Local News

A History of Princeville

Posted February 4, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— In 1865, at the end of the Civil War, a group of freed slaves settled in a swampy area near Tarboro. They called it Freedom Hill.

Living conditions were harsh with floods, poverty and disease. Former Princeville Mayor Glennie Matthewson says there wasn't much there at first.

But the freed slaves, energized by their new-found liberty, withstood adversity and developed their town. The first church, Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist, was built in 1871 and is still in use today.

It was in 1885 that residents renamed the town Princeville after fellow slave and founding resident Turner Prince. Today, residents like 78-year-old Sam Bryant take pride in the town. He says he would prefer that Princeville remain independent.

While Princeville enjoys a unique history some doubt that an all-black town can survive on the eve of the turn of the century,and develop a prosperous future.

Princeville is under intense financial pressure with businesses coming and going with increasing frequency. A notice at the town hall says garbage pick-up has been cut from twice to once per week. Only a handful of small businesses appear to be doing well, but there are supporters who believe the town will survive.

Reverend A.C. Batchelor was once a mayor of Princeville. He says there is a future there.

Some say Princeville is a courageous little town holding on to its past and fighting for its future while believing it will overcome.