The emancipation of former slaves and the end of the Civil War necessitated changes to North Carolina’s Constitution. Several provisions of this new document resulted in the development of a map of Franklin County that provides valuable information, including the location of roads, mills, and churches.
Township Map of Franklin County, North Carolina (1868), courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina.
During the Reconstruction period, the United States Congress required North Carolina and other southern states to craft new constitutions as a prerequisite to participation in the national government. North Carolina in the fall of 1867 elected delegates to a constitutional convention, which met in January 1868. The new constitution, ratified later that year, changed the management of counties, which now would be overseen by boards of county commissioners. Biennial elections were to be held for five commissioners, a treasurer, a register of deeds, and a surveyor.
The constitution required the first elected commissioners to divide their counties into “convenient districts” known as townships. They were to name the townships, set the boundaries, and report the information to the General Assembly before January 1, 1869. Management of each township would be carried out by an elected clerk and two justices of the peace.
The General Assembly in 1868 required each county to have a map prepared that showed the boundaries of each of its townships. The law required officials to make two copies—one for the office of the North Carolina Secretary of State and one to be filed in the office of the clerk of the board of commissioners.
Franklin County’s first commissioners—Fenner Tharrington, A. W. Pearce Jr., Gray W. Stokes, and James W. Fuller—carried out this responsibility. On August 27, 1868, the commissioners appointed William N. Fuller to fill the vacancy caused by the “declension of Mr. Tucker to qualify as County Surveyor.” Fuller appeared before the commissioners on September 7, 1868, to present his official bond for $20,000, which was approved. The new county surveyor then took the oath of office. The commissioners voted on October 7 to have the county laid off into ten townships. Five days later, they ordered Fuller to begin the survey on October 20, with a goal of making the townships as nearly equal in area as possible.
Fuller enlisted the help of J. C. Reid and a number of chain bearers. On November 2, Reid gave the commissioners an accounting of the work he had performed between October 20 and October 30, noting that he had traveled 135 miles. Fuller presented the completed maps to the commissioners on December 3. They paid him $150 for his work on the survey and maps. The board asked Chairman Fenner Tharrington to take one of the copies to Raleigh.
Now preserved in the State Archives of North Carolina, Fuller’s map sheds valuable light on Franklin County just after the Civil War. In addition to the boundaries of the ten townships—Haysville, Sandy Creek, Gold Mines, Cedar Rock, Louisburg, Franklinton, Freeman’s, Harris, Cypress Creek, and Dunn’s—it shows roads, bridges, creeks, towns, churches, and mills. A few landowners, including B. Collins, N. Strickland, and P. H. Winston are included. The map can be viewed online at
North Carolina’s new constitution made many far-reaching changes in the way the state was managed. An unintended consequence of one of these changes is insight into Franklin County’s past.
Published in The Franklin Times on November 26, 2015.
Maury York is director of the Tar River Center for History and Culture at Louisburg College. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.