The Lost Town of Princeton, NC & Historic Land Ownership of Princeton Plantation - Northampton County, North Carolina

lelliott19

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"Be it Enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and by authority thereof...
That the said one hundred acres of land be, and is hereby constituted and established a town, and shall be called by the name of Princeton."
The original town of Princeton, NC was incorporated January 6, 1787, along the banks of the Meherrin River in Northampton County, NC. On the same day, the General Assembly of North Carolina established nearby Murfreesboro just four or five miles up the river. Murfreesboro is alive and well today. So what ever happened to Princeton?
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Princeton was established upon the lands of Matthew Figures in Northampton County, about 4 or 5 miles upriver from Murfreesboro. Lots of 1/2 acre were laid off and the new town of Princeton soon became home to a number of prominent North Carolina families. US Post Office Department records show that Princeton, NC was granted a Post Office on July 1, 1795, and its first Postmaster was Benjamin Coackley. The 1808 Price-Strother map (OP image) shows the name as "Prince Town" located at a bend in the Meherrin River, northeast of Murfreesboro.
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Apparently, the wharf at Murfreesboro was better than the one at Princeton - it had deeper water at the landing and could accommodate larger boats. The landing at Princeton being less desirable, the little town was overshadowed and eventually the idea was abandoned - the dream of its founders never having been fully realized. The charter was surrendered, the buildings were removed, and the citizens eventually relocated. US Post Office records do not indicate when the Princeton post office was closed, but it was likely prior to 1824. Another town named Princeton, NC was established in Johnston County in 1873 which exists today - but its not the one I'm interested in.

WHY DO I CARE ABOUT THE OLD TOWN OF PRINCETON, NC?
Some of you know I have been searching for the burial location of my 3x great grandparents Jesse R. and Mary Lawrence Cross of Northampton County, NC. I appreciate everyone's responses to my earlier post about the lands that were divided up among his heirs. @luinrina identified the actual locations of the estate lot maps for me. @John Winn provided US GS maps of the area showing cemeteries. And @Seduzal provided some additional local information. It was all very helpful and I have made some amazing discoveries! Since I really don't know anyone else to tell who might care, I thought I'd provide an update here.

Lemuel Lawrence, my 4x ggrandfather, was born about 1737 at Isle of Wright, Virginia, the son of John Lawrence (1719 - 2 March 1857.) Lemuel Lawrence married 1st: Mary Wood, daughter of Jonas Wood. He married 2nd: Mary Norfleet Battle, daughter of John Battle and Sarah Brown. A number of children resulted from the first union and to the second union were born two children: Jonas Lawrence b. about 1784 and Mary Lawrence, my 3x ggrandmother b. 27 October 1785.

In 1776, Lemuel Lawrence was living at South Quay, Virginia (Nansemond County, VA.) When the British arrived at Nansemond County, Lemuel fled with his family and slaves to northeastern North Carolina. On November 4, 1780, he purchased 100 acres from Jesse Kirby in nearby Northampton County. Apparently, Lemuel had some money in hand and the desire for more land. On December 25, 1781, he purchased another 280 acres from William and Susannah Futrell for the price of 20£.

In the 1790 US Census, Lemuel Lawrence is enumerated as head of household at Northampton Co., NC. In his household are enumerated 2 white males 16 or older; 2 white males under 16; 4 white females; and 19 enslaved indivduals.

Still desiring more land, on September 6, 1797, Lemuel purchased from Matthew Figures 680 acres of land "joining James Washington, Benj. Cookley, Wm. Sherad, Barth. Figures and Thomas Figures excepting the town of Princeton." And finally, on January 27, 1801, he bought 120 acres of land in Northampton County from Exum Liles for the price of 114£.

Prior to 1803, at the age of about 18, Mary Lawrence married Jesse Riddick Cross (these are my 3x g grandparents.) Lemuel Lawrence wrote his Last Will and Testament January 15, 1809 and died on April 10, 1811 at Northampton Co., NC. His will was proved and ordered to be recorded at the June Court 1811. Lemuel Lawrence deeded to his daughter, Mary Lawrence, several named enslaved individuals and all the lands and plantation "upon whereon I now live along with the stock, plantation utensils, and all kinds household and kitchen furniture" after the death of Lemuel's wife.
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So, upon the death of Mary Norfleet Battle Lawrence, October 22, 1813, my 3x great grandparents Jesse R and Mary Lawrence Cross, inherited the lands above mentioned - including the plantation surrounding the old, abandoned town of Princeton.

