History of the Nash/Edgecombe Boundary Explained at Phoenix Society Program

Cooper Blackwell

History of the Nash/Edgecombe Boundary Explained at Phoenix Society Program

About 40 people braved winds and rain on November 16, 2019 to attend the Phoenix Historical Society’s educational program at the Carmon Auditorium in Tarboro. UNC PhD candidate in history Lucas P. Kelley delivered a presentation on the historical origins of the 1871 Nash/Edgecombe county line change, when the boundary was moved from its original line at the Falls of the Tar River to the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad track. Based on the historical record, the boundary was moved by act of the white majority NC General Assembly to reduce the political and economic power of majority black Edgecombe County following freed slaves gaining the right to vote and elect representatives in the 1868 state constitution. This followed the state wide terror campaign of the Ku Klux Klan in 1870 to retaliate against the progress for blacks under Reconstruction.

This act divided the Edgecombe county towns of Whitakers, Battleboro, Rocky Mount and Sharpsburg, and transferred several hundred black voters from Edgecombe, which had elected African Americans to office, into majority white Nash County, which had never elected African Americans. This move also placed Rocky Mount Mills, Edgecombe’s major industry and top tax payer, into Nash County, and also took away half of Edgecombe’s tax revenue from the railroad. Both the mill and the railroad were important market Edgecombe’s cotton, still picked by black farmworkers that now cast votes at the ballot box.

On February 6, 1871, the Edgecombe Board of Commissioners, which included black commissioners, resolved that “…there is a scheme a foot in the legislature to change the county line between Edgecombe and Nash, the passage of such bill…would be very unjust on a large portion of the people of this county” and ordered “our Senator and Representatives …to use all influence against the passage of such a bill.” Kelley presented how Edgecombe’s black state representatives Richard Johnson and Willis Bunn vigorously opposed the bill and called for a referendum. The General Assembly rejected an amendment to submit the question to the affected voters of Edgecombe.

Phoenix Historical Society vice president James Wrenn guided the audience down the original county line projected on the screen, pointing out what industry would be in Edgecombe county under the original pre-1871 county line, such as Cummins, Pfizer, Honeywell, NC Wesleyan College, Rocky Mount Mills, the former Imperial & China American tobacco plants, former Hardee’s Food Systems, RBC Centura (now PNC) Bank, former Caramount/Burlington Mills, as well as African American neighborhoods of Happy Hill and Little Raleigh.

Kelley presented copies of a petition of protest signed by hundreds of Edgecombe citizens as well as an article from the Tarboro Southerner which called the move “unjust” and reported that 90% of Edgecombe citizens opposed the move. In 1870, Edgecombe’ s population was about 15,000 black and 8,000 white, while Nash was about 4,500 black and just over 6,000 white. Then, Edgecombe was a wealthier county than Nash. That began to change after the county line was moved to the railroad track.

Black state senators opposed the bill noting “there is more than one thousand miles of railroad running through different sections of North Carolina, and yet there is not another single mile of railroad in the state that is made the dividing line between two counties.” This is still true to this day. They further stated that the Senate refused to “allow the question to be submitted to the qualified voters who are thus transferred from one county to another like stock or dumb beasts on a farm.” Kelley noted that the railroad track county line dividing Nash & Edgecombe continues to be a political issue, such as in recent debates on school funding.

Rocky Mount attorney and community activist Susan Perry Cole delivered the community response to Kelley’s presentation. Cole highlighted the acclaimed Atlantic article from 2014 by Ta-Neishi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” and noted that this year U.S. Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee has chaired congressional hearings on reparations. Cole noted the continued opposition from some Nash County residents to political power and economic development for black majority Edgecombe County. She said the voices of the representatives from 1871 are calling on us to take action. Cole called for public hearings. One question from the audience asked how to calculate the tax revenue Edgecombe has lost to Nash in the last 148 years.

One person in the audience recalled a quote by Southern novelist William Faulkner: “ The past is not dead. In fact, it is not even past.”

