By Margaret Fisher / Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 21:36 PM.
Adrian King, executive director of Pride of Kinston, left, and Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy unveil a polished granite stone commemorating Kinston’s 250th anniversary Saturday during a festival on Herritage Street. The stone will be permanently displayed at City Hall.
Gov. Richard Caswell read the proclamation of 1762 creating Kingston, now the city of Kinston. The church bells rang in the distance, a birthday tune was played and an enormous anniversary cake was cut for the crowd gathered on Herritage Streeton Saturday.
It was the grand celebration of Kinston’s 250th birthday and one of a series of events held this weekend. This is the culmination of a celebration that began on Dec. 31, 2011, as the city entered its anniversary year.
“It’s been a pleasure,” said Caswell, portrayed by an actor from TryonPalacein New Bern.
Caswell, the state’s first elected governor, came to this area in 1746 and as a member of the colonial Assembly introduced the act that created Kingston, a name he chose to honor King George III. After the Revolutionary War, town residents decided to drop the “g.”
As Kinston, the town overcame a sluggish beginning to grow into a booming tobacco market and a center for commerce and trade in Eastern North Carolina.
The governor’s wife, Mary — another TryonPalaceactor — noted the change. “I’m pleased to see Kinstongrowing so well,” she said.
Mayor B.J. Murphy was pleased to see sunny weather for the outdoor event.
“We pride ourselves on our quality of life,” Murphy said to the audience, “from the arts to dining to recreation.”
The events featured welcomes by Murphy and Lenoir County Commissioner Jackie Brown, an unveiling of a polished granite stone commemorating the city’s 250th anniversary, a musical performance by Dick Knight, Bill Myers & Friends and a dance performance by Jonkonnu of Tryon Palace.
Adrian King, executive director of the Pride of Kinston, said the 250th anniversary isn’t simply a reflection of the past, but “to embrace hope and aspiration for the future.”
“Economic prosperity over the centuries has ebbed and flowed,” he said. “But what has been constant has been a ‘can do’ spirit, the Kinstonspirit.”
King and Murphy unveiled the stone — engraved with the 250th anniversary emblem — which will be placed in Kinston’s City Hall.
King said Kingston, which began with a warehouse and a church at Atkins Bank on the NeuseRiver, was the 20th town created by the colonial Assembly. But it’s one of just a few towns that have lasted.
“Kinston, make no mistake,” Murphy spoke to the crowd gathered, “we’ve had our challenges, but we should be proud of our heritage, our present and our future.”
Haron Beatty, a member of Jonkonnu, said the dances originated in the West African Caribbean islands when one day a year some plantation owners would do the unthinkable — allow the enslaved Africans to dance their traditional dance, shake hands with their master, come up on the master’s porch and be given a little money.
“It affected the social fabric of the day,” Beatty said. “It was progressively forward for the day.”
He added the “free day” tradition, shunned by some, was “evidence that society was changing.”
Church bells were rung by GordonStreetChurch, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and First Presbyterian Church.
Roy and Jeannie Highfill of Winston-Salemwere camping at the NeusewayNatureParkwhen they came upon the celebration.
“We walked over here today and this was here,” Jeannie Highfill said about the 250th. “This is an adorable little town.”
Roy Highfill said his first visit to Kinstonwas in May for the barbecue festival and he enjoyed the city so much he brought his wife so she could enjoy it.
Margaret Fisher can be reached at 252-559-1082 orMargaretFisher@Kinston.com.
* 2 p.m.Sunday
Dedication of a Civil War battlefield site
Harriet’s Chapel / Starr’s Battery
(now the New BeaverdamPrimitiveChurch)
Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony —
Dr. Lonnie Blizzard, project director
About a quarter-mile south of Kinston-LenoirCountyVisitorsCenter
* 4 p.m.Sunday
Community worship service with mass choir
Queen Street United MethodistChurch
Speaker: Lin Dawson, Kinstonnative, minister, 10 years with New England Patriots
500 N. Queen St.
Reception to follow at the Community Council for the Arts
* 6:30 p.m.Tuesday, Nov. 13
Lenoir County Historical Association hosts:
‘Who, What, When & Where’
Don Collins, EastCarolinaUniversityhistory professor
Speaking on the 1762 colonial legislation to create Kingston
1001 Westminster Lane
Dinner reservations required by calling 252-522-0421
* See more photos in the photo gallery section at Kinston.com