Rocky Mount NC

Rocky Mount, North Carolina, or the City of Rocky Mount, is located in Edgecombe and Nash counties. This area is located in the Atlantic coastal region of North Carolina. Rocky Mount is 57 miles east of Raleigh, North Carolina, the capital. Via U.S. Interstate 95, Rocky Mount is just over 40 miles from the Virginia state line and around 150 miles to the South Carolina state line. The U.S. Census 2019 population estimate for Rocky Mount was 53,922. The city’s motto is “The center of it all.” Rocky Mount’s zip codes are 27801, 27802, 27803, 27804, 27809, and 27815.

The North Carolina General Assembly granted Rocky Mount a town charter and it was incorporated on February 19, 1867. However, Rocky Mount has a deeper European settler history than 1867. The first European settlers to the area can be documented to the early 1700s. This influx of settlers was due to the end of the Tuscarora War. The “official” settled date of Rocky Mount is tacked to the first post office which was established at the falls of the Tar River on March 22, 1816. The name Rocky Mount at this time comes into recorded use. The name Rocky Mount supposedly comes from the rocks and boulders found around the waterfall on the Tar River.

To return to the original Native American inhabitants of the region, there is not much, if anything recorded up until the time English explorer John Lawson made his expedition into the Carolina backcountry in the year 1700. Lawson published his expedition’s journal, A New Voyage to Carolina, in 1709. Lawson crossed over the Tar River at the end of his expedition roughly 30 miles south of Rocky Mount, near present-day Greenville, North Carolina where Grindle Creek enters the Tar River. Even though Lawson’s expedition did not take him through Rocky Mount, his recorded experiences with the Tuscarora Indians in the region are worth briefly noting here.

The Lords Proprietors of the Colony, the English Lords who oversaw the Carolina colony, wished to attract more settlers to their colony. In 1700, the Lords Proprietors of the Colony, engaged Englishman John Lawson (December 27, 1674 – September 16, 1711) to explore the unknown and uncharted Carolina backcountry.

As Lawson noted in A New Voyage to Carolina, he was exploring the falls of the Neuse River area, near present-day Knightdale, North Carolina, when he first encountered the Tuscarora Indians. This was in February 1701. Lawson spelled Tuscarora as “Tuskeruros” in his book. From A New Voyage to Carolina, “…we met with about 500 Tuskeruros in one Hunting-Quarter. They had made themselves Streets of Houses, built with Pine-Bark…” The Tuscarora tribe was well established in the region and had a significant sized Native American Indian “town” in the middle of the backcountry.

Lawson noted in his book about the warlike nature of the Tuscarora Indians. He went into detail about what steps the Tuscarora took to prevent Native Americans who they had enslaved from escaping. The Tuscarora’s practice was to cut off half of both feet of the enslaved person leaving just a stump. From A New Voyage to Carolina, “By this cruel Method, the Indian Captive is hinder’d from making his Escape, for he can neither run fast or go any where, but his Feet are more easily traced and discover’d.” Another quote from A New Voyage to Carolina, “The Indians are very revengeful, and never forget an Injury done, till they have receiv’d Satisfaction.” From his relatively short time spent with the Tuscarora Indians, Lawson formed a strong opinion of them, that proved to be a foreshadowing of his own fate. Nonetheless, Lawson did note his 1701 encounter with the Tuscarora as peaceful.

Times and situations change and in September 1711, John Lawson and Christoph von Graffenried, 1st Baron of Bernberg, were traveling up the Neuse River. The Tuscarora Indians captured Lawson and the Baron. Fortunately for the Baron he was ultimately released, but the Tuscarora Indians slowly tortured John Lawson to death. This capturing and killing of Lawson along with other hostile acts against colonial settlers is what led to the Tuscarora War.

