Goldsboro is a city in Wayne County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 36,437 at the 2010 Census. It is the principal city of and is included in the Goldsboro, North Carolina Metropolitan Statistical Area. The nearby town of Waynesboro was founded in 1787 and Goldsboro was incorporated in 1847. It is the county seat of Wayne County. The city is situated in North Carolina’s Coastal Plain and is bordered on the south by the Neuse River and the west by the Little River, about 43 miles southwest of Greenville and 55 miles southeast of Raleigh, the state capital and 87 miles northwest of Wilmington in Southeastern North Carolina. Goldsboro is best known as home to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
Around 1787, when Wayne County was formed, a town named Waynesborough grew around the county’s courthouse. Located on the east bank of the Neuse River, the town became the county seat. Population growth in Waynesborough continued through the 1830s. However, this changed once the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad was completed in the early 1840s. By then, a hotel had been built at the intersection of the railroad and New Bern Road, which grew into a community after the train started to transport passengers from there.
More and more citizens soon relocated from Waynesborough to this growing village, named eventually “Goldsborough’s Junction” after Major Matthew T. Goldsborough, an Assistant Chief Engineer with the railroad line. Later this was shortened simply to Goldsborough. In 1847, the town was incorporated and became the new Wayne County seat following a vote of the citizens of Wayne County. Local legend has it the Goldsborough supporters put moonshine in the town’s well to encourage people to vote for Goldsborough.
In the following decades, Goldsborough’s growth continued in part by new railroad connections to Charlotte and Beaufort. By 1861, the town’s population was estimated to be 1,500.
Because of its importance as railroad junction, Goldsborough played a significant role in the Civil War, both for stationing Confederate troops and for transporting their supplies. The town also provided hospitals for soldiers wounded in nearby battles.
In December 1862, the Battle of Goldsborough Bridge was waged, in which both sides fought for possession of the strategically significant Wilmington and Weldon Railroad Bridge. Union General John Foster arrived with his troops on December 17, aiming to destroy this bridge in order to put an end to the vital supply chain from the port of Wilmington. He succeeded on that same day, his troops overpowering the small number of defending Confederate soldiers and burning down the bridge. On their way back to New Bern, Foster’s men were attacked again by Confederate troops, but they survived the attack with fewer casualties than the enemy. The important bridge at Goldsborough was rebuilt in a matter of weeks.
Goldsborough was once more the scene of a Union offensive in 1865, during Union General Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign. After the battles of Bentonville and Wyse Fork, Sherman’s forces met with the armies of Schofield, their troops taking over the city in March. During the following three weeks, Goldsborough was occupied by over 100,000 Union soldiers. After the war was over, some of these troops continued to stay in the city.
In 1869, the spelling of the city was officially changed to Goldsboro.
Law office, Goldsboro, April 1938
The present day Seymour Johnson Air Force Base opened on the outskirts of Goldsboro in April 1942 as a US Army Air Forces installation named Seymour Johnson Field. From this point on, much of the city’s population and businesses increased as a result of the air base’s presence. The base’s name was changed to Seymour Johnson AFB in 1947 following the establishment of the US Air Force as an independent service.
Places of interest
Cliffs of the Neuse State Park is a state park located near the city. It covers 751 acres (3.04 km2) along the southern banks of the Neuse River. It has a swimming area, several hiking trails, fishing areas, a nature museum, and picnic areas. The cliffs rise 90 feet above the Neuse River.