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Jacob Johnston's "Bridge Town" = Early Swift Creek?

Okay, so maybe I have been low balling on understanding early Vanceboro/Swift Creek history, but I have not seen mention of this before and probably have overlooked it myself in the General Assembly records. Jacob Johnston (or Johnson) petitioned the state the first year after the end of the Revolution in 1784 to have a Town lotted out on his land "immediately above the lower bridge of Swift's Creek." He lived right there around where Vanceboro is today near the bridge, so does that put a rest on the "Durgantown" information? DO you know how upset I was when I found this document and it did not say Durgantown! 😂

The Act was passed as I read, but I'm not even sure if all the fixtures that they put into this Act ever actually occurred. It may be my ignorance to Acts regarding the creation of a Town in NC. It just feels strange that the assigned "directors or trustees" of the whole system were high members of society that day. I mean what I consider some of the top individuals of the state! John Gray Blount, William Blount, General William Bryan, Abner Neale, etc. Was it possibly because these people were representing the state in government at the time or something? That stuff I am unfamiliar with at this time. The Act written stated that twenty acres would be set aside for the establishment of "Bridge Town" with half-acre lots, a street, lanes, alleys, and that houses had to be built within three years of purchasing the lot and had to be sixteen feet square plus ten feet pitch.

I have a feeling this did not go far. If it did and was started, it went very slowly. Maybe I'll find out more information soon when I put together some more deeds/grants together on a map for comparison! Here's the link to the scanned documents. I'll share my transcription of the petition and Act if you rather ease your eyes. If you'll notice in the documents, the second page, it appears that "Bridge Town" was written in later? Looks strange if you ask me. Also, I did not transcribe what is written on, I presume, the cover– that's a lot of chicken scratch, but I can make-out "House of Commons... and passed." If any one else finds this information curious, let's discuss! 😃

To the Honorable the General Assembly of the State No. Carolina.

The Petition of Jacob Johnson humbly sheweth that he is possessed in fee-simple of a tract of land situate near and immediately above the lower bridge across Swift's Creek on a part of which he prays that your honorable body will be pleased to pass an Act for establishing a Town and your petitioner in duty bound will pray.

                        Jacob Johnson

A Bill for establishing a Town on the lands of Jacob Johnson, in the County of Craven.

Whereas it is represented to this General Assembly that a Town on the lands of Jacob Johnson situate on Swift's Creek immediately above the lower bridge would be of public utility, and the said Jacob Johnson having given his assent thereto.

Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina and by the authority of the same, that the directors or trustees hereafter appointed or the majority of them shall as soon as may be after the passing this Act, cause twenty acres to be laid off in lots of half-acres each, with convenient street, lanes, and alleys which lots so laid off according to the directions of this Act are hereby constituted and erected a Town, and shall be called by the name of Bridge Town.

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that from and after the passing of this Act­– General William Bryan, Christopher ^Abnar^ Neale, Thomas Ogden, John Gray Blount, and William Blount be and they, and every of them are hereby constituted directors and trustees for the designing, building and carrying on the said Town, and they shall stand seized of an indefeasible estate in fee-simple of the said twenty acres of land to and for the uses, intents and purposes hereby expressed and declared, and they or a majority of them shall have full power and authority to meet as often as they shall think it necessary and caus[e] a plan thereof to be made and therein to insert a mark or number on each lot as soon as the said Town shall be laid off as aforesaid, they and each of them shall have power to take subscriptions for the said lots of such persons as are willing to subscribe for them, and when the said directors have taken subscriptions for twenty lots or upwards they shall appoint a day and give public notice to the subscribers of the day and place appointed for the drawing of said lots, which shall be done by ballot, in a fair and open manner by the direction, and in the presence of the majority of the said directors at least and such subscribers shall be entitled to the lot or lots which shall be drawn for him and correspond with the mark or number contained in said ^the plan of^ Town. And the said directors or the majority of them, shall make and execute deeds for granting and conveying the said twenty acres of land in half-acre lots as aforesaid, to the subscribers, their heirs and assigns forever, and also to every other person who shall purchase any other lot or lots in the said Town, at the cost and charges of the said grantee, to whom the said lot or lots shall be conveyed; and every person claiming any lot or lots by virtue of any such conveyance shall and may hold and enjoy the same in fee-simple. Provided nevertheless, that every grantee or ^of^ any lot or lots in the said Town so conveyed, shall within three years next after the conveyance date of such conveyance for the same, erect, build and finish on each lot so conveyed one well framed or brick house, sixteen feet square at least and ten feet pitch in the clear or proportion able to such dimentions of such grantee shall ^have^ two or more lots contiguous; and of the owner of any lot or lots shall fail to comply with the directions of in this Act prescribed, for building and finishing a house thereon, then such lot or lots upon which such houses shall not be built finished as aforesaid shall be re____ in the said directors; and the said directors or a majority of them, may and they are hereby impowered and authorized, to sell such lot or lots for the best price that can be had, to any person applying for the same, and grant and convey such lot or lots to person or persons, under the like rules, regulations, and restrictions, as the same was or were formerly granted, and the money arising from such sale be applyed by the said directors or a majority of them for the benefit and improvement of said Town.

And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that each respective subscriber who shall subscribe for any lot or lots in the said Town, shall within one month after it shall be ascertained to whom each of the said lots doth belong in manner herein beforementioned, pay and satisfy to the said directors, or one of them, the sum of five pounds for each lot by him subscribed for; and in case of the neglect or refusal of any subscriber to pay the aforesaid sum, the said directors shall and may commence and prosecute a suit for the same, and therein shall recover Judgement with cost of suit. And for continuing the sucessions of the directors until the said Town shall be incorporated, Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that in case of thy death, refusal to act or removal out of the county, of any of the said directors, the surviving directors or a majority of them shall assemble and one hereby empowered from time to time by instrument of ___________ under their respective hands and seals, to nominate some other person ___________ of the said Town, in the place of him so dying refusing to act, or removing out of the county, which new director so nominated and appointed, shall from thenceforth have the line, power and authority in all things in the matters herein contained, as if he had been expressly named and appointed in by this act.

Edit: I now see that there was an article on here I missed awhile back about the General Assembly records being online on the digital collections! Very cool.

Edit 2: I see online on Google Books an excerpt from St. Amand's "Our Family Genealogy" that describes the Nelson and Roach families as told by Mary Nelson Smith, the 2x great granddaughter of Jacob Johnson, and she tells that Jacob during his time "owned the whole village and surrounding countryside."

This is a great find. 

I've always been skeptical about the Durgantown thing because there are only two places I've ever seen that even mentioned and both are covered in this post:

I do remember reading in the Craven County Heritage book that my ancestor, Jacob Johnston, owned so much land that it was much of what Vanceboro is today. I always thought it might have just meant he owned the land right near the bridge coming into town, but I guess it was much more than that! 

Edwin, will you take your find and let me set you up so you can post this as a contributor to this site as a document on the founding of what would become Vanceboro? I think it would be a worthwhile follow-up on the Durgantown piece referenced above. It won't be the first time that eastern North Carolina has gotten the origin of a town name wrong. 

I tried to contact the town of Chocowinity a decade or so ago about how they had the meaning of their town name all wrong. The town's name was clearly based on a Tuscarora word, not some generic "Indian word" meaning "fish from many waters" or some other such nonsense. I reckon that "well-educated Indian" who told the Reverend what the word meant laughed about it the rest of the day.