07/09/06 — History enthralls village guests

View Archive

History enthralls village guests

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on July 9, 2006 2:00 AM

Visitors to Waynesborough Historical Village are enjoying a glimpse at the past -- how Wayne County residents lived more than a century ago.

This weekend marks the annual Summerfest program with a service at 11 a.m. today at Bethany Friends Meeting House, special music, games for the children and an unguided tour of the historic buildings and grounds.

A battle re-enactment was canceled, because most re-enactors did not show up.

That small hitch, though, did not dim the interest of those visiting the village at 801 S. Dr. M.L. King Jr. Expressway, the U.S. 117 bypass.

"It's a nice place to spend an afternoon," said Carl Kaylor of the Fort Run community of Greene County. "We try to come every year," his wife, Patricia Kaylor, said.

"There does not seem to be as much going on," Mrs. Kaylor said, noting the lack of tents for the re-enactors, but added, "there are more buildings."

One new building should be finished in a few weeks, the village office manager, Lou Hines, said. That's the print shop, with a printing press donated by Nash Printing Co. of Goldsboro.

Another building, the Best House, sat idle for about five years, Ms. Hines said. The village board voted to tear it down. But a short time ago, the Best family decided to renovate it.

The Summerfest is one of several annual events held in the village, as Ms. Hines said, "to draw people, see what we're all about and, hopefully, raise money, since we're a non-profit."

The original Waynesborough village was founded on the Neuse River as the first county seat of Wayne County. But by the late 1840s, most people moved two miles east to the junction of two railroads in what is now Goldsboro. On a hot summer day, a vote was taken in 1848, and Goldsboro was elected as the new county seat.

During the Civil War in 1865, Union Gen. William T. Sherman's army destroyed much of what buildings remained in Waynesborough.

The history brought other visitors to enjoy the park on a beautiful warm, but not hot nor humid, Saturday afternoon.

Brandy Knox, for instance, has lived here for 20 years but had never come to Waynesborough.

"I saw it in the paper, and I've wanted to come," she said, as she toured the park with her son and her mother. "It's a beautiful day. You can't beat it."

Her mother, Laura Johnson, said she had been once. She said the village showed how people used to live, mentioning the old typewriter in the law office, and how technology had changed, much to the surprise of young people.

Oma Whitaker brought her grandchildren, some of whom came from as far away as Florida, for a visit so they could see how people used to live.

They also wanted to see Samantha and the Bluegrass Band, one of the musical groups that performed later Saturday.

The village consists of 14 buildings -- from before the Civil War to the early 1900s -- that were donated and moved to the park. None was in the original village, but all represent a period in Wayne County history.

The volunteer chairman of the village building and grounds, Shelton Smith, explained that the organizers wanted to make a historic copy of the village on the river bank. In fact, North Carolina took it over and made it into a state park. A pavilion and a gazebo were built on the river but had to be torn down because they were on an abandoned landfill. Later the state closed the park and deeded the land to the Old Waynesborough Commission. Local volunteers took over the village and reopened it under the direction of a board of directors, now chaired by Bill Kemp, the new president.

"This is a great place to volunteer, if anyone wants to volunteer," said Richard Slozak, the former city manager.

"You can get addicted to it," Ms. Hines said.