History of the Hinton Plantations, Knightdale, NC:
Perspectives for Planters Walk


by George Baumbach


Ever wonder what is behind the name "Planters Walk"? Our neighborhoods were built on land that was once part of vast plantations owned by the Hinton family from 1739 until just recently. These plantations were what you might imagine- stately mansions dominating scores of outbuildings, with prominent citizens and their families in residence, along with orchards, flower and vegetable gardens and vast fields of cotton and grain. All of this made possible by fertile soil and enslaved Africans and African Americans. "Planters" were farmers with vast holdings of land growing cash crops for market and typically had over 20 slaves. Planters were the community leaders, often for life, thus controlling the local government. Local Hintons of both European and African ancestry claim this Planter family.

If you look around Knightdale, you will see evidence of their plantations- three surviving plantation manors, The Oaks, Midway Plantation, and Beaver Dam, and remnants of the long gone homes at The Square Brick House, The River Plantation, The Red House, Silent Retreat and Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse. Family and slave cemeteries survive at Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse, The Oaks and Silent Retreat. A study of the Hinton family reveals the origins of many of the names in Planters Walk, such as the neighborhoods  The Oaks and River Estates; streets named Laurens Way, Clay Hill Drive, Oak Grove, Olde Midway Court, Planters Trail Court, and Silent Retreat Way; and the creek flowing on the east side of Planters Walk, Mingo Creek.

 

Colonel John Hinton II (1715-1784) of The Square Brick House.
Colonel John Hinton, son of John Hinton and Mary Hardy, and wife Grizelle Kimbrough, along with brothers James and David Hinton, came to the present county line area between Johnston and Wake Counties. They were great, great grandchildren of Sir Thomas Hinton, the largest investor to establish the Jamestown (VA) settlement. John Hinton’s first land record (1743) is the oldest known for what is now Wake County, for 138 acres on the west side of the Neuse River. He built a cabin there. He later accumulated several thousand acres on both sides of the Neuse, and his late built his plantation house, The Square Brick House, on the east side of the Neuse River.

In 1759 the area of eastern Wake County where The Square Brick House was located was then in Johnston County. John Hinton was a Justice of the Peace in Johnston County and one of the justices who decided to locate the county seat, then called Hinton’s Quarter (now Smithfield), on his brother William’s farm. He was a representative to the Provincial Assembly from 1760-1762 and was a Captain in the Johnston County militia. By 1769 he held a commission as Colonel of the county militia, participating in deliberations to control insurgents, the Regulators, with Governor William Tryon. In 1771 Colonel Hinton led the Wake County militia to the Battle of Alamance in the War of Regulation. They arrived after the battle, but John was one of the Justices who tried the Regulators at a court held at Hillsboro.

When the Revolutionary War broke out, John changed allegiance and sided with the Patriots as a member of the Provincial Congress (1775-1776) and Colonel of the Wake County Minutemen. He fought at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge on the Cape Fear River.

John and Grizelle Hinton had a large family and were one of the four largest handowners in Wake County. Part of the plantation was divided among the sons, and the daughters married into other wealthy planter families. Their eldest son, Major John Hinton built Clay Hill-on-the Neuse. Son Colonel James Hinton built Silent Retreat, David Hinton built The Oaks, and Kimbro Hinton built The Red House. Daughter Martha Hinton married Lieutenant Colonel Joel Lane, the "Father of Raleigh", whose home at his plantation, Bloomsbury, still stands on Hargett Avenue in Raleigh. When Martha died as a young woman, Joel Lane married her sister, Mary Hinton. Another sister, Sarah Hinton married Captain Needham Bryan III, Alice Olive Hinton married John James, Ann Hinton married Lewis Bryan, and Elizabeth Hinton married John James.

John and Grizelle Hinton were buried at The Square Brick House plantation, which burned in 1786. One of the unusual bricks used in its construction is preserved in Raleigh at the Mordecai House, built in 1785 by Henry and Polly Hinton Lane, grandchildren of John and Grizelle Hinton.