The Phoenix Historical Society Nash/Edgecombe Boundary Lines Prior 1871 See Why We Are Where We Are Today 
Edgecombe And Nash County Boundaries – They Don’t Want To Hear These Trues 
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Curmilus Butch Dancy II 2020

Coronavirus Updates Edgecombe & Nash Counties 2020

Click On Photo To Visit Website For Latest Update

Edgecombe County Health Department Website 


Nash County Health Department Website
Note: It would be good if Edgecombe County would give the same information that Nash County does. However I would love to see the information presented per Zip Code so we can know where those who have tested positive, been tested awaiting results, in isolation, in the hospital. Some folk are not taking this virus serious so therefore those of us who are taking it serious would love to know the areas that we could possibly come in contact with these folk. We understand the Hipaa Law however the only thing the law requires is that they can not give out the persons name nor medical records. We as citizens and tax payers deserve the right to know what we are up against that could be possibly life threatening to us if we should come into contact with these folk.

Lawmakers spar over Medicaid expansion, school split proposal – Rocky Mount Telegram

NASHVILLE – Legislators who represent Nash County in the N.C. General Assembly disagree on Medicaid expansion and a possible split of Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools.

Nash County commissioners met Thursday with three of the county’s lawmakers for dinner at Ribeye’s Steakhouse in Nashville.

N.C. Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash, N.C. Rep. Bobbie Richardson, D-Franklin, and N.C. Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, were at the meeting. N.C. Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, wasn’t able to attend.

Commissioners shared their concerns and goals with legislators, ranging from mental health to lottery funding. But Medicaid expansion turned into the hot topic of the evening between Democrat and Republican lawmakers.

Commissioners on Monday put off voting on a resolution supporting Medicaid expansion until hearing from the legislators on Thursday. (Source: Read more)

Supporters of schools split tout taxpayers’ savings – Rocky Mount Telegram

NASHVILLE — Nash County commissioners said Thursday any possible split of Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools is about resolving dire funding inequities.

The board presented information from a 34-page report issued in November of a study conducted by MGT of America on a possible split of Nash-Rocky Mount schools along the lines of Nash and Edgecombe counties. Nash and Rocky Mount schools were combined into a single school district in 1992 by the N.C. General Assembly.

Commissioners presented three options: Have the General Assembly vote to split the school system along county lines; leave the system as is but remove Rocky Mount from the funding formula and have Edgecombe County agree on equal per-student funding; or not change anything. (Source: Read more)

Edgecombe could benefit from poultry operation – Daily Southerner

TARBORO — Edgecombe County is expected to benefit from the more than 1,000 jobs to be created when Mississippi  poultry producer Sanderson Farms builds a hatchery, wastewater treatment operation and processing plant southwest of Rocky Mount near I-95 and NC 97. (More)

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Sanderson Farms

Nash board reiterates support for poultry plant – Rocky Mount Telegram

NASHVILLE – Nash County commissioners approved a resolution of support for a proposed Sanderson Farms chicken processing plant Monday after listening to more than a dozen local residents talk for more than an hour about their thoughts and concerns on both sides of the issue. (More)

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Sanderson Farms

Lawmakers to tackle electric rates – Source: The Wilson Times

Sen. Buck Newton, a Republican who represents Wilson and Nash counties, was appointed Wednesday to co-chair the Municipal Power Agency Relief committee, which will seek ways to cut electric costs for customers served by ElectriCities. (Paid Content)

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Groups focus on gangs – Source: The Rocky Mount Telegram

Graffiti is just a bit of paint, but it carries significant meaning to everyone in the community.

To the painter, it often is a form of communication among gang members. To the property owner, it is an added expense. To the passerby and the prospective business owner, it is a sign of a bigger problem. (Paid Content)

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Town Hall meeting focuses on growing gang problems – Source: Rocky Mount Telegram

Charges filed in death of Nash deputy – Source: WRAL

Kinston, N.C. — Charges have been filed against four men detained in the shooting death of a Nash County sheriff’s deputy in Kinston Thursday night.

Investigator Warren "Sneak" Lewis, 38, who was assigned to the U.S. Marshals Service, went to a house at 602 W. Lenoir Ave. around 7 p.m. to serve outstanding warrants for murder, authorities said. Someone opened fire as Lewis and another marshal approached the house. WNCT-TV reported that Lewis was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time. (Read more)

GOP cries foul on Nash redistricting – Source: The Rocky Mount Telegram

An independent committee derived by the Nash County Board of Commissioners to handle this year’s redistricting has drawn criticism from local GOP members, who said they are concerned the process could be flawed because of uneven delegation. (Paid Content)