By George Johnson
* Reprinted with permission of the Goldsboro News-Argus
The town of Seven Springs was first incorporated in 1851 as White Hall, but the post office was Jericho as there already was a White Hall post office in North Carolina. To avoid any confusion, the name was changed from White Hall to Seven Springs sometime during the 1880s.
Considered the oldest community in Wayne County, Seven Springs received its first public notice from an explorer, John Lawson, who journeyed up the Neuse River from New Bern in 1710 and recorded seeing trading cabins and white traders in the area.
Until that time, the area had been considered Indian Territory. Although it was considered Tuscarora Indian Territory, it is believed that the Spoonie Indians built the village across the river from the present Seven Springs. It also is believed that they maintained a camp ground near one of the seven natural mineral water springs in the area.
Records show that William Whitfield II and his wife, Rachel, were the first permanent settlers, having migrated from Virginia.
Whitfield built his family’s first house in 1741 about four miles downstream from White Hall.
Two years later, the family moved to a new house in White Hall. It was situated on a bluff overlooking the river near the present Seven Springs United Methodist Church.
At the beginning of the Civil War, Whitfield moved his family to a third home called Pleasant Plains, up the river about a mile west of White Hall.
A century later, one of two resort hotels that became famous for their mineral water was located at the same site.
Although they moved from Virginia, the Whitfields were English and their loyalty to the land was reflected in their decision to name their home White Hall, a word that long had stood for the English government.
The Whitfields were active in local government and served in the militia during the colonial period. William Whitfield operated a ferry which was used to transport military supplies across the river.
During the early days of the Revolutionary War, meetings of the local committee of safety were held in White Hall and weapons and supplies were stored there.
Battle records indicate that members of the Whitfield family fought in the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge.
White Hall began to grow after the Revolution, influenced by a stagecoach line which passed through the area and an increase in river traffic.
Some industry developed in the small community, but, for the most part, residents were farmers.
The town had a buggy factory, turpentine distillery, a brick works and several warehouses. On the site of the old Indian campground was a government operated whiskey distillery and a blacksmith ship.
When the Civil War began, White Hall became the site of a Confederate shipyard and it is believed that the Confederate Ram Neuse was built in the factory.
The Battle of White Hall was fought on Dec. 15 and 16, 1862 and the town was virtually destroyed.
The Union Army was entrenched on a hill overlooking the river while the confederate held the right bank of the river at what is now the Piney Grove community. Both sides claimed victory after the battle, but it was the bombardment by Union cannons that destroyed the town.
The Ram Neuse, still in the shipyard at the time of the battle, escaped with little damage. It was repaired and sent to Kinston to be plated and it was there that it was later sunk to prevent the Union forces from capturing it.
The ship has since been recovered and is located at the state historic site on the river bank just west of Kinston.
The town was rebuilt after the war, but never became a booming trading center again, although water from the springs still is sold throughout the area by the Morgan Maxwell family, owners of the springs.
In 1874, a Presbyterian Church named White Hall was built by William B. Whitfield, a descendant of William Whitfield II. Dr. J.R. Wilson, father of President Woodrow Wilson, once preached in the church while a pastor in Wilmington.
The church now is the Methodist Church and the Missionary Baptists organized and built a church in White Hall in 1892.
Two resort hotels were built by the Whitfield families after the Civil War and attracted people from throughout the country to drink the mineral water. One of the hotel buildings still stands a short distance up the river from the town.
All of the town’s businesses and some of the homes were destroyed by fire in 1921, leaving the oldest town in the county without any landmarks.