The Tuscarora War (September 10, 1711 – February 11, 1715) which some historians consider the bloodiest war in colonial North Carolina. The Tuscarora War was fought in North Carolina between the Tuscarora and their allies on one side and the settlers, militia, and their Indian allies on the other side. Tensons initially arose when the European settlers kept encroaching on the Tuscarora’s territory. The Tuscarora signed a peace treaty in 1718 and were moved to a reserve in Bertie County, North Carolina. Some Tuscarora escaped to New York State and joined with the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and were accepted as the sixth tribe.

The European settlers in Rocky Mount and the surrounding area were primarily involved in agricultural endeavors. With agriculture, the processing of the product is important for monetization and the reduction of spoilage. In 1818, the Rocky Mount Mills was constructed and became the second cotton mill in North Carolina behind Schenck-Warlick Mill in Lincolnton, which was the first in 1814. The owners of Rocky Mount Mills were Joel Battle and James Smith Battle. Joel Battle’s grandfather was an original settler to the area. The mill was initially operated by African American slaves up until the 1850s, and then only by white women and girls.

In the late 1830s, the Battle family was involved in the construction of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad (W&W RR). At the time this was the longest continuous railroad in the world at 161.5 miles of laid track. The rail line was laid around two miles east of the mill. This railroad’s terminus was in Weldon, North Carolina. It connected to ports in the north at Portsmouth, Virginia and Petersburg, Virginia. To the south, the line ran to Wilmington, North Carolina to connect to that port.

The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad was a major economic driver for Rocky Mount and the region. As with agriculture processing as noted above with how it relates to mills, transportation plays a major role in the monetization and the reduction of spoilage of agriculture. Being a transportation hub was a magnet to commerce of all kinds to support the railroad and the people who utilized the railroad. Railroads are still considered economic drivers but nowhere near the force they were 150 years ago because of all the alternative forms of transportation.

During the American Civil War, there was a major Union Army raid on Swift Creek Village (now known as Vanceboro), Greenville, Falkland, Rocky Mount, and Tarboro. New Bern on the coast was occupied by Union troops after falling in March of 1862. On July 18, 1863, Union Brigadier General Edward E. Potter started out his 800-man force, mostly mounted, along with four cannons on pack animals towards Rocky Mount. The object was to attack the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad at Rocky Mount. At that time in the Civil War, this rail line was the lifeline for food and supplies into Virginia for the Confederate Army.

Potter’s forces traveled six days and an estimated 250 miles to lay waste to anything that was in the line of march to Rocky Mount. Advancing from New Bern through Swift Creek Village (Vanceboro), and then onto Greenville looting the civilian population there. On the night of July 19, Potter’s forces entered Falkland looting there as well. Moving forward and crossing the Tar River at Old Sparta, his forces took a short break and moved on early the next morning, July 20, 2021, for Rocky Mount.

Dividing his forces in two, Porter sent the first force onto Rocky Mount with them arriving at 8:30 A.M. This force had a running battle for the next two hours, primarily concentrating on the train depot and burning it down along with the adjacent structures. The Union soldiers then set fire to the Rocky Mount Mills, some warehouses, a flour mill, stables, stores, railroad cars, and 37 loaded Confederate army wagons. Looting also took place with the Union force here. The second force was sent onto Tarboro.

The Union forces left a great deal of destruction in their path in Rocky Mount. However, the damage done to the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad was repaired around a week later. The mill, which supplied Confederate yarn and cloth, that was burned down, was rebuilt after the war.

After the Civil War and Reconstruction, agricultural commerce, textiles, and train transportation slowly returned to normal. Demand for tobacco increased drastically after the Civil War. The sandy coastal soil around Rocky Mount is ideal for tobacco cultivation. By the turn of the 20th century, tobacco had become the region’s number one crop over cotton.

Entering the 20th century there was an increase in railroad employees. Between 1900 and 1907, Rocky Mount’s population went from around 3,000 to a population of around 7,500. The rail line, cotton mill, and the cultivation of brightleaf tobacco were major factors to the area’s growth and success into the 20th century.

