Archeologists have found evidence that this area was inhabited as far back as 10,000 years ago. No detailed study of these inhabitants has been made, so very little is known of whom they were and from where they came.
At the time of the first European contact, this area was inhabited by the Tuscarora Indians. Early maps of this area show the Indian village of "TOSNEOC." Archeologists making impact surveys have found the remains of several hunting camps.
Settlers leaving the overworked fields of Virginia moved generally southwestward into the lands of North Carolina . Europeans moved generally up the rivers and smaller streams into the Tuscarora held territory. The relationship between the newcomers and the Indians degenerated in a few years from friendship to open hostility and then to war.
In September 1711 the Tuscarora attacked the towns of Bath and New Bern and outlying homes, killing over 135 people and capturing others. At the request of North Carolina , South Carolina sent armed forces that finally defeated the Indians at Fort Nohoroco on Contentnea Creek in what is now Greene County . The Indians moved north leaving the area open for settlement.
The earliest settlement in the nearby area was at the confluence of Town Creek with the Tar River at Old Sparta in 1720. Shortly following there was a settlement up the Tar River at Tarborough.
The earliest recorded land ownership in what is now Wilson County was in 1730 when Lewis Conner of Norfolk County , Virginia patented 10,000 acres on Toisnot Swamp . The present day landfill site is part of this almost 4 miles square tract.
Other early landowners are listed in Early Landowners of Wilson County by Hugh B. Johnston. Included in these families is the Thomas family from whom Mr. Johnston descends. He lives on land that the family has owned and lived on for over 240 years.
The population grew as immigrants moved in along the waterways of Contentnea and Toisnot. Landings were established along Contentnea as far up as Cobbs Mill (now called Wiggins Mill). Inspection stations were established at several of these landings to be certain that the farm products and naval stores were of proper quality to be shipped to points downstream. Merchants and individuals used the landings as points at which to receive the materials not produced locally.
The earliest agriculture was, of course, subsistence farming. Probably the crops were the same products, beans, peas, corn, pumpkins and squash as grown by the Indians. The money crop was tobacco until the Revolution. It then changed to cotton.
The earliest industries were the grist mills and saw mills, the turpentine distilleries and other facilities for the production of naval stores.
By 1808, Capt. Thomas White had established a store on the present Tarboro Street near a community that forty years later became the town of Wilson . By 1814, Willie Stanton was selling lots in the town of Stantonsburg , a town incorporated in 1817. In 1839, the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad was built through those parts of Edgecombe and Wayne County that are now Wilson County establishing Bardin's Depot (now Black Creek), Toisnot (now Wilson) and Joyner's (now Elm city). In the latter part of the 19 th century other communities developed along the railroad.
In 1851, the plank road from Greenville to Wilson was built. For a brief period it added to Wilson 's economy. Shortly after the War Between the States, it had deteriorated so much that it was abandoned. Today, with improvement in the curves and some moving of rights-of-way, it is U.S. 264.
In 1906, the Raleigh and Pamlico Sound Railroad was Built. Building the railroad (now a part of the Southern System) revitalized the town of Stantonsburg and led to its rechartering, and the layout of the down of Evansdale (which ultimately did not materialize).
Wilson has always been noted as an education center, its first academy was chartered before the town or county. Wilson was in the forefront of the public school system and the graded school system. Under Charles L. Coon the consolidated school system became a reality. Today the merged school system with the updating of all the schools keeps Wilson a leader in education.
The medical profession and the legal profession have contributed to Wilson 's standing and growth. All departments of the city and the county have contributed fully to make Wilson "The Town To Tie To", and " Wilson : Where Worth Wins."