KFP: Happy 250th, Kinston!

By Margaret Fisher / Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 21:36 PM.

KFP1104_250th festival 1

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.

Zach Frailey / The Free Press

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.


Breakout box:


* 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

U.S.258 South

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

WestminsterUnited MethodistChurch

1001 Westminster Lane

Dinner reservations required by calling 252-522-0421



* See more photos in the photo gallery section at Kinston.com


KFP: Kinston’s birthday weekend coming up

By David Anderson / Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 21:43 PM.

250th birthday

Members of the Georgia K. Battle Friendship Club and the Fairfield Senior Club plan the layout of Kinston’s 250th birthday cake that will be served during Saturday’s celebration at the Farmer’s Market. In addition to the panel pictured, there will be another panel of equal size in the final cake.

Zach Frailey / The Free Press


Kinston residents often feel there is nothing to do in the community, but if they cannot find something to do or see during the city’s 250th birthday weekend, well, it’s on them.

The city of Kinston, Community Council for the Arts, VisitKinston, the Lenoir County Association of Congregations and many more organizations are partnering to pull off a celebration for the ages.

The festivities begin Friday with a reception and award presentations at the arts center, followed by a street fair and live entertainment Saturday, and culminating with a community worship service Sunday.



The public is invited to gather at the arts center downtown starting at 6:30 p.m. to see artifacts from the N.C. Museum of History “that have never been displayed in Kinston,” said Jan Barwick, director of VisitKinston.

They will be greeted by Gov. and Mrs. Caswell and be entertained by Jonkonnu, both from Tryon Palace in New Bern. Visitors can enjoy light hors d’oeuvres and beverages.

Friday will also be the time for the presentation of the Hall of Heroes award to the late Dr. Keats Sparrow by the Colonial Commission of the Historical Preservation Group.

Sparrow was a professor emeritus of English and dean of the Collegeof Artsand Sciences at ECU. He was active in a number of state and local historical organizations and edited author Clayton Brown Alexander’s biography of Gov. Richard Caswell: “First of Patriots and the Best of Men.”

The Dobbs County Tartan, a piece of tartan fabric with colors woven in to represent Dobbs County and the Scottish heritage of the early settlers,will also be presented to the members of the Lenoir County Board of Commissioners and the Kinston City Council Friday, Barwick said.

Kinston and Lenoir County were initially part of the much larger Dobbs County.

Like all birthday events that weekend, Friday’s reception will be free to the public.

“It’s part of the birthday celebration,” Barwick said.



The birthday celebrations Saturday will kick off with a cooking demonstration at the Lenoir County Farmer’s Market at 10 a.m.

Barwick said Pat Lawson and culinary students from Lenoir Community College will cook foods that would have been eaten in Caswell’s day.

Herritage Street between Gordon and North streets will be closed from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for residents to revel in the continued celebration.

Bill Ellis, director of the Kinston-Lenoir County Parks and Recreation Department, said the city of Kinston is hosting Saturday’s festival, which will be opened by the Tryon Palace Fife and Drum Corps.

Gov. and Mrs. Caswell and Jonkonnu will provide greetings and entertainment, with additional entertainment by Dick Knight, Bill Meyers and Friends, and more.

There will be a march of 18th-century dignitaries and a symphony of church bells around the city at noon.

Church choirs will sing, and there will be entertainment for children, including pony rides. Hot dogs, chips and drinks will be served at the CSS Neuse II.

The piece de resistance of Saturday’s events will be a birthday cake that is 8 feet long by 4 feet wide, provided by the Georgia K. Battle Friendship Club and Fairfield Senior Club, Ellis said.

Downtown merchants on Herritage Street will also be open Saturday.

“They’ll extend their day and people can shop and enjoy the festivities,” Ellis said.



The weekend celebration will end Sunday with a community-wide prayer service at Queen Street United Methodist Church starting at 4 p.m.

The service is being organized by the Lenoir County Association of Congregations.

The Rev. Mark Benson, AOC member and pastor of Gordon Street Christian Church, headed a planning subcommittee, along with fellow pastors — and AOC members — Allen Bingham of Queen Street, Jason McKnight of Grace Fellowship Church, Julian Pridgen of St. Augustus AME Zion Church, Wanda Neely of First Presbyterian Church and Chris Singleton of Stop Hunger Now.

