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How did the town of Weldon get its name?

Ben Steelman
Railroad bridge

The old swing bridge over the Northeast Cape Fear River that used to carry the Wilmington & Weldon trains. (StarNews file photo)

Weldon, an historic railroad town on the Roanoke River in Halifax County, N.C., goes back a long way.

It appears on the Collet map of 1770 as “Weldans,” and according to The North Carolina Gazetteer was known as “Weldon’s Orchard” or Weldon’s Place in the early 1800s – apparently for Daniel Weldon, whose family owned the property. It was incorporated as a town in 1843.

Hailed as “the toll-gate of North Carolina,” Weldon prospered in the early 1800s, thanks to its location near the terminus of the Roanoke Canal. In 1833 the Petersburg Rail Road linked the town to Virginia and in 1837, the Portsmouth and Roanoke Rail Road added another link.

In 1835, the Wilmington & Raleigh Rail Road amended its charter to move its northern terminus from Raleigh to Weldon; the line would later change its name to the Wilmington & Weldon. (The story is exhaustively detailed in James C. Burke’s book, “The Wilmington & Raleigh Rail Road Company, 1833-1854.”)

During the Civil War, the Wilmington & Weldon would become of vital strategic importance to the Confederacy, linking the capital, Richmond, with its last open Atlantic port at Wilmington.

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