Captivated by Natural Beauty, Enriched with its Own Historic
background leaves reassurance for local towns tourism
BY LISA SPRUILL
Washington County is known for its vast Washington County consists of three
waterway (Albemarle Sound) and for incorporated towns, Plymouth, Roper
being the first county in America to be and Creswell. All three towns are
named after Gen. George Washington, located along U.S. Highway 64.
before he became president of the United Plymouth is the westernmost town and
States. also the county seat. Roper is located
Washington County is located in the more centrally in the county, with
northeastern region of North Carolina. Creswell being the easternmost town in
Its breath- taken 336 square miles of the county.
land are filled with beautiful waterway Washington County has been
and bountiful wildlife. This small but recognized by the National Geographic
quaint county is bounded by the winding Magazine as having the state’s second
Roanoke River on the northwest side, largest natural lake- Lake Phelps-
and on the north side, it is bordered by located in the town of Creswell, once
the largest fresh water sound in the known as Cool Springs.
United States- the Albemarle Sound.
Offshore of Lake Phelps is Pettigrew sycamore tree and exit at the picnic area.
State Park. The park is in the middle of Shearin says that the hollow tree trunk is
Washington County-in the town of always a favorite of the children that
Crewsell. Deep within the forest of play in the park.
Pettigrew State Park grow cypress trees The Park has nature trails that lead to
that date back at least a 100 years. Sid some of the state’s largest trees. These
Shearin, parks superintendent, is familiar trails not only lead to exploring nature
with the park’s surrounding trees; so but also lead to exploring the park’s
familiar that he has named several of historical findings. Along one of these
them and today they are recognized by trails the park has provided an
his given names. He has named a 120- information center filled with ancient
foot tree the “Lake Phelps Monster”. Its artifacts found as early as 8,000 B.C.
hollow spots look like peering eyes. sunken deep within the lake itself.
With the passing of time, tree. Which These artifacts once belonged to Native
once grew deep within the lake’s sand, Americans.
now stand tall along the bank of Lake Canoes have been recovered from the
Phelps. Their branches are covered with bottom of the lake, one as large as 37
towering volumes of moss, as high as feet in length. Native Americans made
one’s eyes can see. Each branch weighs canoes by burning the interiors of
heavily downward, giving the trees a cypress logs then carved away the
scary look. Their trunks have a cavity charred wood leaving only a shell left to
large enough for children to play hide sit in. After their seasonal hunting
and seek. You can enter the hollow season was over,today’s archaeologists
believe that the Native Americans sank Aside from Mother’s Nature gifts,
their canoes until next hunting season, Washington County abounds with
hoping to protecting them. These admirable man-made contributions, such
artifacts included pottery and at least 30 as Somerset Place. This plantation
sunken canoes. offers a comprehensive and realistic
Lake Phelps is one of North Carolina’s view of the 19th century lifestyle of both
clearest lakes. Shearin says, “Since slaves and master of the slaves. Lake
there is no city or agricultural runoff into Phelps borders this plantation to the
the lake, it is one of North Carolina’s present day, five-by-eight miles to be
least polluted bodies of water. Only rain exact. To the earliest days of Somerset
feed into the lake.” to the endCivil War, people of different
Davis Spencer, resident of Creswell races and economic statuses lived on the
says, “I like the lake because I can wade property. Somerset Place became one of
in it, wet a hook and within minutes, I’ve the upper south’s largest plantations.
got a large mouth bass.” The Public The Civil War brought closure to the
Broadcasting Station-stationed in prosperity of Somerset Place. Today,
Raleigh recently filmed an hour-long tours are given to the public in hopes of
documentary on the large mouth bass reliving the lives of the plantation’s
living in Lake Phelps. “This lake is as owners, the enslaved community, the
good as it gets for catching large mouth employed whites and the free blacks.
bass in Northeastern North Carolina,”
weave simple fabric for clothes,
Creswell boasts a number of well- tablecloths and other uses. Recycling
preserved old homes and historic sites in was a way of life for the Davenport
town and surrounding countryside. One family. Kathy Smith, volunteer at the
preserved home is the Daniel Davenport Davenport Homestead, says she enjoys
Homestead. This old and rustic home portraying the life style of the late 1700s.
can be visited at any time during the “Makes me appreciate what I have in the
year. Judy Mayo, Washington County 20th century, especially when it comes to
tourism director, says, “When you arrive doing the laundry,” says Smith. People
at the Davenport Home, you step from all over come to the Davenport
through the front door and step back in Homestead to relive the past.
time.” Heart of Washington County
Several townsfolk welcome tourist at The largest town in Washington
the Davenport Homestead by portraying County is Plymouth. It became the first
the lifestyles of the Davenport family. incorporated town in Washington
Unlike the Somerset Place, the County in 1787. Plymouth is best
Davenport home wasn’t filled with known for its involvement in the Civil
lavished luxuries. The house is less than War that took place 240 years after the
600 square feet, not much bigger than Pilgrims came ashore.
