Monday, December 1, 2014

A Visit to Clear Springs in 1888

By John B. Green III

Clear Springs Plantation House, photo by Bayard Wootten 1907.

Clear Springs Plantation House, located on a large tract of land in western Craven County, is believed to have been built by James Green Sr. (1710-1788).  Probably dating from the 1770s, it was the oldest surviving house in the countryside outside of New Bern.  Long vacant, the house and grounds were heavily altered in the 1990s resulting in the loss of much of the original fabric of the building and many details of the landscape.

The following newspaper article recounts a visit to Clear Springs in the late 19th century.  It appeared in the New Bern Daily Journal on Saturday, May 19, 1888 and is signed by the initial "H."  An article appearing in the previous day's paper, and describing the New Berne Grange Picnic which occurred at Clear Springs, identifies "H" as New Bern merchant Jonathan Havens, who had been the speaker at the picnic.

The "Clear Springs" Farm,

Belonging to Mr. Cicero Green, distant 12 miles from New Berne, is probably one of the most beautiful and picturesque places in Eastern Carolina.  Through the portion of the farm in front of the dwelling, runs a beautiful, clear, cold stream of water fed from a gushing spring, running from under a huge boulder of conglomerate shell rock; both banks of the stream, for a distance of several hundred yards, are of this rugged rock lying in detached boulders of enormous size.  In one place a huge slab of stone has been thrown by some titanic force across two boulders.  Standing in an erect position, forming a natural bridge, underneath of which runs the stream of water.  The banks on each side of the stream rise gradually and would be very easy of ascent, if it were not for so many boulders protruding from the ground.  All along the banks on both sides is an immense grove of very many varieties of trees.  Some are of unusual size.  I counted 43 red cedar trees in a row, two of them measured over eleven feet in circumference.  The shade is dense and almost impervious to the rays of a summer sun, and in the hottest weather the atmosphere is delightfully cool.  It is a spot one loves to linger in, and aside from its great beauty, there are associations connected with it, that makes it one of the interesting places in North Carolina.  It was settled upon by James Green, to whom it was a colonial grant.  His son, John Green, was a colonial military officer.  Upon the walls of the principal room in the dwelling, hang two portraits, one of John Green attired in a military coat of red cloth; the other is a portrait of his wife, Mary, who in her day was beautiful, as her portrait informed me.  The foundation of the building is a shell rock wall rising to a height of 6 feet, laid in mortar which is now as hard as the hardest granite, unlike the contract mortar so freely used in New Berne.  The building and kitchen were erected in 1763 as recorded on the kitchen chimney top, and upon an iron slab in the back of one of the fire places in the dwelling.  The fire place in the dwelling is very large, will take a stick of wood 4½ feet in length;  the fireplace in the kitchen is twice as large as the one in the dwelling.  I visited the grave yard near the house, and read the following inscriptions:

James Green died Oct. 4th, 1788, aged 78.
His wife, Mary, died 1780, aged 80.
Holland Green, consort of Furnifold Green, died May 15th, 1765, aged 29 years.

Not long since I was searching the old records of Beaufort county, in the court house in the town of Washington, I found the name of Furnifold Green, spelled as I have written it, to whom was granted a tract of land in payment for having brought some immigrants into the country in the year 1697.  The entry was made in the town of Bath (then containing 12 houses) some time in the year 1706, five years before New Berne was settled by De Graffenreid.  I have no doubt that he was the ancestor of both James and Furnifold Green, both buried in the above mentioned grave yard.  He was a man of note during the settlement of the State, and judging from the numerous grants of land recorded in his name, many of them on the Neuse River, he was a very large landed proprietor.  John Green, though an officer of the crown, soon became a rebel of some note, unfortunately he was stricken with the palsey, consequently debarred from much service in the field.  It is related of him, that while his farm was raided by a band of tories in search of liquor, under the command of one Cox, whom he had brought up from a boy, his body servant came in the house and told him that the commanding officer was Cox.  The old gentleman became so angry that, lame as he was, he seized his stick, limped down the high steps, and made his way to the cellar door, entered, and in the face of the entire band of tories belabored Cox with his cane, and in language more forcible than polite expressed his opinion of him.  What was the language used tradition has not informed us, but the reader may rest assured that it was sufficiently strong, as he lived in a swearing age.  John Green lies buried under the Episcopal church in this town.  He was grandfather of Judge George Green, Mr. Cicero Green and Mrs. Elizabeth Green.  His wife was Lydia Cogdell, whose sister, Mrs. John Wright Stanly, was mother of the distinguished John Stanly whose remains lie in Cedar Grove cemetery near the entrance in a lot surrounded by a shell-rock wall.  I neglected to state that the 9th township in which Mr. Green's farm is situated is the best township in the county of Craven.   H.

The grove and spring at Clear Springs, photo by Bayard Wootten, 1907.