Wayne County, NC
"The house long known as the first old Newman Potts, Sr. home"
It is not known how long Newman and Susan Potts lived in this home. Some of their children were born there. In 1860 he bought the adjoining property where they lived at the time of their deaths. There are no deeds indicating he ever owned the home.
by Marie L. Lewis
Drive south from Goldsboro on highway 117 past Brogden School, turn left and cross the railroad and pause for a moment: you are on historic ground.
To your left is the site of the old ghost town of Everettsville, just back of Brogden School. Today few people know the location of this early town. It has even been confused, in the telling, as having been located near the Everett family cemetery nearly two miles to the north.
The only surviving "landmark" of the old town is "Everettsville Avenue," a narrow, sandy road running straight as an arrow from the town site to the old Quaker community around Woodland Church and Academy, passing just to the north of the fire tower, it crosses highway 117 just south of the Goldwater Motel, proceeding in a north-westerly course.
But do not drive north just yet. Turn south following the road that parallels the railroad and browse with us through some forgotten pages of history.
A few hundred yards south of the site of old Everettsville is an old house by the side of the road, apparently doomed to fall soon to the doubtful hand of progress. Around this ancient building has swirled much of our county's early history. We refer to the house long known as the first old Newman Potts, Sr home; in more recent years, the home of Mr. and Mrs. R. K. Merritt.
Strange as it may seem, this house has out lived not one but two "lost towns;" and if indeed it has not served as "the court house," it at least marks the spot of an early town that out dated the town of Everettsville and that is noted in court records as having served, for a brief period at least, as "the county seat of Wayne" during the time that the court house at old Waynesborough had become unusable and before any new facility was erected at Goldsborough.
At a still later period, this house is known to have been used as Officer's Headquarters for the nearby Confederate Training Camp and Drill Grounds throughout the Civil War. Across the creek and up the hill, now partly covered by a Negro cemetery, smartly clad young men in gray, the pride and joy of the county, drilled and trained for the mighty conflict they were not destined to win. Then, as the years of war wore on, this old house on the hill overlooking the drill grounds and camp site, witnessed the pitiful sight of boys, some no more than fourteen years of age, ill fed, ill clad, some even without shoes, many without guns, preparing as best they could for what was to be the last battle at Bentonville.
The late Mr Allen Holloman, CSA, told us of this last recruitment; he was one of the fourteen year old boys taken by Dr Gideon Roberts.
Mr Holloman recalled that it was a bleak and sad experience with mothers and sisters following the boys down the road weeping and pleading with the Doctor not to take them. Many had lost husbands, older sons and brothers and they now looked to these teenage lads as their only hope to survive the starvation and desolation which lay ahead. But, Mr Holloman recalled, Dr Roberts took no chances. He put a rope around the entire group of boys and riding on horseback, he marched them before him like a herd of cattle "to the training camp near Dudley."
Here, they trained briefly and on meager rations. Those who had no guns trained with sticks but when the day of battle arrived, they "were in the ranks" and some who had no guns soon found some.
My grandfather, David Lewis, CSA, recalled that it was from this house he received the first food that he had seen "in several days" upon his return to Wayne County from the Confederate Hospital at Wilson with a medical discharge reading "subject to return to duty when able."
Not only did the old house serve as headquarters for collecting supplies from miles around to meet the needs of the training camp but also to ship to Lee's army in Virginia, and here especially towards the end of the war came disabled Confederate veterans, widows and orphans for such necessities as could be spared from the dwindling stores for the relief of the suffering and destitute civilians.
But not even the end of the war could ring down the curtain on history's drama around this house. When Sherman took over Goldsboro and his forces over ran the county, it was here that Yankee officers chose to set up one of the "Commissaries" to supply the needy who would come and take "the Oath of Allegiance not to again bear arms against the Union."
Then, as an encore perhaps, after the passing of the military commissary, there arrived in the area a yankee couple and according to description, their rather lovely young daughter. Described as "Missionaries" they came to establish a school for the newly liberated slaves.