Fast forward to 1825 and 1828. Upon the death of Jesse and Mary Lawrence Cross, the will of Jesse R Cross names two plantations to be divided among his heirs - the "Home Plantation" where the family resided and the "Princeton Plantation." The property was divided among the children of Jesse R Cross as follows:
The "Home Plantation"
Lot 1 (434 acres with the "dwelling house") to Lemuel L. Cross​
Lot 2 (434 acres with the mill house and Wolftree Branch running through) to William C. Cross my 2x ggrandfather​
Lot 3 (384 acres across the road from the other two, with "Dean's Mill" and Reedy Branch) to Isaac Cross​
TOTAL = 1252 acres​
The "Princeton Plantation"
Lot 4 (382 acres including a dwelling house and excluding 24 acres "in dispute" on the Mehrrin River) to Christian E M Cross​
Lot 5 (382 acres excluding a portion labeled as "Ramsey's lots" and "New Landing" where Kirby's Creek enters the Mehrrin River) to Agdalena Cross
TOTAL = 764 acres​
TOTAL ESTATE LANDS = 2016 acres
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The town of Princeton is an enigma of sorts. Like many early historical towns, especially those that were short-lived, there just isn't much information available about Princeton. The writer hopes to shed some light... at least as far as historical ownership of the adjoining plantation lands. If anyone has additional information about the old town of Princeton, please let me hear from you!
SOURCES:
The State Records of North Carolina: Laws, 1777-1788, Volume XXIV. Edited by Walter Clark, William Laurence Saunders, Stephen Beauregard Weeks, P.M. Hale Publisher, North Carolina, 1905, pages 856-857 & 960-961. https://books.google.com/books?id=IlZKAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA856&lpg=PA856&dq="Matthew+Figures"+Northampton,+NC&source=bl&ots=zMZFQyQSIY&sig=ACfU3U3b4EHLZV1XAAE0kEjJZd0KWsCD3w&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiNot7esb_hAhUwn-AKHQbQAqkQ6AEwAXoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q="Matthew Figures" Northampton, NC&f=false
The Colonial and State Political History of Hertford County, Issue 3, Benjamin Brodie Winborne, Hertford County, NC, 1906, pages 67-68. https://books.google.com/books?id=OT0lAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA67&lpg=PA67&dq="Matthew+Figures"+Northampton,+NC&source=bl&ots=brg7FON8B3&sig=ACfU3U3ND6THe1-jK_9Jhecp3j577OPP4Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj7-tPmnb3hAhWHmuAKHXKzBGUQ6AEwAHoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=Matthew Figures&f=false
North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970, Northampton County, Wills, 1803-1826, Vol. 03
North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1975, Northampton County,
Cross, Jesse R (1824)
The Known Towns/Villages of North Carolina: A History of Princeton, North Carolina http://www.carolana.com/NC/Towns/Princeton_NC.html
Murfreesboro, Hertford Co., NC Historic Photographs. Contributed by E. Frank Stephenson, Jr., Murfreesboro Historical Association, Inc. https://www.b4us.net/photographs.html


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#2
Glad you updated @lelliott 19. A lot of digging you have done. Once a year or so ago I was searching along near the coast of NC, and doing a bit of random investigating. I came upon a couple of small 'townships' named for the plantation owner nearby. Normally with large tracts of land, a central meeting area for purposes of management would be consolidated. This would be the main house with nearby houses for the offspring in the family, or servant quarters. Just allowing an example of other similar places you may draw a better assumption on certain questions, when digging. As common early on as it was, a ton of similar facts may help locate valid details to yours. By the way, You did mean Isle of W-I-G-H-T, right? (It is.) Good luck, and let us know more.
Lubliner.
 

