"To advance through research, education and symposia, an increased public awareness of the Cape Fear region's unique history."
Duplin Roads Before Wallace: A History
Cape Fear Historical Institute Papers
Early Years of Duplin Cross Roads, or Duplin Roads:
The present town of Wallace, first known as Duplin Roads, was
first incorporated as Duplin Roads in 1873; then reincorporated
as Wallace in honor of Stephen D. Wallace (see Notes below) of the Atlantic Coast Line railroad on March 4, 1899. The county of Duplin had originally been part of New Hanover but a split was made in
1749 in order to better administer government to the inhabitants. Those first settlements of Swiss, German and Scotch-Irish in Duplin County occurred between present-day Wallace and Teacheys in
the vicinity of the Old Red House Cemetery.
At the end of the American Revolution the area that now comprises
the town of Wallace was farmland owned by William Boney, much of
it from an earlier land grant of King George II. The name Duplin Roads emerged from the intersection of the Wilmington to Raleigh dirt road
and the New Bern to Fayetteville road, and the coming of the railroad
in 1840 spurred development of the crossroads into a market and transportation center.
Readying Turpentine for Shipment by Rail
The new railroad brought new importance to
the Duplin Roads community as the spacing of stations along the rail
line reflected the practical need for locomotives to take on necessary
water and wood. It is also important to note that the Wilmington and Weldon truly connected Duplin Roads to the greater outside world
and markets, as it not only connected local farmers to Virginia, but
also Charleston via the four railroad-owned steamers that carried
people and freight from Wilmington southward on water.
No Whiskey at Duplin Roads Station:
The land for the railroad’s right of way was a donation from William
Boney with the specific restriction that no alcohol be sold on this
land---“Thus it was that although whiskey was sold in practically every station from Wilmington to Weldon, none was ever available for sale in Duplin Roads station.” The new railroad crossing in Duplin Roads prompted merchant Gabriel Boney to relocate his commissary from
nearby Washington Creek on the Northeast Cape Fear River, no doubt
the first retail store in town, and his shelves held coffee, sugar, salt
and other necessities not produced on local farms.
Steamboat Transportation on the Cape Fear River
The movement of this merchant to Duplin Roads illustrates the effect
of the new mode of transportation in the area as farm products were
now able to be shipped in large quantities to distant locales, and at an average speed of 22 miles per hour. Crude turpentine had for many
years served as the primary cash crop in Duplin, shipped on rafts to Wilmington for distillation into spirits of turpentine and rosin. Near the railroad in Duplin Roads, Newkirk Southerland had constructed barrels
in his copper shop for this still-profitable business and by 1861 the
town had grown into a thriving community.
Tapping Pine Trees for Turpentine
It is notable that Thomas O. Larkin, a native of Charlestown, Massachusetts, opened a store at "Rockfish" August 18, 1825, at or near Duplin Roads. In late 1825 he had ben appointed justice of the peace in Duplin County, and by September, 1826 Larkin had a post office in his store, being commissioned postmaster at the young age of 24.
Larkin left Rockfish in 1831 for California and opened a store at Monterey, still considered Mexican territory at the time. He was successful in business there and in 1843 received appointment as United States Consul at Monterey, eventually assisting in securing California as a US possession.
At a rural crossroads like in Duplin, a county store would become a
social as well as mercantile center, and by 1860 these country stores
came more and more into the hands of full time storekeepers instead of a successful planter. It was at a crossroads store that a polling place for elections would be set up, as well as a place for regular militia musters and important holidays to be celebrated.
To put things in perspective in relation to the size of Duplin Roads: in
1860 only Wilmington and New Bern had populations of more than
5000; Raleigh and Fayetteville had more than 4000; and towns of one thousand included Charlotte, Beaufort, Edenton, Elizabeth City, Henderson, Hendersonville, Kinston, Salisbury, Tarboro, Warrenton
and Little Washington. The rest, including Duplin Roads might scarcely have deserved being called villages – the Evans Railway Guide of 1874 listed a population of 75 persons for Duplin Roads.
