By Oscar M. Bizzell (1921-2003)
(This particular submission was found in my mother’s materials from Hobbton Elementary School. Mr. Bizzell was asked to include the history of Newton Grove for an school accreditation.)
Within the past 400 years, there have been four separate and distinct villages in the Newton Grove area. These were: Indian Village, Coharie Village, Road-Forks Village and Circle Village. In 1979, the only one of these readily discernible is the Circle Village.
Settlers started getting land grants in this area from the British Crown around 1740. A few Coharie Indians were here at the same time, but there was ample evidence of a much larger settlement at an earlier time. The village appears to have been centered along the east bank of the Great Coharie Creek between present day Kill and Ward Swamps; however, burial mounds and Indian artifacts have been found throughout the entire Newton Grove area. These streams apparently were a rich source of fresh water clams that provided a major portion of their diet. Crude stone mortars and pestles for grinding grain show that some farming was done. A number of chunky stones for hunting and inscribed game stones for lacrosse matches also have been found. As settlers moved in, the Indians diminished and must have moved further south along the west bank of the Great Coharie, in what is now Herring Township.
Two Indian names still in use today in high Sampson are Coharie and Mingo.
Revolutionary War Events
A 1775 map shows a cross roads in the Newton Grove area, but no names. The closest place names are Holley’s Mill on upper Goshen Swamp and Rattlesnake about 12 miles southeast toward Colonel Sampson’s home. Records indicate that the Lord General Cornwallis passed through Newton Grove area in April 1781 on his way to the Battle of Yorktown. He wrote to British General Phillips saying he would go by Duplin Courthouse. At that time, Duplin Courthouse was situated along a tributary of Six Runs Creek in what later became a part of Sampson County in 1784. Along the way north, Cornwallis blazed a tree near U. S. Highway 701, about one mile north of Rattlesnake. My father, being a land surveyor, came to know the history of that stately old pine, and pointed it out on numerous occasions. Standing high about the surrounding trees, it drew a bolt of lightening in the 1930s and died.
The Wilmington to Hillsborough road in this area later became known as the Raleigh Road. For many years after regular travel on it ceased; it was used as a race track. Signs of it are still evident. Of considerable interest is the fact that the proposed route for Interstate Highway—40 from Wilmington to Hillsborough is nearly the same as that followed by Cornwallis. Early-day navigators were adept at picking direct routes.
Westbrook Census District
In 1800, the Sampson Clerk of Court appointed William Westbrook to take the second national census in High Sampson. His designated area was roughly that served by today’s Hobbton High School. This came to be known as Captain Westbrook’s District, and later as Westbrook’s township.
I remember the old William Westbrook home near the west bank of the Great Coharie. His early writings mention seeing down the hill and across the meadow to the beautiful Coharie stream. His shade trees are still standing beside the old stage coach road from Fayetteville to Tarboro. The Westbrook family cemetery stood beside his house, but the ground was returned to cultivation a few years ago, and today there is no sign of it.
On the east bank of Coharie, across from William Westbrook’s, lived Josiah Blackman, and immediately north of him lived his brother, Joab. Both were prominent in the affairs of the new nation. Indeed, Joab Blackman was a captain in the N. C. Militia during the war. Josiah served as Sampson County Senator in the General Assembly in 1796, and Joab served from 1803 thru 1810. Josiah operated a store and the community was called “Blackmans” as early as 1808, Blackman’s Store was designated as a federal post office, and went by that name until 6 May 1825 when it was deactivated to Cox’s Store Post Office. We believe it was the same building, purchased by William Cox and his wife (the former Widow Serena Ward Snead), both newly arrived from Onslow County.
After a stormy married life with Serena, William Cox died in 1835. Afterwards a stormy married life with Serena, William Cox died in 1835. Afterwards, her displeasure seems to have continued with the Cox children from William’s first marriage. Some purchased nearby property, while others migrated to new lands in Alabama. Moses Cox married Betsy Ann Cole, daughter of John and Ann Cole of Fayetteville and granddaughter of Joab Blackman mentioned above. Betsy Ann Cole and her brother, Joseph John Cole had heired the Joab Blackman lands in high Sampson.