lelliott19

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how much digging goes into researching family history and following “leads” that sometimes leads to nothing or leads to others that produce more interesting facts about the family.
You hit that nail squarely upon its head Stanley! Digging is the BEST part but beware those pesky rabbit holes......they'll get you every time. :bounce:
 

lelliott19

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Since I posted this update, I have discovered that one building from the old town of Princeton and/or the Princeton Plantation has been preserved. It was relocated to Murfreesboro and is included in the historic district as part of a demonstration homestead. Below are the only pictures I can find on the internet, along with the write up. They call it an "old Post Office building." If it is actually the Post Office from the old town of Princeton, we can assume it dates from 1795-1824, when there was a Post Office at Princeton. Meaning it was there when my folks owned the Plantation!
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"Centrally located in the Historic District, the building which serves as the Evans Tinsmith Shop was originally located on the Princeton Plantation in Northampton County. This one story, single room, old Post Office building was moved to its current site in the late 1990s." https://whatshappeningnorthcarol.homestead.com/Historical-Association-Events-and-News.html
 

Seduzal

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Since I posted this update, I have discovered that one building from the old town of Princeton and/or the Princeton Plantation has been preserved. It was relocated to Murfreesboro and is included in the historic district as part of a demonstration homestead. Below are the only pictures I can find on the internet, along with the write up. They call it an "old Post Office building." If it is actually the Post Office from the old town of Princeton, we can assume it dates from 1795-1824, when there was a Post Office at Princeton. Meaning it was there when my folks owned the Plantation!
View attachment 301844
"Centrally located in the Historic District, the building which serves as the Evans Tinsmith Shop was originally located on the Princeton Plantation in Northampton County. This one story, single room, old Post Office building was moved to its current site in the late 1990s." https://whatshappeningnorthcarol.homestead.com/Historical-Association-Events-and-News.html
Small world. We lived and worked at Murfreesboro for 11 years and during that time visited these same places as listed in the this post. Can’t remember where the Princeton Post Office was open at that time.
 

lelliott19

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From Wikipedia:
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The Princeton Site, designated by the Smithsonian trinomial 31NHP93, is a historic archaeological site near Murfreesboro, North Carolina. The site encompasses the former town of "Prince Town" or "Princeton", a riverfront community settled by European Americans as early as the 1740s and incorporated in 1787. The town died out by 1810, probably due to poor economic conditions brought about by the silting of its harbor and reduced trade because of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe.

Excavation took place at the site in 1984. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. wiki/Princeton_Site
 

lelliott19

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To pick up where I left off in the OP regarding ownership of the "Princeton Plantation." You'll recall that, upon the death of Jesse R and Mary Lawrence Cross (my 3x g grandparents), the estate lands were divided among the children.

The “Pineywoods Plantation” (Lot 6 of the Jesse R Cross estate, not mentioned in the OP) consisting of 167 acres “near Princetown,” along with three city lots in Murfreesboro, were allotted to Cyprian C. Cross. The "Princeton Plantation" property went to the sisters – 382 acres to Christian E M (Elizabeth Mary) “Kitty” Cross (12 Oct 1812 - 16 Jan 1838) and the other 382 acres to Agdalena S. Cross (11 Dec 1817 - 15 Sept 1853.)

In 1830, soon after inheriting her half of the Princeton Plantation property, Christian E M “Kitty” Cross married William Hutchens Goodman and the couple had three daughters. Henrietta, the youngest, was born Aug 1, 1836. Christian died Jan 16, 1838, just 8 years after her marriage, so all three children would have been very young.

Nine months after Christian's untimely death, on Sept 16, 1838, Agdalena married her sister's widower Wm H Goodman, and raised the children. Wm H Goodman retained ownership of Christian's parcel and, through their marriage, he obtained Agdalena's parcel, restoring ownership of the two parcels under the same name.

William H Goodman died September 14, 1849 at age 48. The historic Princeton Plantation property was sold in 1850 as part of the settlement of Mr. Goodman's estate. The sale price was about $2000* (or about $2.62 per acre.) <I have not yet determined the historical ownership of the property resulting from this sale.> Agdalena would not live long either. She died Sept 15, 1853 at age 35.

The children of William Hutchens Goodman were: Sarah Goodman Smith, Mary Elizabeth Goodman Saunders, and Henrietta Ann Goodman Goodman. Henrietta, the youngest, married a Goodman cousin and moved to Tifton, GA, where she died Feb. 4, 1920.

*14 Dec 1850 – “1/4 of the amt for which the Princeton land sold this day after deducting expenses---- 491.99” [Source: North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979, Northampton County, Goodman, W H (1849), p. 25.]
 