The prewar World War II years lead to more economic and population growth for Rocky Mount. The agricultural and train town attracted a wider enterprise base. More manufacturing, banking, pharmaceuticals, and the headquarters for fast-food chain Hardee’s become leading economic drivers for the city.

A notable event on November 27, 1962, occurred when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech at Booker T. Washington High School where he uttered his famous refrain “I have a dream” a year before doing so during the March on Washington speech.

Rocky Mount to Raleigh, NC (57 Miles), Durham, NC (68 Miles), Chapel Hill, NC (87 Miles), Charlotte (210 Miles), and Washington, DC (237 Miles).

 

 

 

As indicated by the U.S. Census, Rocky Mount’s population from the 1870 Census of 357 to the 2010 Census of 57,477, population growth was explosive in that 140 years.

Historical population
Census Pop. %±
1870 357 —
1880 552 54.6%
1890 816 47.8%
1900 2,937 259.9%
1910 8,051 174.1%
1920 12,742 58.3%
1930 21,412 68.0%
1940 25,568 19.4%
1950 27,697 8.3%
1960 32,147 16.1%
1970 34,284 6.6%
1980 41,283 20.4%
1990 48,997 18.7%
2000 55,893 14.1%
2010 57,477 2.8%
2019 (est.) 53,922 −6.2%

 

Highways & Roads
U.S. Interstate 95 & U.S. Interstate 87
U.S. Highway 64 and U.S. Highway 301
N.C. Highway 43, N.C. Highway 48, and N.C. Highway 97

Rail Service
Amtrak provides three north and three southbound trains per day from the Rocky Mount station. Service to Washington, D.C., New York City, Miami, and Philadelphia.

Commercial air travel for Rocky Mount is Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) which is a 72-mile drive. The following airlines currently serve Raleigh-Durham: Air Canada Express, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, American Eagle, Delta Air Lines, Delta Connection, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, and United Express.

Rocky Mount is convenient to Wilson Regional Airport. Currently, this airport does not have any commercial flights.

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rocky mount nc

Rocky Mount, North Carolina, or the City of Rocky Mount, is located in Edgecombe and Nash counties. This area is located in the Atlantic coastal region of North Carolina. Rocky Mount is 57 miles east of Raleigh, North Carolina, the capital. Via U.S. Interstate 95, Rocky Mount is just over 40 miles from the Virginia state line and around 150 miles to the South Carolina state line. The U.S. Census 2019 population estimate for Rocky Mount was 53,922. The city’s motto is “The center of it all.” Rocky Mount’s zip codes are 27801, 27802, 27803, 27804, 27809, and 27815.

The North Carolina General Assembly granted Rocky Mount a town charter and it was incorporated on February 19, 1867. However, Rocky Mount has a deeper European settler history than 1867. The first European settlers to the area can be documented to the early 1700s. This influx of settlers was due to the end of the Tuscarora War. The “official” settled date of Rocky Mount is tacked to the first post office which was established at the falls of the Tar River on March 22, 1816. The name Rocky Mount at this time comes into recorded use. The name Rocky Mount supposedly comes from the rocks and boulders found around the waterfall on the Tar River.

To return to the original Native American inhabitants of the region, there is not much, if anything recorded up until the time English explorer John Lawson made his expedition into the Carolina backcountry in the year 1700. Lawson published his expedition’s journal, A New Voyage to Carolina, in 1709. Lawson crossed over the Tar River at the end of his expedition roughly 30 miles south of Rocky Mount, near present-day Greenville, North Carolina where Grindle Creek enters the Tar River. Even though Lawson’s expedition did not take him through Rocky Mount, his recorded experiences with the Tuscarora Indians in the region are worth briefly noting here.

The Lords Proprietors of the Colony, the English Lords who oversaw the Carolina colony, wished to attract more settlers to their colony. In 1700, the Lords Proprietors of the Colony, engaged Englishman John Lawson (December 27, 1674 – September 16, 1711) to explore the unknown and uncharted Carolina backcountry.