Joseph John Cole had a serious drinking problem, as revealed by county court records, and was in danger of squandering his entire inheritance. Thus it was that brother-in-law Moses Cox came into possession of the Joe John Cole 640 acre plantation just north of the William Cox store and post office. This Cole property contained a store at the forks of the road to Tarboro and Hillsborough, and the stage coach past this point.
Between 1835 and 1849, Moses Cox was post master at Cox’s store, and we believe it was located in this store on the former Joe John Cole plantation. My grandfather, Walter Asher Bizzell (1859-1947) remembered this store on the Cole Place. A part of the old plantation house still stands.
Both these Cox’s stores were located near the east bank of Coharie, and separated by Blackman’s Branch. In addition this area contained a school house, a church and a 2 plus acre community cemetery for both whites and blacks. My grandfather purchased the property in 1915 and returned most of the cemetery to cultivation. The last burial around 1930 was that of William W. West of Dunn, N. C., husband of Mary Louisa Cox. I attended the funeral.
Making the Great Coharie Navigable
In 1828, the court decreed that Great Coharie was to be made navigable up to High Sampson. The purpose was to move farm produce and wood products to the port at Wilmington. At that time, streams were the chief means of transport, and town developments were on or near them.
The overseer for work in Newton Grove area was William House. My great great grandfather, Asher Bizzell furnished hands for the project, along with Archibald Monk and numerous other substantial citizens of this area.
For numerous reasons, the project was never completed. Perhaps a major reason was the railroad that a few years later demonstrated its ability to rapidly and inexpensively move large quantities of freight. Thus it was that High Sampson turned its attention to attracting a railroad. This, we believe, is what prompted development of the third village in this area.
With the coming of rail transport in the 1840s, river towns such as Lisbourn and Waynesboro folded-up, and towns such as Goldsboro, Mount Olive and Faison were born. This is possibly the main reason a new town was started in the Grove area about 1 ½ miles north of Moses Cox’s store and post office. The Grove was on higher ground at a well-traveled road forks, and more favorable for a railroad station. One of the published stories is that it was called New Town at the Grove to distinguish it from the village at Cox’s Store. When the post office was shifted there in 1849, the name was shortened to Newton Grove.
During the latter part of the 19th century, Newton Grove experienced considerable growth and was incorporated 6 March 1879. Persons living today recall numerous businesses, a jail, several doctors and a dentist. Much of this growth was in anticipation of a railroad. High hopes were generated on 2 January 1873 for construction of a railroad from Fayetteville, by way of Newton Grove, to Goldsboro. Such a railroad was incorporated by the N. C. Central Railway Co. was formed for the purpose of building a railroad from Sanford to Jacksonville, thus providing a freight route to the sea. The line was built from Sanford to Lillington, faltered at the Cape Fear River, and never went any further. Thus, High Sampson failed again to get badly needed transport service to market the products of its rich farm and woods land. With these bleak prospects, the town government became inoperative and business declined. This trend continued until around 1935 when hard surfaced roads began to find their way into Newton Grove. In those days, it was said that County Commissioner Leon Warren would support any road project so long as it went through Newton Grove.
By an Act of the General Assembly on 17 April 1935, the town limits were redefined and the town government began to function again. Ironically, however, hard surfaced roads which brought prosperity also brought a complete shift in the town to a fourth village at the new traffic circle.
With completion of the new Fayetteville—Goldsboro road in the 1940s, a traffic circle was constructed to also serve hard surfaced roads from Clinton, Smithfield, Dunn and Mount Olive. This gave a focal point for the new brick buildings, and the post office soon shifted there. To distinguish the new circle village from the roads—fork village, the latter was given the ignominious name of “Greasy Spoon”, so called for a small café that was one of the last businesses to close there.
During the past 38 years, Newton Grove has had a period of sustained growth. Although it failed to achieve river transport and rail transport, the town has “hit the jackpot” with roads. The new Interstate—40 Highway is scheduled to swing around the southern edge of town, and should further accelerate the growth rate when completed. Newton Grove, as the second oldest town in the county, appears to be on the way to greater things.