(As told by Harry Thompson to Ken Saunders)
In Bertie County from 1722 to 1769, the county seat was what we call Hoggard Mill. The first courthouse, public warehouses, jail, grist mill, saw mill and various other commercial buildings were located at Hoggard Mill. For many years court met and ships were loaded at the Hoggard Mill section where the bridge stands today. The Cashie, leading up to Hoggard Mill was very long and narrow. There was a landing lower down on the river know as Gray’s Landing. John, Lord Carteret, Earl of Granville, sold John Gray 1000 acres of Rose Field Plantation. William Gray inherited this plantation and river landing from his father John. By 1750 the Cashie River had a large population and court activities. Trade activities. Trade shifted from Hoggard Mill to Gray’s Landing by the 1760’s, so much that William Gray offered 100 acres of Rose Field for the construction of a new town. The petition for a new town was presented to the assembly in the state of North Carolina. The petition said that a certain tract of land at Gray’s Landing may be erected into a town. Since there was a courthouse already at what is now know as Hoggard Mill or Cashie. The government took petition under Advisement, and finally a committee voted Gray’s Landing as the best site on which to build a new town. The main factors affecting the committees decision was the crooked, narrow condition of the river past Gray’s Landing to reach the courthouse at Hoggard Mills. The committee returned a December 1767 report favoring Gray’s landing and thus on January 8, 1768, the assembly passed an act to create New Windsor on the Cashie River.
A group of commissioners were appointed to sell lots upon which the purchaser had two years to build a suitable house at least 16 foot square and with a brick chimney. Upon the establishment of the new town, an additional bill was introduced to move the courthouse and prison to Windsor. However, this met with stiff opposition from the people at Hoggard Mill, and for a number of years no decision was made.
In 1733, a new petition was introduced before the colonial assembly, to create a courthouse at Windsor. In 1774 the assembly appointed a group of men to build a courthouse, prison and county building in the town of Windsor. In 1775 Samuel Milbourn sold these commissioners lot #98 to build the courthouse upon. This is the same location of the courthouse now standing in Windsor.
Since the Revolutionary War was at hand, the courthouse building project had to be set aside for a period of years. Records show that an extension was granted on the courthouse in 1777, 1782 and 1784. Samuel Milbourn was a tavern owner in Windsor and he rented his tavern to the county to hold court for a period of years. The courthouse in Windsor was probably finished in the mid 1780’s.
In 1769, a ferry from Windsor over to what is now Bertie, was operated. In 1776 this ferry, over to Virginia’s point was replaced with a drawbridge, one of the first in North Carolina. The first business to appear in the new town of Windsor were mostly merchants, shipping and receiving goods from England. The chief products exported were what we refer to as navel products – tar, pitch, turpentine and products used in the ship building industry. Staves and wheat products were also shipped out to England.
One of the earliest industries in Windsor was a brick mill. Samuel Milbourn had a brickyard in the vicinity of king, Spring and Broad Streets. In 1788, another industry had been created in Windsor when William Gray built a shipyard at what is now called county farm. Many small vessels were built and repaired there.
By 1832, Windsor had grown until it had its own newspaper, The Windsor Herald. Numerous businesses were listed in the advertisements of the paper- lawyers, medical students, free medical doctors, carpenters, tailors, blacksmiths, ice houses, cotton merchants, turpentine stills, printing offices and over twenty other dwellings. On the social side, most activities were centered around churches and religion, but just north of Windsor, on what is now the Powell & Stokes farm, there was a racetrack and every Sunday races were held. Most of the town came out to bet on and watch the horses race. It became the scene of social gatherings in the state.
Also by 1722, a Masonic lodge was born in Windsor, Chartered as Royal Edmond Lodge, IV. It was renamed Charity Lodge in 1842. They have maintained their building in downtown Windsor since 1843. It is one of the oldest continuous masonic lodges in the state.
Windsor’s role in the Civil War was basically that of many of the small rural towns in the south, they furnished whole companies commanded by elected officers from membership in this county. Windsor was not spared from the ravages of the Civil war because after the fall of Roanoke Island, several forces occupied the entire area. Frequently, troops came through Windsor. There were several small scrimmages in and around Windsor and Edenton between union and confederate forces. During the civil War, the price of everything available soared out of sight. Food, clothing and metal products were all extremely scarce and only available at extremely high prices. The cotton market dried up and they could not get cotton out to England where it could be sold. Some small amounts of cotton were smuggled to England, but farming was at a standstill. At the end of the war, the trade gradually built back up.
The development of several steamship lines, one being Windsor and Plymouth steamship route, was completed in 1874. steamships began to carry the products raised in this section out to Norfolk, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland. Fertilizers, farm supplies and food supplies were brought in by steamship lines. to travel to Norfolk by land was almost impossible. The people traveled by boat on the freight lines back and forth to productive cities.
In 1888, Windsor suffered a terrible fire. Almost an entire block of the town of Windsor was destroyed. most of the buildings were wood and once a fire started it was almost impossible to put it out. The wind was blowing in such a way that a good portion of the town was spared, but it was the most disastrous fire that Windsor ever had.
Soon by the early 1900’s the railroads became a connecting link between the steamship lines and points north. products including lumber from various mills were brought by rail to Windsor making it somewhat of a port of entry for the area. Over the next few years more railroads were built causing the steamship lines to become a thing of the past. the railroads were responsible for the development of the lumber industries and expedited the handling of farm produce that was grown in the area.