As Lawson noted in A New Voyage to Carolina, he was exploring the falls of the Neuse River area, near present-day Knightdale, North Carolina, when he first encountered the Tuscarora Indians. This was in February 1701. Lawson spelled Tuscarora as “Tuskeruros” in his book. From A New Voyage to Carolina, “…we met with about 500 Tuskeruros in one Hunting-Quarter. They had made themselves Streets of Houses, built with Pine-Bark…” The Tuscarora tribe was well established in the region and had a significant sized Native American Indian “town” in the middle of the backcountry.

Lawson noted in his book about the warlike nature of the Tuscarora Indians. He went into detail about what steps the Tuscarora took to prevent Native Americans who they had enslaved from escaping. The Tuscarora’s practice was to cut off half of both feet of the enslaved person leaving just a stump. From A New Voyage to Carolina, “By this cruel Method, the Indian Captive is hinder’d from making his Escape, for he can neither run fast or go any where, but his Feet are more easily traced and discover’d.” Another quote from A New Voyage to Carolina, “The Indians are very revengeful, and never forget an Injury done, till they have receiv’d Satisfaction.” From his relatively short time spent with the Tuscarora Indians, Lawson formed a strong opinion of them, that proved to be a foreshadowing of his own fate. Nonetheless, Lawson did note his 1701 encounter with the Tuscarora as peaceful.

Times and situations change and in September 1711, John Lawson and Christoph von Graffenried, 1st Baron of Bernberg, were traveling up the Neuse River. The Tuscarora Indians captured Lawson and the Baron. Fortunately for the Baron he was ultimately released, but the Tuscarora Indians slowly tortured John Lawson to death. This capturing and killing of Lawson along with other hostile acts against colonial settlers is what led to the Tuscarora War.

The Tuscarora War (September 10, 1711 – February 11, 1715) which some historians consider the bloodiest war in colonial North Carolina. The Tuscarora War was fought in North Carolina between the Tuscarora and their allies on one side and the settlers, militia, and their Indian allies on the other side. Tensons initially arose when the European settlers kept encroaching on the Tuscarora’s territory. The Tuscarora signed a peace treaty in 1718 and were moved to a reserve in Bertie County, North Carolina. Some Tuscarora escaped to New York State and joined with the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and were accepted as the sixth tribe.

The European settlers in Rocky Mount and the surrounding area were primarily involved in agricultural endeavors. With agriculture, the processing of the product is important for monetization and the reduction of spoilage. In 1818, the Rocky Mount Mills was constructed and became the second cotton mill in North Carolina behind Schenck-Warlick Mill in Lincolnton, which was the first in 1814. The owners of Rocky Mount Mills were Joel Battle and James Smith Battle. Joel Battle’s grandfather was an original settler to the area. The mill was initially operated by African American slaves up until the 1850s, and then only by white women and girls.

In the late 1830s, the Battle family was involved in the construction of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad (W&W RR). At the time this was the longest continuous railroad in the world at 161.5 miles of laid track. The rail line was laid around two miles east of the mill. This railroad’s terminus was in Weldon, North Carolina. It connected to ports in the north at Portsmouth, Virginia and Petersburg, Virginia. To the south, the line ran to Wilmington, North Carolina to connect to that port.

The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad was a major economic driver for Rocky Mount and the region. As with agriculture processing as noted above with how it relates to mills, transportation plays a major role in the monetization and the reduction of spoilage of agriculture. Being a transportation hub was a magnet to commerce of all kinds to support the railroad and the people who utilized the railroad. Railroads are still considered economic drivers but nowhere near the force they were 150 years ago because of all the alternative forms of transportation.

During the American Civil War, there was a major Union Army raid on Swift Creek Village (now known as Vanceboro), Greenville, Falkland, Rocky Mount, and Tarboro. New Bern on the coast was occupied by Union troops after falling in March of 1862. On July 18, 1863, Union Brigadier General Edward E. Potter started out his 800-man force, mostly mounted, along with four cannons on pack animals towards Rocky Mount. The object was to attack the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad at Rocky Mount. At that time in the Civil War, this rail line was the lifeline for food and supplies into Virginia for the Confederate Army.

