Grandville County is Uniquely Open.
The land known today as Granville County was once the home of many Indian tribes, dominated mainly by the Tuscarora. After the Tuscarora War of 1711, settlers, mostly from Virginia, began to populate this area, attracted by the abundant game, well-watered wood, and rich land.
By 1746, the area had a population sufficiently large enough to merit becoming an independent county, separating itself from Edgecombe County’s western frontier. Since most of the land in the northern half of North Carolina was part of the proprietary domain of Lord John Carteret (by title known as the Earl of Granville) the county was named Granville in his honor. Over the years, Granville yielded areas to new counties as settlements grew: Orange (1752), Bute (1764, which in turn became Franklin and Warren in 1779), and Vance (1881).
Benton was Granville County’s representative to the State Assembly in 1761 when he purchased 1,000 acres of land and built a plantation home known as “Oxford.” In 1764, the Assembly ordered that this area be known as the county seat, and Benton gave one acre of land where the courthouse was to be built. Not until 1811 did the Assembly authorize the county to buy 50 acres around the courthouse from Thomas Littlejohn and began to lay out the town, selling lots at public auction in 1812, and incorporating the town in 1816.
Through the colonial and revolutionary periods, the county was the home of a number of citizens of considerable social influence in North Carolina. Most notable was John Penn, a landowner in present-day Stovall, who was elected in 1775 to be a member of the Continental Congress. He was one of North Carolina’s three signers of the Declaration of Independence.
In 1860, Granville County plantations and farms had some of the state’s best agriculturists, consistently growing large crops of tobacco with the help of a large slave population. Oxford had become a sophisticated town and was famous as a seat of learning by the creation of several academies and colleges. Although Granville was one of five counties with as many as 10,000 slaves, there was also a sizable community of free blacks claiming dozens of craftsmen, especially masons who helped build the grand homes of the more affluent families.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, several militia companies were formed, among them the “Granville Grays.” It is estimated that over 1,500 Granville County men participated vigorously in many battles until the war’s end.
Bright Tobacco brought business to Oxford. Businessmen positioned themselves to take advantage of this new industry and many merchants, lawyers, and doctors set up shop in town. New schools, churches, literary societies, and two orphanages were formed. By the late 19th century, this thriving local economy resulted in a brick commercial district that included as many as three banks, general and hardware stores, an opera house, various professional offices, and new businesses.
Two world wars and the Depression brought many changes to Granville County. Even with revenues from Bright Tobacco, many Granvillians left the county for larger cities with more opportunities. The establishment of Camp Butner at the beginning of World War II engulfed many of their homes and tobacco fields but spawned what is today a thriving community due to the various hospital and prison facilities situated in the area.
Seeing the need for attracting new industries to the county, several local business leaders formed organizations in the 1950s and 1960s to accomplish this task. By the 1980s, there were 38 major manufacturing industries in the county, principally around Oxford and Creedmoor. After more than two centuries, Granville County no longer has a primarily agricultural economy.
In 1885, a group of 25 taxpayers of Granville County, including Civil War Confederate veteran Robert Fleming, appeared before the Board of Commissioners for the County of Granville with a petition from the Dutchville Township. The petition made a proposition to subscribe $10,000 to the capital stock of the Oxford and Clarksville Railroad Company.
In 1888, Lyon sold part of his land to the Durham and Northern Railroad for track to run through the town. Linking Creedmoor to Henderson and Durham was a major cause of growth of this town. The old Seaboard train depot building still stands at its location on Elm Street, making it over 120 years old.
Creedmoor was incorporated in 1905, having previously been known as “Creedmore”. Although the town is rich with history (home to four buildings on the National Register of Historic Places), it does not hold the title of a Historic District unlike nearby Oxford and Wake Forest.
Tobacco was extremely important in the early history of the town. Four tobacco warehouses were built in the town in the early 1900s. Tobacco was a cash crop in Creedmoor, and was shipped by railroad to nearby Oxford’s Tobacco Research Facility and Durham’s thriving smoking tobacco industry, with firms including W. T. Blackwell and Company, American Tobacco Company, and Liggett & Myers. At one time Creedmoor was a larger tobacco market than Durham. Area farmers did not limit themselves to tobacco only, but also grew cotton, a profitable crop.