The small population obscured the considerable wealth that the
Wilmington & Weldon Railroad brought to the Duplin Roads area in
the 1850’s; the stately Italianate-inspired home of Dr. Buckner Lanier
Hill House was built in 1855 within earshot of the railroad tracks---and surrounded by acres of corn, cotton, tobacco and cattle. Builders of the 1850’s were busy erecting stately homes for wealthy planters and merchants along the Wilmington & Weldon as well as rivers which
carried products to market by water. The Italianate-inspired home of
Dr. Hill and Dr. Needham Herring’s Greek Revival home in 1853 are representative of this era of wealth. The railroad by December, 1854 “transformed the economy of eastern North Carolina into a catchment
for exploiting the agricultural and commercial potential for the region.
An Agricultural Center:
Being a primarily agricultural region, a Duplin County Agricultural Society was first established in April, 1854 at the Kenansville Courthouse with Jeremiah Pearsall elected president, Owen R. Kenan and James Dickson as vice presidents, and Stephen M. Grady as secretary.
The annual fairs conducted by the Society reveal the long list
of foodstuffs the area produced, and included (November 1860):
corn, wheat, cotton, rye, oats, field peas, potatoes, turnips, beets, pumpkins, squash, collards, peanuts, melon, apples, ham, and
pickled pork. Like its neighboring counties of Bladen,
New Hanover, Columbus, Sampson and Pitt, Duplin County
was producing by 1860 substantial quantities of rice---and of course this production was stimulated by the railroad tracks which linked
it with national markets.
Duplin Roads Railroad Station:
According to Dr. James C. Burke’s scrupulous research of the Wilmington & Raleigh Railroad (later Wilmington & Weldon), a map of 1833 “lists
only six towns or named locations between Wilmington and Weldon that existed prior to the railroad that would eventually become railroad towns – South Washington, Wrightsville Post Office, Waynesborough (Goldsboro), Rocky Mount, Enfield and Halifax. Not listed on the map, but existing in 1833 was Duplin Cross Roads, the site of a post office.” Burke found
also that by 1858 Duplin County stations listed with their agents were Teachey’s (now Teachey), Magnolia (formerly Strickland’s Depot), Warsaw, Bowdens and Faison. He adds that in 1858 Duplin Roads
and Rose Hill had no station agent.
A photograph of the Halifax station house is the only known image of
early railroad structures, and probably dates from 1835. This building
may be atypical of those constructed along the line by the Wilmington & Weldon’s completion by 1840, though they may have been built after
more practical storage warehouses. Any station located at Duplin Roads
by the mid-1850’s was probably small and of very simple design and construction, and the lack of facilities here is indicated in the early wartime report of Wilmington & Weldon Superintendent Sewall L. Fremont (see Notes below) to the President and Directors, found in the November 25, 1861 Wilmington Journal:
“Thorough repairs should be made to the warehouses at Joyner’s, Black Creek, Nahunta, Dudley, Faison and Warsaw. At the latter station, the warehouse should be enlarged. Station houses, with
ticket offices, should be constructed at Joyner’s, Black Creek, Dudley, Faison and Warsaw; and small warehouses, with ticket offices and passenger rooms should be erected at Pikeville, Mount Olive, Duplin Cross Roads, Leesburg and South Washington. I do not propose
large or costly structures, but plain, neat buildings.”
As a small station (albeit without an agent) may certainly have existed
at Duplin Roads, Fremont was advising his superiors that a more commodious ticket office and passenger waiting rooms be erected there
to replace the aging and small original. One would surmise too that
storage sheds and warehouses may have existed near the station to store agricultural products awaiting shipment. Superintendent Fremont reported to the Directors in 1855 that the bridge at Rockfish Creek south of
Duplin Roads had been rebuilt, one can still see the stone trestle foundations in the water today.
Duplin Men in Service During the War Between the States:
Duplin County supplied many men from Duplin Roads, Kenansville, Warsaw, Magnolia and Faison who fought in Virginia as well as in the fortifications around Wilmington and Forts Fisher and Anderson on the Cape Fear River. Among the first units formed as local militia were the “Spartan Band” of Captain A.G. Mosely; the “Duplin Rifles” (organized
at Kenansville in 1859) under Captain Thomas S. Kenan; and the “Confederate Greys” under Captain Claudius B. Denson.
