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Smithfield - A brief history

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Ten months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Town of Smithfield officially was chartered. However, the origins of the community date back to 1759 when John Smith, one of the area’s earliest settlers, petitioned to operate a ferry where the Neuse River cut through land he owned. The site became known as Smith’s Ferry.

In 1762, Smith’s son, John Smith, Jr., purchased 228 acres of his father’s tract, including the ferry. The younger Smith was 26 years old. In 1771, Smith and his wife took up residency on the land, building a home on a rise overlooking the river and the ferry. The home became a public house, providing overnight accommodations for travelers.

In that year, construction began on Johnston County’s third courthouse not far from Smith’s residence and soon the name Smith’s Ferry was replaced by Johnston County Courthouse.

The Town of Smithfield came into being with the inaugural session of the General Assembly of the newly proclaimed State of North Carolina in 1777. Smith had agreed to provide 100 acres for the town and an additional 50 acres for a “commons” along the Neuse River south and west of his riverside home. Today, the tree-shaded Commons is still preserved as a public park and is part of the Mountains to Sea Trail with a 3-mile greenway.

Smithfield was once on a list of towns considered for the State Capital. This is one of the few North Carolina towns where the railroad builders bypassed the community. This delayed 19th century growth of the area.

Today, Smithfield's destiny seems to be increased urbanization, although agriculture continues to be a basic means of economic livelihood, two interstate highways and its proximity to the Research Triangle Park area, Smithfield is poised for quality economic growth well into the twenty-first century.

Visit Smithfield today!

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