In the wake of the tobacco era, mules came to Creedmoor. About 40 train car loads of mules were pulled into the town each year. Mules were the ideal farm animals because their hooves were smaller than those of a horse. Their smaller feet helped them pass through rows of tobacco without stepping on the crop. In 1906, Jim Netherly and a Mr. Cooper founded the Creedmoor Supply Company, which sold feed, mules, horses, buggies, and even some groceries and seeds to meet the demands of local farmers. G.M. Chappell opened a barn that auctioned mules, horses, and cows from 1938 to 1962. At one point in time, Creedmoor was considered to be the largest mule trading center in the world and was widely referred to as “Mule Town”. By 1940, over $500,000 were traded and spent on mules each year. It was not until the mid-1950s that the town removed the slogan “One of the Largest Retail Livestock Markets in North Carolina” from the official letterhead. By then, the mule trade was no longer a major part of the local economy.
In downtown Creedmoor, you’ll find a few historic buildings, such as Creedmoor Drugs, the James Mangum House, and First National Bank Building.
Cedar Creek Gallery & Pottery
The Cedar Creek Gallery (1150 Fleming Rd.) was built in 1968 on what used to be an old tobacco field in the community of Northside. The gallery has grown from one building to more than 10 on the property. This is a must-stop within the county. You’ll find a pleasant garden area outside that is quite inviting in spring and summer. Outside, you’ll also find a variety of plants for sale. Then walk through the doors–and you think you’re walking into a small gift shop–but the gallery keeps going and going, with many nooks and crannies and twists and turns. Enjoy shopping among pottery, jewelry, and various craft displays by local NC crafters throughout the space. We guarantee you’ll bring something home to remember your trip to Granville County.
Known today as the Home of the North Carolina Hot Sauce Contest, the town’s history dates to 1761 when local legislator Samuel Benton built a plantation home and called it “Oxford.” The legislature ordered the area around his plantation to be the seat of Granville County. The town was incorporated in 1816.
In 1970, Henry Marrow was shot and killed in Oxford. The killing resulted in a racial protest. The events were chronicled by Timothy Tyson in the book Blood Done Sign My Name (2004) and a 2010 movie with the same name.
A Confederate statue was erected in 1909 by the Granville Grays United Daughters of the Confederacy at a cost of $3,000 and valued in 2009 at $1,327,791.62. The monument was erected in the courthouse square facing away from the courthouse. The base, constructed of granite from Warren County, is 27 feet (8.2 m) tall, and the bronze statue is 7 feet (2.1 m) tall. The monument, a memorial to the Confederate veterans of Granville County that served in the Civil War in the Granville Grays Company D, 12th Regiment, was dedicated October 30, 1909. The statue had not arrived in time but the ceremony continued and the statue was placed at a later date.
Following the 1970 Oxford protests, the city moved the monument from the courthouse square to a site in front of the Richard H. Thornton Library. Since 2009, some activists had suggested moving it to an historic graveyard located down the street. In 2020 the statue was removed and is currently in storage.
Every September, Oxford’s downtown hosts North Carolina’s Hot Sauce Contest. Attracting more than 18,000 visitors, this event is the highlight of the city’s calendar. Featuring three entertainment stages, crafters, kids activities, and food trucks, visitors can taste as many hot sauces as you dare with several blocks’ worth of vendors from all over North Carolina and the United States. Watch competitors in the hot pepper eating contest. The 2019 competitors went through 15 rounds alternating between jalapenos, reapers, and habaneros until the last contestant remained.
In town, you can also visit the Granville History Museum and Sallie Mae Ligon Museum & Archives.
The first Boy Scout troop in NC (Troop 1) was founded in Stovall by Luther Connally Wilkerson on Sept. 30, 1910.
Stovall was also home to Declaration of Independence Signer, John Penn, who was born in Caroline County, Virginia, to a family of means. His father died when he was eighteen years old, and though he had received only a rudimentary education at a country school, he had access to the library of his relative Edmund Pendleton. He was licensed to practice law in the state of Virginia at age 22. In 1774, he moved to Granville County, North Carolina, where he established a law practice and soon became a gentleman member of the political community. He was elected to attend the provincial Congress in 1775 and elected to the Continental Congress that same year. He served there until 1777, participating in committee work. He was again elected in 1779, appointed to the Board of War, where he served until 1780. He declined a judgeship in his native state around that time, due to failing health. In retirement he engaged in his law practice and died at the age of 48.
The Butner Incorporation Bill #986 passed by the North Carolina General Assembly was signed by Governor Mike Easley on July 27, 2007, and the Town of Butner officially incorporated as a municipality on November 1, 2007. The town is the former site of the U.S. Army’s Camp Butner, which was named for Major General Henry W. Butner (1875–1937), a North Carolina native.
Next stop… Anson County!