810), planter, soldier, legislator; Robert Herring Wright (1870-1934), first president of East Carolina Teachers College; James Franklin Highsmith (1868-1940), organizer of the Hospital Association of NC and founder of a hospital in Fayetteville; and Lauch Faircloth, US Senator from Sampson County.

One of Sampson County's greatest assets is the Sampson County Memorial Hospital, located in Clinton. Sampson Community College offers varied courses of study, including occupational programs in both technical and vocational areas. The NC Justice Academy, located in Salemburg, provides criminal justice training for many state and local agencies.

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