Northampton County (1741)

Written By Jonathan Martin

The Colonial Assembly established Northampton County in 1741.  Originally part of Bertie County, Northampton was created to allow residents a more conveniently located courthouse, and as soon as the legislature set the county’s boundaries a court was built in the center of the county.  As a result, more residents built their houses near the hub of the village, and soon the town accepted Northampton Courthouse (established in 1742) as the simple name for the county’s seat.  However, in 1823 Northampton Courthouse was incorporated, and the citizens changed the town’s name to Jackson in honor of Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans and soon to be President of the United States.  The county of Northampton takes its name from James Compton, Earl of Northampton.


The first natives were the Tuscarora and Meherrin.  Yet, most of this tribes fled the area as European immigrants came to present-day Northampton.  The English, Scotch-Irish, the Scottish, and French Huguenot settlers were the earliest Europeans to the region at the beginning of the eighteenth century.  The Roanoke River that moves through Northampton provided the Native Americans and early settlers a pathway to trade with the surrounding areas; in addition, the lush soil of the region of the Roanoke River Valley attracted many immigrants.  In 1833, the first railroad to cross into North Carolina was constructed by the Petersburg Railroad Company near Northampton to a trading post on the Roanoke River.  The new transportation route opened the county to Virginia and other northern travelers and movers, and eventually another railroad was built to connect the eastern section of the state to the west.


When Jackson became an incorporated town, the Northampton area had already received wide acclaim as a horse racing and breeding capital.  Sir Archie, the greatest thoroughbred in North Carolina history, was sheltered at the Mowfield Plantation from 1817 to 1833.  Archie was bred while stationed in Northampton and his lineage includes Boston, Lexington, Man O’War, and Timoleon; all were gallant contenders in the international horse-racing realm.  There are only two North Carolina highway markers dedicated to animals; one inscribed to Sir Archie and the other is addressed to the Plott Hound, the state dog.


During the Civil War, Northampton County was the site of a skirmish at Boon’s Mill on July 28, 1863.  Brig. General Matt W. Ransom and his Confederate troops met the Union army in late July; the Union soldiers were set on demolishing the railroad bridge over the Roanoke River.  Many of the Confederate soldiers fighting to protect Boon’s Mill feared the destruction of their family’s plantations as the Union army moved to attack the Confederate strongpoint.  However, the Union avoided the farms and went straight for the railroad tracks. The battle lasted only five hours, and only a few casualties were reported from either side.  Yet, the Union army failed to destroy the railroad near Weldon.


Northampton County is home to several historic sites and cultural events.  The Lee-Grant Farm (ca. 1830), the Peebles House (c. 1800s), Cedar Grove Quaker Meetinghouse (1868), and the Duke-Lawrence House (mid-1700s) are all antique plantations and houses within Northampton.  In addition to the county’s historic sites, the Jackson Museum and Northampton Memorial Library along with the Northampton County Farm Festival June Jubilee are cultural places and events in the region.


Northampton is home to other townships besides Jackson, and several physical features distinguish the county from its neighboring counties. Garysburg, Seaboard, Gaston, Rich Square, Severn, Vultare, Margarettsville, and Milwaukee are other communities included in Northampton.  Some physical characteristics of Northampton include the Roanoke River, Roanoke Rapids, Occoneechee Neck, Taylors Mill Pond, and the Gumberry and Panther Swamps.