our family room for today’s home. They “By 1956 Plymouth was the second
did not have slaves to help scrub largest seaport in North Carolina,” says
clothing or to help make quilts and rugs Harry Thompson, curator of the Civil
with discarded rags. A loom was used to War Museum. Merchants used boats as a
means for transporting their goods. reenactment. On May 1, The History
Soon, transportation began to slow Channel cable network, will be on site
down. Trucks eventually replaced trains filming its third annual reenactment of
and boats. As the train station slowly the Civil War. Residents take pride in
began closing, the town’s people made portraying the events; it’s their way of
complaints. As a result, the station showing respect to the heroic soldiers
owner gave one of the three condemned that lost their lives during the war.
stations to the Plymouth community, Plymouth Today
now recognized as the Civil War Downtown Plymouth has redeveloped
Museum. itself. Within 19 months, 27 of the
Plymouth residents relive the history downtown buildings have been sold.
of the Civil War in both memories and These buildings now house an ice cream
by actual reenactment. On February 1, shop, an antique shops, a coffee shop,
2001, a group of local residents met for The Garden Spot Cafe, the Oyster Bar,
the first time to form an organization Andy Womble’s law office, many hair
that would help bring understanding of salons, The Soundside Group, a cotton
the War between the Sates. Members distributor, and a child advocacy agency.
participate in the reenactment of the Few businesses that have been
battle to give the correct historical downtown for a number of years are still
impression of Navy life during the Civil going strong. These businesses are the
War period. Jewel Shop, Brenda’s flower shop, Heart
Residents of Plymouth are preparing to Heart flowers, Time Finance,
especially hard for this years’ annual Cherry’s Appliances, Royalty Finance
and the Civil War Museum. Each shop lighthouse once more overlooks the
carries a unique touch of memorable Roanoke River.
history inside as a reminder of the Plymouth has many places of interest
town’s achievements. in Washington County but one that’s
One of the great achievements for worth visiting is The Garden Spot Café.
Plymouth residence is the rebuilding of a This café is known for serving a unique
lighthouse that once stood on the menu for lunch and dinner. They serve
Roanoke Rivers banks. This lighthouse steak, salad, seafood, sandwiches, wraps
was used to guide ships safely into and their famous county cooked
Plymouth’s harbor. The original barbecue ribs. The Garden Spot opened
lighthouse was burned to the grown in for business in 2002 and has become a
1885. Today, at the end of Water Street, popular eating ground for both residence
stands a replica of the original and tourist.
lighthouse. The original blueprints, Randy Swain, resident of Plymouth-
dating back to 1866, were used to says, “ I don’t have to travel 50 miles
rebuild the lighthouse. “We went all the anymore just to get a great tasting
way to California to get the blueprints seafood platter, The Garden Spot hits the
from the man that took care of them all spot for me.”
his life. I was told to get rid of these “There’s food to suit everyone’s taste
prints but I just couldn’t,” says Harry and style. You have a choice of
Thompson, curator of the Civil War Mexican, Japanese, Italian, Seafood or
Museum. Now this remarkable just old fashion fast food,” says Mayo,
Washington Tourism Director.
Plymouth offers a wide variety of Kanban Inc., a warehousing facility,
choices for their traveling tourists’ French Ketch Seafood Inc., Inc. and a
needs. Plymouth received their newly new medical waste facility in Creswell.
built hotel, Holiday Inn Express, three The towns of Creswell and Roper are
years ago. A larger hotel was neededin now pursuing industrial opportunities in
order to accommodate the growing their jurisdictions. With the upcoming
number of tourist traveling through the expansion of Highway 64 all of
Washington County area. Washington County will prosper.
Erica Daniel, front desk receptionist at Weyerhaeuser Paper Company is the
the Holiday Inn Express, says, “We have County’s largest industries. Its enormous
60 rooms, and at start of Memorial Day plant is located on approximately 24
weekend, all rooms are filled until the acres of land along the Roanoke River in
summer ends.” Along with the Holiday Plymouth. Over 2,400 jobs are
Inn Express, there are three smaller provided for local residents.
motels. Weyerhaeuser manufactures pulp, paper,
The industry for Washington County lumber, and salt treated lumber. Today,
has sore to great heights over recent Weyerhaeuser has three million acres of
years. The county has been experiencing timberland.
new business and commercial The second largest employment
development especially along US provider for Washington County is
Highway 64. New additions to the Agriculture. Eastern North Carolina
county are Gulfstream Products, a consists mainly of farmland. Plymouth
manufacturer of fiberglass tubing, residents are involved in agriculture
year- round. Most of the crops grown the hearts of everyone, who ventures its
are corn, soybeans, wheat, peanuts, great land.
tobacco, cotton, cabbage and sage. The
planting of each crop is a year- round
cycle; that assures residents with jobs
and maintains the agricultural economy.
Washington County Public Schools are
responsible for being the county’s third
major employer. There are
approximately 2,400 students in five
schools; a Pre-K school, a Pre-K-6th
grade school, a 5th-8th grade school, a
7th-12th grade school and a 9th-12th
school. Washington County schools
provide over 424 jobs for their residents.
County public schools give an economic
boost for resident of Washington
Washington County has an ample
supply of natural beauty, rich historical
background and promising industry. If
you’re already a resident or just visiting,
Washington County is sure to captivate