"The Duplin Grays"
The latter was largely composed of students at the Franklin Military Institute near Faison, and it eventually became Company E of the
20th North Carolina Regiment under Colonel (later General) Alfred
Iverson and Colonel Frank J. Faison of Duplin. The 20th and fought at Malvern Hill, Seven Days, Mechanicsville, Cold Harbor, South Mountain, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Petersburg and the Shenandoah Valley. In fierce battle
at Gettysburg on the first day, the 20th North Carolina Regiment lost
every officer killed, wounded or captured (of 24 being present), and
only 16 men of the regiment led by Lt. J.F. Ireland marched away
The names of the officers and soldiers of the Duplin units include:
Hicks, Sprunt, Oliver, Grimes, Blalock, Carr, Kornegay, Wright,
Barfield, Brinson, Brock, Branch, Davis, Farrior, Faison, Futrall,
Grady, Hall, Huggins, Kellit, Kenan, Lanier, Outlaw, Padgett,
Rogers, Strickland, Swinson, Southerland, Tew, Wallace,
Westbrook and Winders.
Additionally, many Duplin men served in the “Herring Artillery”
under Captain William A. Herring in Company I of the 2nd
North Carolina Artillery serving at Fort Johnson in Smithville. Lieutenant Robert B. Carr of Duplin County was wounded at Gettysburg and captured along with Col. Thomas S. Kenan;
Carr became one of the “Immortal 600” Southern officers used
as human shields in front of Northern artillery batteries at
Charleston in 1864. Nearly starved by his captors, he finally died
on July 3, 1865 of chronic intestinal disorders.
Both of his brothers, Joseph and John, were killed in the war.
Col. Thomas S. Kenan
Duplin Roads During the War:
Though the seat of active warfare avoided Duplin Roads, its agricultural products greatly helped the Southern war effort. In 1865 the quartermaster general of North Carolina reported that he was feeding half of Lee’s
Army of Northern Virginia largely with food brought through the
blockade at Wilmington, and shipped over the Wilmington and Weldon. Hence the Wilmington and Weldon became known as the “lifeline of the Confederacy,” and Duplin Roads was doing its part in providing
agricultural products to be shipped via rail, and cotton to be shipped to Europe on blockade runners. During Wilmington’s devastating
Yellow Fever epidemic of late 1862, Duplin Roads and other
unaffected areas shipped great quantities of fresh vegetables and fruit to
the stricken city to help alleviate the suffering.
The Wilmington & Weldon was used extensively for troop movements in eastern North Carolina throughout the war, and relocating defenders to threatened areas. In December 1862 Lt. Col. John G. Pressley of the
25th South Carolina Volunteers wrote of constant railroad movements
of his regiment to Wilmington and being quartered at "Camp Cobb, in wooden barracks near the edge of the city, and near the Wilmington & Weldon railroad." On December 18th he writes of "taking the cars" on
that afternoon in extremely cold weather and reaching Magnolia station
in Duplin County at 7AM the following day. "The fact that we were the
first regiment of soldiers the people of this town had had with them and
the proximity of the enemy made us very welcome visitors. Many of
the officers and men were breakfasted by the citizens and treated in
the most hospitable manner."
After it was ascertained that the enemy had retired toward New Bern,
Lt. Col. Pressley's regiment reboarded the cars and reached Wilmington
on the 23rd of December where they were reviewed by Major General William H.C. Whiting commanding the Cape Fear District.
War again came near Duplin Roads in early July 1863 as an enemy cavalry raid from New Bern got as close as Kenansville and Warsaw, tearing up track and burning warehouses---though this was quickly repaired by crews standing by for such events. This brought more Southern troops to the area to protect it from marauders. The fear
of sabotage and enemy raids was sufficient to have 24-hour guards
posted at important railroad bridges in Duplin County, including
the stone-foundation trestle at Rockfish Creek just south of
Prisoner Exchange Near Duplin Roads:
After the evacuation of Wilmington by General Robert F. Hoke in late February, his brigades followed the Wilmington and Weldon tracks to Rockfish Creek and encamped on the northern bank, just below Duplin Roads. Hoke maintained a strong defensive line here for nearly two
weeks, and because a large number of Northern prisoners were held by
the North Carolinians, he began treating with the enemy to take them off
his hands as rations were scarce and he had little for the captives.
General Braxton Bragg wrote to his superiors in Virginia from
“Rockfish Creek, Duplin County” on February 25, 1865 that “Our
main force is now located here, with the cavalry in advance at Northeast (Cape Fear) River, where the enemy has finally, under General Grant’s orders, consented to receive the prisoners.” Beginning on the 26th of February about 10,000 Northern prisoners of war were sent to Wilmington, many brought to Duplin Roads by rail from Goldsboro.
