Friday, July 30, 2010

CHRISTMAS- Warren County, NC

On July 22, 1779 the town of Warrenton was laid out by William Christmas, in the same year that King George III was on the throne and the American Revolution was in full swing. That year, John Paul Jones defeated the British ship, Serapis, and the British burned New Haven, Fairfield and Norwalk, Connecticut. In 1765, the county had been formed from Granville County and named Bute in honor of John Stuart, 3rd Earle of Bute, former Prime Minister and Lord of the Treasury, who was as detested in Great Britain as he came to be in the colonies. On January 20, 1779 a committee of Bute County patriots petitioned the North Carolina Assembly to divide the county in half naming the northern part Warren, after Dr. Joseph Warren, who had been killed at Bunker Hill, and the southern part Franklin, in honor of the great American, Benjamin Franklin.
The year before virtually every man in Bute County, numbering more than 600, had committed treason by swearing an oath of allegiance to the State of North Carolina, and against George III. Many served in the county militia and saw a lot of action. Direct descendants of those Revolutionaries still live in the town and county. The petition to divide was granted by the legislature, and the history of Warrenton began. With the victory of true liberty, prosperity grew. Like Jamestown in its beginnings, tobacco provided Warren County with a large financial flush. In later years, cotton would compete for the title of "King." Two physicians were in practice, the first courthouse was built, churches flourished, especially Hebron Methodist, founded in 1771, and located in the country.
One can tell much about the inhabitants of a town by their social priorities. In Warrenton, education was the primary choice, followed by fine architecture, music, dancing, art, and horse racing. In 1786, the Warren Academy was founded by the Macon brothers, one of whom Nathaniel, would become one of the greatest speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives. Theater began with the appointment of Marcus George, actor and scholar, as principal of the Academy. He taught Greek, Latin and education. More fine schools followed. There was a dancing master, John Liddell. Beautiful houses were built as centerpieces to the large plantations, and in time, town houses became the jewels that were erected.
By 1860, Warren County would become the richest in North Carolina. Warrenton would even own its own railroad. Warrenton became an axis for two important mail routes. The cotton gin created more prosperity. By 1800, the town's population was 238. By the 1850 Federal Census, there were approximately 700 people. By 1922, the number was 813 and currently the population stands at about 900, remaining remarkably stable during more than 200 years.

A Cultural Snapshot of Old Warrenton
(published 1924)
"Of course in a community such as we have described the people of Warrenton and Warren County to be -- of good families, education, training and associations -- we should expect to find habits and diversions similar to those practiced by their ancestors... and now I will undertake to describe their almost necessary concomitant -- card playing.
From the beginning, the men of the highest social life indulged in this vice. There were few professional gamesters among them, but in the gentleman class playing cards was the common diversion. "Old Sledge" or "Seven-up" was probably the chief game of chance; but the elite indulged in "Poker." The stakes were sometimes high, and serious and embarrassing losses occasionally happened, but as a rule, "the chips" were cheap and a limit was generally placed on the game. The idea of winning as an end or purpose was not thought of, as a rule; amusement, interest and excitement were the chief inducements of the game."
Sketches of Old Warrenton
Lizzie Montgomery


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