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@lelliott19, please clear up for me the date Agdalena passed on. You have 1853, and say Wm. H. Goodman outlived both, yet you have his death marked in 1849. This doesn't present a problem in ownership deeds to the estate, especially if Goodman's is accurate, but the *dod* on Agdalena again creates a problem for simple verification. Not nitpicking, just genuinely interested. Thanks,
Lubliner.
 

lelliott19

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@lelliott19, please clear up for me the date Agdalena passed on. You have 1853, and say Wm. H. Goodman outlived both, yet you have his death marked in 1849. This doesn't present a problem in ownership deeds to the estate, especially if Goodman's is accurate, but the *dod* on Agdalena again creates a problem for simple verification. Not nitpicking, just genuinely interested. Thanks,
Lubliner.
Thanks for noticing that Lub. That is the correct date so Agdalena did outlive Wm H Goodman, but the property was sold as part of the settlement of his estate - by Dec. 1850.... for @ $2.62 per acre. I guess that was the going rate in 1850? Her will is dated August 31, 1853, about 2 weeks before she died, Sept 15, 1853.
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[North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970, Northampton County, NC, Wills 1844-1871, Volume 5, page 112.]
 
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Thanks for noticing that error Lub. Let me check my records and see what the correct date is. You may be onto something. She may have outlived him after all. :D I do know for sure that the property was sold as part of the settlement of his estate - by Dec. 1850.... for @ $2.62 per acre. I guess that was the going rate in 1850?
Was this man, Wm. Goodman a landless suitor to begin with. That in itself defies expression to carry nothing forth from his own heritage when he married. I am guessing a number is off in Agdalena's record, which I know is not your fault, or like me, you sometimes see things in reverse reflection.
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lelliott19

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a landless suitor to begin with.
Interesting. He was a physician and his family was fairly well off but I don't actually know if Goodman owned land prior to the marriage or not. Either way, I didn't mean to imply that he was a "land grabber." I just thought it was interesting that he wound up with both halves of the original, after the death of the first wife, when he married her younger sister.

I was just focusing the story around the land, mainly because it still exists. A local family has recently had the opportunity to purchase most/all of the original plantation and, like Humpty Dumpty, they have "put it back together again," and it is once again in cultivation. I am going up there next week and a member of the family is going to allow me to access it, and I hope will show me the lay of the land that once belonged to my 3 and 4x great grandfathers. I'll take pictures and share them here.

I am guessing a number is off in Agdalena's record,
I edited the post to reflect the correct info.
 
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Interesting. He was a physician and his family was fairly well off but I don't actually know if Goodman owned land prior to the marriage or not. Either way, I didn't mean to imply that he was a "land grabber." I just thought it was interesting that he wound up with both halves of the original, after the death of the first wife, when he married her younger sister.

I was just focusing the story around the land, mainly because it still exists. A local family has recently had the opportunity to purchase most/all of the original plantation and, like Humpty Dumpty, they have "put it back together again," and it is once again in cultivation. I am going up there next week and a member of the family is going to allow me to access it, and I hope will show me the lay of the land that once belonged to my 3 and 4x great grandfathers. I'll take pictures and share them here.

I edited the post to reflect the correct info.
Heaven's no, my bad, I didn't mean to assert 'landgrabber' at all! I will apologize for that misconception others might make. When Goodman's parents passed on he was more than likely entitled to inheritance, which may have consisted of lands. With your land being sold in 1850, and his death being 1849, and her's in 1853, I was wondering about what land was sold, and possibly his own estate.
With more time to think on it, is it possible she lived to 1853, but passed deed to her daughters, and if so, what else was involved, such as 'property', being such a large estate. I don't mean to continue asking impossible questions, sorry about that. Just a short recollection of my current drift. So it is still in the family? If so, yes, it could be sensitive. Love to see it this time of year!!
Lubliner.
 

lelliott19

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Unbelievable day in the Northampton County NC countryside! We were able to get in touch with current owners and access both the old "Princeton Plantation" and the old "Home Plantation" properties. It's hard to put words to the feeling I experienced. Just walking over some of the ground owned and farmed by my 4x and 3x great grandparents was amazing. The generosity and hospitality of the current land owners was more than we expected and very much appreciated. More pictures to come.
 



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