Anyone know about “Durgantown” as original name of Swift Creek / Vanceboro area?

by | Jul 6, 2018 | 2 comments

There is a story that’s been told over the years, though I’m unsure of where it started, that what is today known as Vanceboro was originally founded as Durgantown and it was known by that name from the 1750s until it became known as Swift Creek in 1850.

This is an excerpt from the Town of Vanceboro’s website:

Vanceboro was first a small village known as Durgantown.  It was established about 1750 with ten families living near the fork of the Greenville and Washington roads.  In 1800 the first public building was erected on land in the fork of the road.  This building was called the Post Oak Meeting House.  This log building was used as a free church.

Around 1850 Durgantown changed its name to Swift Creek.  The village had grown from the fork in the north toward the creek which was south.  This influenced the change of the name.  There were three landings along the creek to serve the steamboats that traveled twice weekly to New Bern.

I’ve read this Durgantown reference before in a little red book my grandparents have at their house, Fond Mem’ry Turns to Thee by Colvin Joyner. I also know the Craven County Heritage book mentions it, as do a couple of other books that were published in the last 30 or so years.

I have reached out to a few historians and asked them about it. So far, none that I have talked to have been able to point me to any original source for Durgantown as the name that was in use from 1750 through 1850.

Personally, I’ll admit, in spite of doing Craven County genealogy research for over 25 years — with a huge focus on the Swift Creek (modern Vanceboro) area — I’ve never seen a reference to Durgantown as the official name of the town.

On the other hand, I have seen the name Swift Creek used for the area since the 1700s — in spite of the fact that sources that reference claim Durgantown as the name say the town didn’t become known as Swift Creek until the 1850s.

Here are the sources I’ve already searched:

I’ve also searched my own computer, which contains literally thousands of pages of Craven County historical and genealogical data. I’ve not found the term Durgantown anywhere.

Can anyone point me to an ORIGINAL DOCUMENT* that references Durgantown as the original name of Vanceboro? I can find endless references to Swift Creek and Swifts Creek as a geographic reference in that part of Craven County dating back to at least the 1730s. I’ve seen references from the 1740s that mention “the inhabitants of Swifts Creek,” but not one reference to Durgantown.

*- By original document, I mean an actual document from the era that refers to what we known today as Vanceboro by the name of Durgantown? If you do have information on this, I would be most appreciative, as I’m sure many of us with Swift Creek roots would also be!

Also, if it was called Durgantown, where did that name come from? Was there a family of Durgans that originally settled that area? If you know something about this tied to actual historical references, please leave a comment below!

Thank you!


  1. Elizabeth

    My family owned 100 acres in 1790 on east side of Swift creek. That’s how it was on land grant.

  2. Mitchell Johnson

    Hi Sara Whitford

    I traced my family roots back to 1637 on the Eastern shores of Virginia. Specifically Northampton county where Anthony Johnson was enslaved before becoming free. His ancestors migrated to mostly Maryland and North Carolina. Especially in Eastern, NC and Craven County. I saw on your East Carolina Roots page the Johnson’s in your family and would like to know if there is a connection. All my ancestors were born and raised in Vanceboro, Ernul, Askins and Cayton but most in Vanceboro. My Great Great Grandfather was Mike Johnson born between 1835 – 1838 in Swift Creek. I’m trying to find his parents, especially his father. I have 4 possibilities that I’ve been looking at and I’m still unsure who was his father. Zachariah, Solomon, Stephen and James Johnson were free African Americans born in Craven County from 1800- 1815 so I’m trying to find that connection. In my research I happened across your info on Jacob Johnson and his heirs. I recognize a lot of the same names in my ancestry so I’m curious to know if they’re the same family. Also there was a Jacob Johnson in the 1790 Craven County records who owned 11 enslaved individuals so now I’m not sure about some of the connections I have. If you have any info to share, I would be appreciative to hear from you. Thanks in advance.


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