Johnston County Look Back – March 1919, 1969 And 1994

What Happened 25 – 50 – 100 Years Ago This Month

By: Ben Sanderford

March 1994 – 25 Years Ago

A fire burned down an unfinished house in the Glen Laurel Subdivision of Clayton belonging to Hubert Avery, a teacher at South Johnston High School. Police Chief Paul Keen suspected arson because the house had no electrical connections.

Sheriff Freddy Narron announced the creation of a Civil Division within the Johnston County Sheriff’s Department.

The Clayton Town Council approved a $79,175 plan to build a diversion line in order to prevent a manhole on Pond Street from overflowing in wet weather.

Selma Middle School was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The Selma Town Council presented to District Attorney Tom Lock evidence of illegal behavior at the nightclub known as Buck’s Place. Many people wanted the establishment closed for creating a public nuisance.

Police Captain Donald Miller became acting chief of the Benson police force.

The Kenly Town Council passed a noise ordinance intended to punish users of harsh language, players of loud music, and owners of constantly barking dogs, among others. Disturbers of the peace could expect to be fined up to $50 and jailed for 30 days.

March 1969 – 50 Years Ago

In March 1969 the Smithfield Herald front page shows members of the Johnston County Civic Center Foundation depart for a tour of community buildings and recreational facilities in Western North Carolina to gather ideas for a planned Civic Center in the Smithfield-Selma area. The Civic Center was never built.

The Johnston County Agricultural Extension Service announced plans to increase its efforts to educate low-income families. Nutrition featured prominently.

Specialist Four Arthur Watson of Smithfield, killed in action in Vietnam the previous August, posthumously received the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Purple Heart. The awards were presented to his mother, Mrs. Mattie Sanders.

A sleet and snow storm in Johnston County claimed the life of a Smithfield woman in a head on collision on Cleveland Road.

The government of Smithfield received a petition from 34 residents requesting that the Planning and Zoning Board block the possible construction of a “drive-in hamburger restaurant.”

Johnston County Board of Education member Dr. Donnie H. Jones, Jr. proposed that the county should supplement the salaries of principals in order to attract candidates with at least a Ph.D.

The Johnston County Civic Center Foundation organized a tour of community buildings and recreational facilities in western North Carolina by a group of “idea hunters” seeking inspiration for a planned civic center in the Smithfield-Selma area. It was never built.

Police Officer Myral “Red” Mizell of Kenly died after a train struck his car.

An unknown bomber detonated an explosive device in front of the home of Archie Artis, a African American man living ten miles south of Smithfield near Strickland’s Crossroads. No one was injured, but the house suffered damage.

March 1919 – 100 Years Ago

Ernest Stewart, a teenager, was sentenced to two years in jail and to be worked on the roads of Smithfield Township for attempting to shoot Dexter Barnes of Benson.

The Bethel community was declared free of influenza after no new cases were reported in weeks.

The Atlantic Coast Realty Company held an auction of the Godwin farm, midway between Selma and Kenly.

Judge F.H. Brooks delivered a tribute to Edwin Smith Pou, who was killed in action during the First World War, describing him as a “true patriotic American.”

Robert Waddell of Selma returned home after serving with the U.S. Army in Europe.

Fred Batten was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Charley Fleming. He was sentenced to twelve months of work on Smithfield’s roads.

The Smithfield Herald received a letter from a Johnston County soldier serving in France complaining that the prohibitionists were taking advantage of the absence of his comrades, many of whom did not support prohibition.

Revs. A.T. Lassiter of Benson and D.M. McGeachy of Oakland visited Smithfield Presbyterian Church as part of a fund raising campaign for missionary and educational work.