Major John Hinton III (1748-1818) of Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse
Major John Hinton, son of Colonel John and Grizelle Kimbrough Hinton, married Ferebee Smith, daughter of John and Elizabeth Whitfield Smith, namesake of Smithfield, NC. John Hinton built his plantation manor, Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse, prior to the Revolutionary War, one of the earliest plantation manors in Wake County.  The plantation contained  5,434 acres in 1788 and 19 slaves.

Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse was located on a hill on the east bank of the Neuse in Milburnie, just south of US-64. In 1903, Mary Hilliard Hinton described Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse in detail, which then was in a state of a disrepair and had been abandoned.  Today, only the graveyard remains, and it is just inside the fence of the former Oak Ridge Driving Range on US-64, surrounded by a low stone fence.

The two-story house was made of timber and iron nails, painted white with green shutters. It contained a porch the full length of the front. Inside were four bedrooms, a dining room, a butler's pantry, wine cellar, and a lower and upper hallway.  It faced east, in front of the family gardens and graveyard. All rooms had high ceilings, hard plaster walls, and ornamented wood-work.

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Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse, built by Colonel John Hinton before Wake County was set off, and the oldest house left standing today in Wake County (caption and sketch from Chamberlain, 1922. This house no longer exists.)

The manor house had many outbuildings, including the kitchen. The flower and herb  garden was well laid out with stone walkways. None remain today.

Mary Hilliard Hinton also described some of the slaves of Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse as having been brought directly out of Africa, but once they were "enlightened" in the ways of plantation life, they were forever loyal to John Hinton. Such rationalizations are repugnant today- slavery was rooted in bondage, beatings, forced labor, deprivation and death.  Some of the family slaves were "Blind Jim", a groomsman, Buck, the carriage driver, and his brother, Uncle Briscoe. Old Mingo and Mammy Kizzy were captured in Africa and eventually sold to Major John Hinton. Mammy Kizzy was said to be an African princess, but worked as a dairymaid. Jeffry was said to have introduced a sweet pea to the plantation.

John Hinton served in the Johnston and Wake County militias under his father, and alongside his brother, James, and brother-in-law, Joel Lane. During the Revolution, John and his personal slave Uncle Briscoe fought at the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge in 1776 and served on the Patriot side through 1779.

Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse was visited by a small band of Tories out to capture John Hinton and to rob his home. John was shot, bound and beaten during the melee while defending his family. John escaped and sent for help from his brother, Colonel James Hinton, of Silent Retreat. The Tories stole John's slaves and some clothing, but all were recovered by the pursuing mounted troops under James Hinton. James summarily hung the Tories near Hillsboro.

Major John Hinton served Wake County in the House of Commons in 1779, State Councilors (1799 - 1801), as a Judge (1780 - 1818) and Sheriff (1788 - 1789).

Major John Hinton, along with brother-in-law Joel Lane, and his brother Joseph Lane, were among those who bid on their lands to be the new State Capitol in 1790. The Hinton plantations were considered for the honor, and commission members visited Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse and The Oaks, but instead chose Joel Lane's plantation, Bloomsbury, now the center of the City of Raleigh. The choice of the Lane property caused a deep rift in the family as John Hinton's lands were thought to be the first choice, at least that was the result of the first ballot, but supposedly Joel Lane plied the commission with wine and favors the night before the second and final vote.

John and Ferebee Hinton also had a large family. The eldest son, Colonel John Hinton, moved to Green County, Alabama. Colonel William Hinton built Beaver Dam. Samuel Hinton and Willis Hinton died in 1802 and 1806, respectively, of tuberculosis at Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse. Mary Hinton married Henry Lane, who built Mordecai House in Raleigh, and Grizelle Hinton married Judge Henry Seawell of the plantation Welcome in Raleigh, at separate ceremonies held at Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse. Elizabeth, "Aunt Betsy" Hinton inherited Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse and lived there with Grizzy Ryan, granddaughter of Colonel Joel Lane.

