According to the WPA guide to North Carolina, originally published in 1939, Negro Head Road was the local name for a stretch of what is now U.S. 117, formerly known as “Wilmington Road.”
“In the Duplin County jail, in September 1831, Dave Morisy, a Negro, was incarcerated for fomenting a plot in which insurgent slaves were to murder all the white people between Kenansville and Wilmington,” the Guide reported (in period language). The plotters then supposedly planned to head south to Smithville (now Southport) and seize Fort Caswell. This incident occurred about the time of the Nat Turner Rebellion in Virginia, when slave plots — real or imagined — were being “discovered” all through the South.
“The revelation of the plot caused intense excitement,” the WPA Guide continued. “Some 15 Negroes were arrested , and prominent citizens asked Gov. Montfort Stokes for militia to guard the jail. Morisy confessed, implicating David Hicks, a Negro preacher. The two were convicted and publicly hanged. Their heads were cut off and placed on poles at highway intersections, and slaves were marched past by to gaze upon them. Morisy’s head was placed on the Wilmington Road …”
Negro Head Road is not to be confused with Negro Head Point Road, which ran by the Moore’s Creek battlefield in what is now Pender County. Point Peter, at the junction of the Cape Fear River and Northeast Cape Fear River, was known as “Negro Head Point” prior to 1780. The abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld, in his book “American Negro Slavery As It Is,” claimed that slaves’ heads had been exhibited on poles near this location shortly after the Turner Rebellion, giving the spot its name. Public records, however, indicate that the name “Negro Head Point” had been used in colonial times, decades before Nat Turner’s uprising.
Date posted: May 27, 2009