Potter’s forces traveled six days and an estimated 250 miles to lay waste to anything that was in the line of march to Rocky Mount. Advancing from New Bern through Swift Creek Village (Vanceboro), and then onto Greenville looting the civilian population there. On the night of July 19, Potter’s forces entered Falkland looting there as well. Moving forward and crossing the Tar River at Old Sparta, his forces took a short break and moved on early the next morning, July 20, 2021, for Rocky Mount.

Dividing his forces in two, Porter sent the first force onto Rocky Mount with them arriving at 8:30 A.M. This force had a running battle for the next two hours, primarily concentrating on the train depot and burning it down along with the adjacent structures. The Union soldiers then set fire to the Rocky Mount Mills, some warehouses, a flour mill, stables, stores, railroad cars, and 37 loaded Confederate army wagons. Looting also took place with the Union force here. The second force was sent onto Tarboro.

The Union forces left a great deal of destruction in their path in Rocky Mount. However, the damage done to the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad was repaired around a week later. The mill, which supplied Confederate yarn and cloth, that was burned down, was rebuilt after the war.

After the Civil War and Reconstruction, agricultural commerce, textiles, and train transportation slowly returned to normal. Demand for tobacco increased drastically after the Civil War. The sandy coastal soil around Rocky Mount is ideal for tobacco cultivation. By the turn of the 20th century, tobacco had become the region’s number one crop over cotton.

Entering the 20th century there was an increase in railroad employees. Between 1900 and 1907, Rocky Mount’s population went from around 3,000 to a population of around 7,500. The rail line, cotton mill, and the cultivation of brightleaf tobacco were major factors to the area’s growth and success into the 20th century.

The prewar World War II years lead to more economic and population growth for Rocky Mount. The agricultural and train town attracted a wider enterprise base. More manufacturing, banking, pharmaceuticals, and the headquarters for fast-food chain Hardee’s become leading economic drivers for the city.

A notable event on November 27, 1962, occurred when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech at Booker T. Washington High School where he uttered his famous refrain “I have a dream” a year before doing so during the March on Washington speech.

Rocky Mount to Raleigh, NC (57 Miles), Durham, NC (68 Miles), Chapel Hill, NC (87 Miles), Charlotte (210 Miles), and Washington, DC (237 Miles).

 

 

 

As indicated by the U.S. Census, Rocky Mount’s population from the 1870 Census of 357 to the 2010 Census of 57,477, population growth was explosive in that 140 years.

Historical population
Census Pop. %±
1870 357 —
1880 552 54.6%
1890 816 47.8%
1900 2,937 259.9%
1910 8,051 174.1%
1920 12,742 58.3%
1930 21,412 68.0%
1940 25,568 19.4%
1950 27,697 8.3%
1960 32,147 16.1%
1970 34,284 6.6%
1980 41,283 20.4%
1990 48,997 18.7%
2000 55,893 14.1%
2010 57,477 2.8%
2019 (est.) 53,922 −6.2%

 

Highways & Roads
U.S. Interstate 95 & U.S. Interstate 87
U.S. Highway 64 and U.S. Highway 301
N.C. Highway 43, N.C. Highway 48, and N.C. Highway 97

Rail Service
Amtrak provides three north and three southbound trains per day from the Rocky Mount station. Service to Washington, D.C., New York City, Miami, and Philadelphia.

Commercial air travel for Rocky Mount is Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) which is a 72-mile drive. The following airlines currently serve Raleigh-Durham: Air Canada Express, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, American Eagle, Delta Air Lines, Delta Connection, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, and United Express.

Rocky Mount is convenient to Wilson Regional Airport. Currently, this airport does not have any commercial flights.

Need Association Management?

Contact Us