On April 13, 1865, long after Colonel John HInton's death, the plantation was still the residence of Aunt Betsy when Union Troops under General William T. Sherman marched through Raleigh. The 2nd Division of the Army of the Tennessee (Union) camped at Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse, and used Hinton Bridge to cross the Neuse River on the Tarbourough Road (now US-64) on their approach to Raleigh. The troops ransacked the house and rousted the elderly Aunt Betsy out of bed. She died four months later and was buried at Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse.

By the 1890s, the plantation was still in the family, owned by J. Mordecai.  Although the plantation way of life was extinguished by the Emancipation Proclamation and the surrender of the Confederacy, family historian Mary Hilliard Hinton wrote that Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse was the site of "clandestine Klu Klux Klan meetings". She lamented that in 1903 the estate was in decay from neglect.

Colonel William Hinton (1767 - c1835) of Beaver Dam
William Hinton, son of Major John and Ferebee Smith Hinton, married Candace Rosser. He built Beaver Dam about 1807 - 1810. It is located at the end of Smithfield Road at 7081 Forestville Road in Knightdale. Their plantation contained over 4,000 acres with about 50 slaves on land acquired from his father.

In 1817 he established the Juvenile Academy on the plantation. William Hinton served as Sheriff and four terms as a Representative to the General Assembly and five terms as a State Senator.

A daughter of William and Candace Hinton was Polly Willis Hinton, who married her first cousin, Dr. Ransom Hinton, son of Colonel James and Delilah Hinton of Silent Retreat. Polly and Ransom were parents to Laurens Hinton.

The Beaver Dam plantation was acquired by William Hinton's nephew, Dr. Henry Seawell, Jr. in 1841 and remained in that family until 1872. This Georgian style plantation house is still in use. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Colonel James Hinton (c1750 - 1794) of Silent Retreat
James Hinton, son of Colonel John and Grizelle Kimbrough Hinton, married Delilah Hunter. They built Silent Retreat, which was on  Poole Road just north and east of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Knightdale. The plantation contained over 7,000 acres and 36 slaves when listed in the US Census of 1790. James is buried in the family plot at Silent Retreat.

James served as Captain in his father's regiment in the 1773 Wake County militia alongside his brother Major John Hinton, and brother-in-law, Lt. Colonel Theophilus Hunter. He also fought at Moore's Creek Bridge in 1776 under his father. By 1780 he was Colonel of the regiment.

James Hinton also served in the General Assembly for 10 years as a Senator and a Representative. He defeated his brother-in-law, Colonel Joel Lane, in 1793 for the Senate seat. James also was the register of Wake County (177-1794) and a Justice of the Peace (1782-1794).

David Hinton Sr. (1770 - 1850) of The Oaks
David Hinton Sr., son of Colonel John Hinton and Grizelle Kimbrough, married Jane Lewis. David built The Oaks plantation in c1790 and it was considered for the site of the State Capitol. In 1830, The Oaks consisted of 2,244 acres worked by 13 slaves. The Oaks is located at 4516 Clifton Road in Knightdale. It is still in use today and is part of a working farm. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The front portico of The Oaks faces east, but this was the original rear of the house. The west side faces the old Hinton Road that connected The Oaks with Midway Plantation and Beaver Dam. On this side of the house is also the family burial plot.

Major Charles Lewis Hinton (1793 - 1861) of River Plantation
David and Jane Lewis Hinton's son, Charles Lewis Hinton, was born in 1793 at The Oaks. Charles married Ann Perry. They lived at River Plantation, the location of which is unknown to this author, but likely close to Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse.

Charles Lewis Hinton also served in the General Assembly as a State Senator and Representative, as Treasurer of North Carolina, and as a trustee of the University of North Carolina. He helped to organize the Oaky Grove Methodist Church in Shotwell.

