Welcome to Franklin County, NC! This county, located in the northern Piedmont region of the state, encompasses the towns of Louisburg, Bunn, Franklinton, and Youngsville, as well as the many small communities of the rural areas in-between. Franklin County is very unique, with something to offer all types of people. Once you visit, you will understand. Maybe you would like to make Franklin County your new home!
I bet you didn’t know that Louisburg, county seat of Franklin County, was originally settled in the early 1700’s by groups from the Tidewater regions of North Carolina and Virginia and has European influences. The County was formally created in 1779, amidst the American Revolution, when Bute County was divided to form both Franklin and Warren Counties. Franklin County covers 494 square miles and gets its name from Benjamin Franklin.
I’ll also bet not many of you know that the 1984 book The Day the Black Rain Fell by W.F. Shelton was based on an actual incident that happened in Franklin County. This book re-tells the drama, crime, and punishment of two brothers. Thousands of gawking and disorderly onlookers watch as the Franklin County Sheriff oversees the public hanging of the Coley brothers. They were being punished for the murder of a Jewish peddler. On the humid Friday the 13th in July 1884 in Louisburg, Tom and Calvin Coley’s punishment was carried out on the front lawn of the Franklin County Courthouse. Afterwards, they were carried in a wagon back to their birth place, a small community called Wood, which is about 20 miles east of Louisburg. There, they would be buried.
Throughout history, Franklin County has been a rural county of healthy dirt for growing, open fields for animals to graze in, and abundant water supplies such as creeks and the mighty Tar River. All these characteristics have made Franklin County a perfect place for a main income to come in from agriculture. Like many others in the area, both sides of my family earned a living through farming tobacco, cotton, soybeans, as well as by raising cattle, goats, and other livestock to later market. Chances are, if you visit in the warm months, you will see thousands of Hispanics in the area. That’s because many of our farmers hire Mexicans to help tend the tobacco and other crops.
The abundance of land allows for growing your own food. During the summers, you will see individuals and families out in the rows wearing straw hats to keep the hot sun off their face and shoulders as they pick butter beans or snaps, get up potatoes, and pinch ripened tomatoes from their vines. Hired Mexicans will be out picking up cucumbers from the acres of entwined vines that seem to never have an ending. Sweet potatoes are another food that is widely grown here.
As you’re driving along Franklin County roads, you will thoroughly enjoy a real taste of countryside and fresh air. Not only will you see lots of open, flowing land, but you’ll also see old farm houses and barns still standing strong from days past. In fact, my mother’s aunt Bonnie’s wooden house is still resting on its chipped rocks and cinderblocks to this day. The tin roof is covered in rust from years and years of cruel weather. She lived in her one bedroom house in the middle of a tall grassy field off a long dirt road until she was forced to move into a nursing home some 10 years ago. She went that long with an antique cook stove and an outhouse! It’s all she was used to! My great-grandparent’s house is also still standing in my dad’s present-day cow pasture. It was a simple 2-story farmhouse typical of the very early 1900s. It’s amazing to study and go inside these old homes! There’s many preserved buildings like the Person Place and Cascine Plantation which you can visit near Louisburg. There’s also legend of the man that is buried in a rock just outside the city limits of Louisburg.
Children and young adults have many fun activities they can become involved in after school is out for the day or during vacations. The Franklin County Recreation Department offers all sorts of sports teams for males and females each season. They recently sponsored a belly-dancing class. There’s two beautifully sculpted golf courses as well as the opportunity to sky dive just about 5 minutes outside of Louisburg. Being in the country, there’s all sorts of muddy and rocky trails that are great for riding ATVs or playing with your 4×4 vehicle. I personally loved the ability to jump on my four-wheeler and race around the dirt roads and open fields as well as in Dad’s pastures.
Franklin County is also home to Louisburg College and Laurel Mill, two extremely historical landmarks. Louisburg College was founded in 1814, first as a female college, but years later became co-ed. It is one of the oldest private junior colleges. For more than 215 years, Louisburg College has been offering Associate degrees in arts, sciences, and business to its students. More than 90% of its graduates move onto four-year colleges and universities.
Laurel Mill sits above a small creek in the Gold Sand community, about 10 minutes outside of Louisburg. When it’s owners passed, someone else bought the mill and for some asinine reason refuses to accept responsibility in its upkeep. It used to have a spinning wheel underneath it that turned whenever water was flowing through it. But now, the new owners have allowed the rusting wheel to fall and hang, the water retaining wall stayed busted for years, and they seem to pay no mind to the old boards that are being washed away from the building during high waters or hurricanes. It’s such a shame that this mill is on the verge of falling into the creek because it is full of history and memories for lots of people! Several of my relatives live only a few houses up from Laurel Mill, so I was fortunate to pass this 2-story graying edifice some 2 and 3 times a week. As a child my uncle would walk my brother and I down to the mill to walk around inside. There were counters of old antiques for sale, as well as the corn machine (I forget what it is really called.) The machine would make flour, and the owners at the time, Mr. & Mrs. Holmes, would give us a bag or two to take home for free. Others from the area would frequent the mill during the summer months to go swimming and lay out on the large boulder-like rocks that surround the mill area. It is truly a beauty during the early Fall when the leaves are changing. The winding road that takes you down to the front of the mill is almost mountain-like. The road curves down a long hill which is full of trees whose leaves are turning orange, yellow, and red. It is very beautiful no matter which season you visit in!
Many festivals and fun events are scheduled throughout the year in Franklin County. The most popular is the Tar River Festival in Louisburg. It is an annual event held on the third Saturday in September. There are rides, food, vendors, and great music all day long! The International Whistlers Convention is held on the campus of Louisburg College. Whistlers from all over the world gather here to compete. There’s also the Fun in the Sun Festival in Franklinton, Pilot City Limits, Pilot Rodeo, Fall Festival in Youngsville, Fireman’s Day at local fire departments, a 4th of July Celebration, Strawberry Festival, Youngsville Tractor and Truck Pull, and Holiday Parades. Please not that these are just some of the county’s events! Some pretty popular names in the music industry also make their stop in Franklin County for performances at the Louisburg College Auditorium.
I am proud to say that I am from Franklin County. I lived there for the first 19 years of my life before moving away for college. The population is only some 50,000, with 65% of those being Caucasian and 30% African American. Come out to visit sometime! Not many people pass through this area, but you can be one of the few that do get to witness the hidden treasure this county has!