The diary of a soldier named Eldridge of the Third New Hampshire Regiment records that “the rebel [rail] cars fetched our prisoners (for parole) down from Goldsborough. They marched by our camp.” He continued that “On the 26th…Received and fed sixteen hundred prisoners. They are objects of pity.”
A previous battle fought on the very same ground as Hoke had encamped was the “Battle of Rockfish, on August 2, 1781.
Then, Colonel James Kenan of Duplin with 500 Duplin-area
militia confronted British Major James E. Craig’s large force of Loyalists, with the former dispersed after firing all their
ammunition at the enemy.
Northern Troops Pass Through Duplin Roads:
As General Hoke’s forces departed his Rockfish Creek encampment on March 4th to confront the enemy at Kinston, the Northern forces
continued toward Goldsboro along the Wilmington and Weldon line.
The railroad equipment not destroyed by retreating North Carolina
troops was put back into use between Northern-occupied Wilmington
and the new battle-fronts closer to Goldsboro. As those forces passed through Duplin Roads and Kenansville, farms were raided and stripped
of livestock and edibles, prompting one Duplin lady to remark from her porch: “What a set of vandals you Yankees are. You take all our sweet potatoes and chickens, and, a day or two since some of your tribe
took our horses.”
It is ironic that 83 years earlier British General “Cornwallis’ troops
marched through Duplin County on their way to Virginia and defeat.
They encamped at the Old Duplin Courthouse, which at that time was
on Turkey Branch near Warsaw.” As the Northern invaders did later,
the British “burned and plundered as they stalked their way through the county, leaving behind a path of destruction of farm pack houses, crops, store buildings, and whatever else was in their view”
About the Author:
Bernhard Thuersam is the Executive Director of the Cape Fear Historical Institute in Wilmington. A native of Niagara Falls,
New York, he has been a devoted student of world history since
1958. He is a former Chairman of the Cape Fear Museum Board
of Trustees. Contact him at email@example.com.
North Carolina Gazetteer, William S. Powell, UNC Press, 1968
Our Living and Our Dead, 38th Regt NCT, Col. W.J. Hoke, Feb 1875
Flashes of Duplin’s History and Gov'tt, Faison & P. McGowen, 1971
History of the 117th NY Volunteers, J.A. Mowris, 1866
Chrysthine, Christine Williams, Pentland Press, 1999
Southern Historical Papers, Vol. XIV, J.W. Jones, pp. 44-45
The Wilmington & Raleigh Rail Road Company, J.C. Burke, 2009
Civil War Letters of W.D. Carr, Robert & Elsie J. Aycock, 1995
North Carolina History, Lefler & Newsome, UNC Press, 1954
The Papers of John W. Ellis, Nobel J. Tolbert, editor, NCDAH, 1964
Antebellum North Carolina, Social History, G. Johnson, UNC Press, 1937
The Papers of Zebulon B. Vance, Frontis Johnson, NCDAH, 1963
North Carolina Architecture, Catherine Bishir, UNC Press, 1990
Sewall L. Fremont (1823-1886) was a native of Vermont and graduate of West Point, 1841, and rose to the rank of captain in the US Army before retiring in 1854; he then served as Chief Engineer and Superintendent of the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad from
1854-1871. Fremont also held the rank of Colonel, Chief of
Artillery and Engineers for the District of the Cape Fear,
North Carolina State Troops.
In 1871 he left the Wilmington &Weldon to take the same position with the Wilmington, Charlotte & Rutherford Railroad until retiring
in 1876. Fremont then was a rice planter near Wilmington for a
year or so, served as city surveyor 1880-1881, and a US government architect 1881-1886. He was the architect and superintendent of the North Carolina Asylum for the Colored Insane near Goldsboro.
In 1869 the North Carolina Legislature renamed the Wayne County town of Nahunta in honor of Colonel Fremont.
Stephen D. Wallace of Wilmington was elected president of the
Wilmington &Weldon upon the accidental death of William S. Ashe
in September 1862. Wallace had been for many years one of the officers of the road, having served as general ticket agent, assistant secretary, bookkeeper and accountant. He was also chairman of the Wilmington school board and in 1864 served as chairman of the Wilmington relief association. After the war he was a commission merchant in Wilmington.
©2006 Cape Fear Historical Institute