Benson said the keynote speaker will be Kinston native Lin Dawson, who played tight end for the New England Patriots during the 1980s. He also played football at N.C. State University and Kinston High School.

The service will include a “mass choir” made up of members of various local church choirs, and led by John O’Brien of First Presbyterian. Jacob Mewborn of Queen Street will play the organ.

A hand bell choir from Gordon Street also will perform.

“The theme of the service is looking back over the past 250 years and giving thanks for that, and looking forward to the next 250 years and asking for God’s blessing on that,” Benson said.

Following the service, a procession of worshippers led by bagpipers can head to the arts center for a reception.

Benson noted Queen Street has the capacity to hold 500 worshippers; child care will be available.

“We would love to have a congregation of 500 people,” Benson said. “We would love for people of faith from all around the community to come give thanks for our city’s heritage and pray for blessings in the future.”


David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 orDavid.Anderson@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.



Weekend schedule:


6:30-8 p.m.

Reception at Community Council for the Arts

400 N. Queen St.



10 a.m.

Cooking demonstration: What would Richard Caswell eat?

Lenoir County Farmer’s Market

North Herritage at West Caswell streets


11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Street festival

Herritage at Gordon streets



4 p.m.

Community worship service

Queen Street United Methodist Church

500 N. Queen St.

National Day of Prayer – Prayer for the City

Today, I was asked to pray for the city as one of five prayers were given for our country, state, county, city and schools at the GATE’s Prayer Breakfast.  Here is my prayer:

Dear God above and throughout this land,

Today as we recognize the power of prayer, we urge you to lift up this community.  We pray for peace, security, love and laughter.

We thank you for the Town of Kingston, better known today as the City of Kinston.  For 250 years ago, you implored our town’s forefathers to plant seeds here, map out parcels and streets, and begin commerce.

We ask that you grant our elected leaders of today with the same wisdom to carry out your decrees.  May our city employees bless those that they serve each and every day.  And, may those that they serve respect and honor them.

We thank you for helping us through the hurricane last year with no loss of life.  We thank you for the technology to help solve crime and for the volunteers at after school programs, who are simply trying to make a difference.

We recognize as one body that we are nothing without you and because of that foundation, which you have granted, we can still acknowledge our flaws, yet continue to work on solutions.

It’s no secret that we need good jobs.  It’s no secret that we want safe neighborhoods.  Certainly, nothing said today is a secret to you.

So, we ask for your favor as we continue working to provide a better future for our children and as we carry out our duties to serve and protect.

We implore you to grant our families with financial prosperity.  Bless the helpless.  See to it that our successes and failures in the past are not divisions for this community in the present and in the future, but a way to heal, move on and learn.  So that we may grow together and laugh together.

We ask this so that we, Kinston, may provide the infrastructure for successful commerce, educational and vocational opportunities and for a better tomorrow.

For as we celebrate our 250th anniversary, we do so in your Name.


KFP: Goodbye ‘Kingston’, hello Kinston

by Justin Hill 

Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, right, accepts a commemorative cup and saucer from Lenoir County Historical Association President John Marston, left, and Lenox China Plant Manager Paul Leichtnam. Lenox also present the association with a pair of tea services to celebrate Kinston’s 250 anniversary and the anniversary of the city dropping “G” from its name.  Zach Frailey / The Free Press



In 1976, as Americans celebrated the country’s 200th birthday, Kinston’s mayor proclaimed April 19 a day of historical significance. It was the day we — as Kinstonians — dropped the “G” from our city’s name.

He hoped the day would be celebrated every year as part of the city’s history.

On Thursday, Mayor B.J. Murphy, along with the Lenoir County Historical Association, welcomed several dozen guests to Harmony Hall — the city’s oldest residence — to celebrate Kinston’s separation from the British Empire and the name change that emphasized that statement.

“This day started because of the proclamation made April 19, 1976 in honor of the country’s bicentennial,” Murphy said. “Mayor Simon Sitterson Jr. recognized that April 19 was the day (Kingston) dropped the ‘G’.”

Following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, residents in Kingston, which was chartered in 1762, began the process of removing the “G” from its name.

