Kinston is an All-American City award winning city in Lenoir County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 21,677 at the 2010 Census. It has been the county seat of Lenoir County since its formation in 1791 . Kinston is located in North Carolina's Inner Banks region.
Kinston is home of the N.C. Global TransPark (GTP), a combined airport and industrial complex developed by the state in Lenoir County; Grainger Stadium, home to the Kinston Indians minor league baseball team through 2011; Caswell Center, a campus providing support services and boarding for mentally handicapped; and Lenoir Memorial Hospital. Kinstons' Bill Fay Park is home to the Annual Allen Pearson Foundation Softball Tournament held each year annually during the first weekend in October. Annual festivities in Kinston include the Sand in the Streets concert series held at Pearson Park, the popular train rides, nature center, and planetarium located at Neuseway Park, and the Festival on the Neuse.
In 2009, it was announced that Kinston is a recipient of the prestigious All-America City Award. This marks the second time in twenty years the city has won the title, the last time being in 1988.
At the time of English settlement, the area was inhabited by the Neusiok Indians. Preceding the historic tribe, indigenous peoples of a variety of cultures had lived in the area for thousands of years. Before the English colonists established the city, they called the area Atkins Bank, referring to a bluff once owned by Robert Atkins just above the Neuse River. Atkins Bank was the site of farms, a tobacco warehouse, and a Church of England mission.
Kinston was created by an act of the North Carolina General Assembly in December of 1762 as Kingston, in honor of King George III who had just recently ascended to the throne. The bill to incorporate it was introduced by Richard Caswell, who made his home there and later served as the first Governor of the State of North Carolina from 1776 to 1780. After victory in the American Revolution, the citizens renamed the city Kinston in 1784 to show the population's disavowal of royalty. In 1833, Kinston briefly became Caswell, in honor of governor Richard Caswell, but the name was reverted to Kinston the following year.
Commissioners appointed to design the town began to accept "subscriptions" for numbered lots. To keep a lot, subscribers were required to build brick homes of specific dimensions within three years or lose their rights to the property. The town was laid out with border streets named East, North, and South, with the western border the Neuse River. The two principal roads within these borders were named for King George and Queen Charlotte. They remain King and Queen Street to this day. Other streets were named in honor of Governor Dobbs (later renamed Independent Street) and the commissioners.
Throughout this period, Kinston was an unincorporated town. It finally became incorporated through an act of the legislature in January 1849. Following incorporation, the population grew rapidly. In 1850, the population was estimated at 455 people, and just ten years later, it had more than doubled to over one thousand.
During the onset of the American Civil War, Camp Campbell and Camp Johnston were established near the city as training camps, and a bakery on Queen Street was converted to produce hardtack in large quantities. There was also a factory for the production of shoes for the military located in Kinston. The Battle of Kinston took place in and around the city on December 14, 1862.
The Battle of Wyse Fork aka 'Battle of Southwest Creek' (March 7–10, 1865) also occurred very near the city. It was at this later battle that the Confederate Ram Neuse was scuttled to avoid capture by Union troops. Remnants of the ship have been salvaged, and are on display at Richard Caswell Park on West Vernon Ave. A climate-controlled museum is currently under construction on downtown Queen Street, with plans to move the hulk there to prevent further deterioration of the original ship's remains. A full-scale replica vessel (Ram Neuse II) has been constructed near the original's resting place (known as the "Cat's Hole") beside the bank of the Neuse River on Heritage St. in Kinston. Union Army forces occupied the city following the battle.
United States troops were assigned to the area through the Reconstruction period.
Despite the hardships of war and Reconstruction, the population of the city continued to grow. By 1870, the population had increased to eleven hundred people and grew to more than seventeen hundred within a decade.
During the late nineteenth century, there was expansion into new areas of industry, most notably the production of horse-drawn carriages. Kinston also became a major tobacco and cotton trading center. By the start of the twentieth century, more than five million pounds of tobacco were being sold annually in Kinston's warehouses. Along with the growth in population and industry was a growth in property values. Some parcels increased in value more than fivefold within a twenty-year period.
New industries were founded, including lumber and cotton mills, as North Carolina businessmen invested in processing their own crops. Professional sports was introduced in the form of a minor league baseball team. Later growth would come in the form of a Du Pont plant for the manufacture of polyester fibers, and manufacturing plants for pharmaceuticals. Growth finally slowed following the 1960s, with the shift in textile production overseas. Efforts to reinvigorate the economy through various means have had limited success.