Prior to 1730, Native Americans and wild animals were the only occupants of the territory now known as Wayne County. Settlers trickled into the area, but there was no substantial immigration until after 1750.
The county was established in 1779 and named for the Revolutionary War hero and General George Washington's most trusted soldier, General Anthony Wayne, of Pennsylvania. Just like our namesake, who was renowned for his courage and valor, our community carries those same character traits today.
In 1787, the county seat was established in Waynesborough on the west side of the Neuse River. There were many homes and businesses already located there, along with the courthouse, stocks and jail. The county still measures approximately 29 miles from north to south and 14-27 miles from east to west and encompasses 553.97 square miles. The river provided the main source of transportation of people and freight into and out of the area.
1839 brought many changes, as the first of several railroads were completed that would quickly usurp river travel in popularity. A rail hub began just a short distance east of the Wayne County seat. A nearby town of Goldsboro was created at the rail intersection, due to the increased traffic. It was named in honor of the engineer who supervised the construction. As Goldsboro became the center of activity, the county seat was relocated there.
In 1862, Goldsboro was a vital link in the Civil War Confederate’s supply chain. The Union army engaged the South at the Battle of Goldsboro Bridge. Nearly 250 casualties resulted in the short-lived Union capturing of the bridge.
The Union army returned in 1865, near the end of the war, with over 100,000 troops to capture and occupy the city. At this time, only a few warehouses remained in the original Waynesborough area. These were burned by Sherman’s troops as they marched through Wayne County. Historical markers are set up at noteworthy locations around the county to explore more history of our area.