On April 19, 1784, the state’s General Assembly agreed to remove the letter and the town became known as Kinston.

The same day Kinston dropped the “G,” the town also named Independence Street to remember the event — the street has retained that name, running near Harmony Hall ever since.

At Thursday’s ceremony at Harmony Hall, in commemoration of both Kinston’s 250th anniversary and the day Kinston changed its name, John Marston, president of the historical association, accepted two tea services emblemized with the anniversary logo.

Paul Leichtnam, the local Lenox China Plant Manager, said the tea services are specially made to commemorate the anniversary.

“On behalf of Lenox, we are proud to present to the Lenoir County Historical Association with the services,” Leichtnam said. “It’s a pleasure to be here for this wonderful occasion.”

One service will remain at Harmony Hall and the other will be presented to the Queen of England.

“I so graciously accept not one but two tea services on behalf of the Lenoir County Historical Association,” Marston said. “It seems like one service would be enough … but we need two because we’d like to keep one here in Kinston and the other tea service we will send to Buckingham Palace.”

Along with the tea services, Murphy said several “tangible artifacts of our heritage” were on display at Harmony Hall for the English tea celebration. Included in the artifacts were Sitterson’s 1976 proclamation, a coat of arms presented by the Queen of England in 1962 and two prints depicting downtown Kinston.

There will also be 150 limited edition cup and saucer sets available for purchase at Harmony Hall.


Justin Hill can be reached at 252-559-1078 or jhill@freedomenc.com. Follow him on Twitter @mjhill.

Event: A Day of Historical Significance on 4/19/2012 at 4:00 PM

The City of Kinston would like to cordially invite you to help commemorate the City’s 250th Anniversary with a special english tea celebration on April 19th, 2012 at 4:00 p.m. at historic Harmony Hall located at 109 East King Street, Kinston, NC. This special celebration titled, A Day of Historical Significance, will honor the day that Kinston lost its “g” through an act of the NC General Assembly. We hope that you will attend this historic event to help the City honor and recognize its heritage.

KFP: Ceremonial wooden gavel presented to city of Kinston for 250th anniversary

by David Anderson
Kinston Free Press


Ann Davis, right, the co-chair of the Kinston 250th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, holds a wooden gavel and strike plate made by local woodturners to be presented to Kinston city officials. Mayor B.J. Murphy stands ready to accept. Looking on are, from left, committee members Herman McLawhorn, co-chair Isabelle Perry, Guy Basden and anniversary contributor Charles Kienast.
David Anderson / The Free Press

A ceremonial gavel made from wood that was young when Kinston was young was presented to Kinston officials this week to mark the 250th anniversary of the city’s founding.

“This is just one of many examples that we’re experiencing of the community coming together to help make this 250th a time to be remembered, inspiring our youth and celebrating our history,” Ann Davis, co-chairwoman of the Kinston 250th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, told members of the City Council on Monday as the gavel was presented to Mayor B.J. Murphy.

Davis said the gavel was the brainchild of Kinston resident and Korean War veteran Charles Kienast, who has previously contributed funds to the anniversary committee.

“I’m second-generation Swiss, and the name Kienast in German means a branch of a resinous tree, which would be a pine, and I think it’s appropriate,” Kienast told the council.

He had initially wanted to use wood from the CSS Ram Neuse, but suitable wood from the ship could not be obtained. Lightwood pine from a house committee co-chairwoman Isabelle Perry had grown up in was used instead.

That wood was used to build an addition to the house in the early 1800s. The house itself had been built in the 1700s. Kinston was founded in 1762.

The wood was taken from the addition and fabricated into a gavel and a strike plate by Don Baker of Kinston and his fellow woodturners.

Kienast had originally wanted his youngest son to make the gavel, but an ongoing illness prevented him from doing so.

Davis asked Murphy — who bangs a gavel to open and close City Council meetings — to bang the community’s gavel “to give everyone present the opportunity to hear the great ring that it makes.”

The mayor obliged, and the sharp thwack resounded in the council chambers.

“This really is an honor for us,” Murphy said. “Certainly, we’ll use this on special occasions and otherwise we’ll have it displayed in our trophy case.”


David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or danderson@freedomenc.com. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.