This house became their home and on the other side of the creek on the old drill grounds, they built a schoolhouse and set about instructing Negroes both young and old. Little was ever known of them except among those they taught. One incident of their stay was related to us by a former Goldsboro citizen who was attending church at the time. It seems that shortly after their arrival, the "Missionaries" ventured to attend services in the First Presbyterian Church in Goldsboro. Whether they had been sponsored by a Presbyterian Church in the north was not known, but to the White people of the area, there were "just some more carpetbaggers" and no one was interested in them.
As they entered the church that Sunday morning, their presence seemed to become known immediately. As they took their seats in a pew near the front, not a word was spoken but every person who had been seated in that pew and the adjacent pews arose quietly and withdrew to other areas of the church. The Yankee "Missionaries" did not return to church there again.
How long the "Missionary" school teachers remained in this old house is not known but a former citizen of the present town of Dudley told us of seeing them taking their departure. They had gone to the depot surrounded by their Negro friends and as the train came in they were given a most fond farewell, all present exchanging many hugs and kisses, the teenage daughter of the couple appearing to receive even more than her share, according to the onlooker.
Now back to the records. Strange as it may seem, Wayne County has had two towns to bear the name of Dudley, they existed at different locations, and were named for different men.
From Mrs. Virginia Hodgin, we learned that her ancestor, Labon Lewis, "built the first house in the town of Dudley and named the town for his deceased brother, Dudley Lewis." This seemed to rebut the long established claim that the present town of Dudley was named for Governor E. B. Dudley, who had been prominent in the building of the Wilmington-Weldon (formerly Wilmington- Raleigh) Railroad. Then too, Labon Lewis, son of a Revolutionary soldier, was believed to have died before the present town of Dudley was established. A check with the official records of the U. S. Post Office clarified the matter: a post office was established at the first town named Dudley on January 13, 1840. John W. West was named Postmaster and he held the office nine years. Then the name of this office was changed to Everettsville and the location of the office was moved April 9, 1849. Eli Murry was named Postmaster. Thereafter, the men who served Everettsville as Postmasters were Richard T. Hoskins, October 10, 1853; Almon Hart, October 6, 1855; Joel Battle, April 10, 1857; John E. Whitfield, December 31, 1858. Mr. Whitfield continued as Postmaster until the office of Everettsville was closed December 6, 1866.
The second town to bear the name of Dudley was established at the present site February 3, 1850, with John C. Rhodes as first Postmaster. The names of his successors have previously been published.
The only other official record we have concerning the first town of Dudley is contained in an old court proceeding in 1847-1848 in which a prominent citizen of southern Wayne pledged his plantation near the present town of Mt. Olive as security, (a bond) for a neighbor who was involved in litigation in some civil matter. In checking a title, we were startled to note that in conclusion of the matter, the said tract was offered for sale and sold for cash to the highest bidder at the Court House in Dudley.
Incidentally, Mrs. Newman Potts, Sr., one of the first, if not the first occupant of this old house, was born Susan Marinda Lewis, daughter of Urban Lewis and Susan Casey and was the niece of Labon Lewis, the builder.
If you are interested in early architecture of this area, you will note the original brick that were probably hand made in the vicinity. The rafters are put together with blacksmith made nails. The main sills that are huge 12 by 12 inch timers and the floor joists are prepared with "round shave," used by the earliest generations of builders, the bark still showing on the under side. There are four rooms on the main floor, two rooms on the second floor.
The original barns and out buildings, perhaps even an outdoor (detached) kitchen so popular in that day, have long since disappeared.
It was the only house to survive Sherman's March through Everettsville.
As the house stands today, it is a challenge to the student of local history to find and preserve, in as much detail as possible, the many facets of its too-long-lost history. The story this old house could tell doubtless has touched the lives of more people from every walk of life, than has the history of any other building still standing in southern Wayne.