Charles Lewis Hinton is buried at The Oaks. His daughter Bessie Cane Hinton married Henry Sprague Silver. Their descendant, Charles Hinton Silver, lived in Midway Plantation until very recently.

Major David Hinton Jr. (1826 - 1876) of Midway Plantation
Major David Hinton, Jr., son of Charles Lewis Hinton and Ann Perry, was born at The Oaks. He married Mary Boddie Carr in 1854. In 1848, David's father, Charles Lewis Hinton, built Midway Plantation as a wedding gift for David and Mary Boddie Hinton.

Midway Plantation is located at 6601 US-64 East, immediately north and east of the main entrance to Planters Walk. The plantation was so named because it is half way between Beaver Dam and The Oaks, connected to each by Hinton Road. This road, no longer used, headed south from the main entrance of Midway Plantation on its way to The Oaks, through the tract of land that borders Planters Walk to the east. Here, too, is a family burial plot with over 130 unmarked graves, all facing east, in an overgrown stand of trees at the headwaters of Mingo Creek. Unconfirmed local tradition recalls that this was a slave cemetery. All of what is now Planters Walk was at one time part of Midway Plantation.

Midway Plantation has been restored and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The architectural style of the two-story manor house is Greek Revival.  A mature oak grove shielded the manor house from US-64 highway. In June 2005, Midway Plantation manor was moved in order to make way for a new shopping center.  

In the 1960s an historical survey of the plantation was made which identified many of the important outbuildings typical of an ante-bellum plantation. Still standing are the school, carriage house, kitchen, doll house and east office. Evidence exists for 9 slave houses, two stables, a smokehouse, loom house, storage house, well house, ice house, potato house, summer house and cotton gin. To the east of the main manor house is a grove of cherry trees, a grape arbor, ornamental garden and vegetable garden, all surrounded by an osage orange hedge.

On April 13, 1865, Union Troops of General Oliver Howard's Army of the Tennessee moved through eastern Wake County toward Raleigh. At Midway Plantation, a few outbuildings, such as the cotton mill and cotton gin, were burned. Mary Carr Hinton's portrait bears a bayonet slash. She is said to have saved the plantation's gold coins by submerging them inside a metal box in Hinton's Fishing Pond.

Bibliography

Carlton, Doris, 1983. The Hinton Family, In: The Heritage Of Wake County, North Carolina, L. Belvin & H. Riggs, eds., Wake County Genealogical Society and Hunter Publishing Co., Winston-Salem, NC.

Chamberlain, Hope Summerell 1922. History of Wake County North Carolina With Sketches Of Those Who Have Most Influenced Its Development, Edwards & Broughton Printing Company, Raleigh.

Hinton, George W., 1971. Hinton and Related Family History, 2nd edition, vol. 1, Hinton Family Association

Hinton, Mary Hilliard, 1903. Clay Hill-on-the-Neuse, The North Carolina Booklet, vol III, no. 6, pp. 25-37

Hinton, Mary Hilliard, 1915. Colonel John Hinton. The North Carolina Booklet, vol XIV, no. 4, pp 225-236

Hodges, Eudora Coleman, 1988. John Hinton,  In: Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, William S. Powell, ed., vol. 3 H - K, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC, p. 150

Kerr, Mary Hinton Duke, 1988. James Hinton, In: Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, William S. Powell, ed., vol. 3 H - K, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC, p. 148.

Kerr, Mary Hinton Duke, 1988. John Hinton, In: Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, William S. Powell, ed., vol. 3 H - K, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC, pp. 148-149.

Lally, Kelly A., 1994. The Historic Architecture of Wake County North Carolina, Wake County Government.

Murray, Elizabeth Reid, 1983. Wake: Capital County of North Carolina, vol. 1, Capital County Publishing Co., Raleigh.

Silver, Charles Hinton, 1988, Charles Lewis Hinton,   In: Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, William S. Powell, ed., vol. 3 H - K, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC, p. 148.


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