KFP: The (only) other Kinston

by Wesley Brown
Kinston Free Press

Mayor B.J. Murphy stands at the monument to the founding of Kingston in 1762 and its renaming as Kinston in 1782. The only other Kinston in America is a small Alabama town named for our city. Photo by Janet S. Carter, KFP

Kinston helped rural Ala. town find its identity; today, towns’ mayors consider sister-city status

Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy could not believe the news last week when he heard it.

He quickly opened his computer’s web browser. He wanted to find out more.

“When people think of Kinston, you only think of one,” said Murphy, still in shock that there was more than one Kinston in the United States, and even more, that an early settler from his beloved city motivated a small community in rural Alabama to take on the name in christening their town.

Murphy’s Google search, as well as some polling of area leaders, turned up little results on Kinston, Ala., other than it had a population of 602, more or less, and that it barely nestled inside the southwest corner of Alabama’s Coffee County, claiming a total area of 5 square miles.

“I had never heard of it and neither had many of the people I asked,” Murphy said.

But, believe it or not, the story of North Carolina’s Kinston serving as inspiration to another town is real and a little bit eerie in how the people of the two towns, without even knowing it, mirror each other in their most prominent athletic and cultural traditions.

In rummaging through historical records, The Free Press found that, despite being separated from each other by two states and nearly 700 miles of highway, the pair shares more than a name. They have a connection that feeds off the famed customs of the other.

With Kinston, N.C., set to honor its 250th birthday next year, Murphy hopes to work with organizers to dedicate 2012 to the town’s unique history. The milestone celebration will also observe the 100th anniversary of its Alabama relative adopting its name.

“You really can only appreciate the town, once you appreciate its history,” said Murphy, whose office has invited Queen Elizabeth to the party.