04/19/06 — Museum chronicles Wayne through wars

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Museum chronicles Wayne through wars

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 19, 2006 1:47 PM

For more than 200 years, soldiers from Wayne County have left their homes and families, joined the ranks and offered up their lives for their country. Their contributions will be recognized with a new exhibit that opens tonight at the Wayne County Museum on William Street.

Visitors to the museum will get a chance to see artifacts from the Revolutionary War to World War II as a new exhibit, "Wayne County at War," opens tonight at 7 p.m. and lasts until 9.


News-Argus/Bonnie Edwards

Wayne County Museum Director Janet Clayton helps historical expert Jeff Bockert prepare the World War I part of the museum's new exhibit, Wayne County at War, which will be unveiled to the public from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight.

The exhibit, which will be on display indefinitely, will feature photographs, uniforms, weapons and other military gear donated by the descendants of men who fought for their homes and way of life. So many artifacts were donated by Wayne families that museum officials decided to limit the scope of the exhibit to 1945. They said they plan to extend the exhibit later to include Wayne's involvement in Korea, Vietnam and more recent U.S. military campaigns.

Museum director Janet Clayton said the exhibits will be changed periodically to bring in new artifacts.

"It keeps it fresh," she said. "My intention is to bring in other items."

Jeff Bockert, a Civil War specialist with the state Department of Cultural Resources, helped Clayton set up the exhibit.

The county's military history pre-dates is creation. The area was once part of old Dobbs County and men from here joined the militia that fought the British during the Revolutionary War. Many were at the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge in 1776, when loyalist power in the eastern part of the state was broken.

Wayne split from Dobbs in 1779. Another battle with Wayne troops in line was fought at "Peacock's Bridge" in 1781.

Men from Wayne joined the First North Carolina Volunteers and fought in the Mexican-American War in 1846.

In the late 1850s, volunteers formed the Goldsboro Rifles, which eventually became a company in the 27th North Carolina Infantry Regiment that won distinction in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Another company of men from northern Wayne, the Saulston Volunteers, fought in the same regiment. Others fought in other units and with the home guard. The Rifles continued to exist until the latter part of the 19th century and also fought in the Spanish-American War in Cuba.

During the Civil War, many former slaves from the county joined the Union Army and saw action as members of the 136th U.S. Colored Troops.

Wayne volunteers served in large numbers in World War I, many as part of the Old Hickory Division that earned fame on the fields of France.

One of the World War I volunteers was Lt. David Prince from Goldsboro. Bockert said Prince lived through the war but died shortly after returning home trying to save a drowning child. Prince's "doughboy" jacket, helmet and photo are on display.

In World War II, Wayne men served in every branch of the service, from the Navy to the Army Air Corps.

Clayton said she hopes the exhibit will stir interest among county residents in Wayne's military history and in the museum.

"It looks beautiful the way he has it," she said, describing the exhibit and Bockert's hours of work in creating it. "It's exactly as our vision was. He's worked so hard on this. It's gorgeous. I'm just tickled, and when people come and see family portraits here, they'll be thrilled."

Hours of operation at the Wayne County Museum are from noon until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.