The American Civil War history in Johnston County is centered on Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site near Four Oaks. Bentonville was the largest land battle fought in North Carolina and the last major Confederate offensive of the war. In addition to this site, visitors interested in Civil War heritage should consider taking a drive along the Carolina Campaign Driving Tour which includes stops at the Historic Hastings House and Johnston County Courthouse in Smithfield featuring several military statues and monuments. From Smithfield the drive heads to Selma’s Historic Union Train Station and to downtown Clayton, where markers note negotiations here saved the state capital in Raleigh from destruction.
The county offers several heritage museums including the Johnston County Heritage Center noted for its genealogy room, the Benson Museum of Local History which chronicles the life of area farmers and merchants, and the Tobacco Farm Life Museum, which pays tribute to the heritage of the Eastern North Carolina farm family. All are showcasing the history of rural Johnston County and its people with exhibits, educational programs and special events.
Throughout the year each museum hosts special events and programs you will find educational for the entire family. Bentonville Battlefield hosts programs four times a year, so be sure to check the events calendar for dates and details.
Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site
This state historic site offers the visitor center with a 20 minute video, civil war exhibits with a fiber optic map of the three day battle, tours of the Harper House, which became a Union field hospital, and trails around the site of union earthworks. Bentonville Battlefield is the largest Civil War site in North Carolina, with more that 1,600 acres preserved with help from the Civil War Trust and the Friends of Bentonville Battlefield groups. To support the battlefield preservation, the Friends group has memberships available, visit www.FOBB.net
Tobacco Farm Life Museum
A 6,000 sq. foot exhibit gallery displays artifacts from all aspects of farm life, along with a hands-on children's exhibit, household goods, musical instruments, clothing, and agricultural tools. A restored farmstead, with main house, detached kitchen, smoke house, tobacco barn, working blacksmith shop, 1890's one room school house and reproduction pack house depicts rural life as it was during the Great Depression era.· The gift shop offers souvenirs and hand-crafted items. For more information, visit www.tobaccofarmlifemuseum.org
Benson Museum of Local History
This new museum opened in 2010 in a convenient location on Main Street with new exhibits to interpret the history of the Benson community and surrounding farming areas of McGee's Crossroads, Elevation and Meadow Township. Visitors to the museum will find several "rooms" of artifacts based on the following themes: History of Benson, Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, Benson Country Store, Military History, Country Doctor's Exhibit, Farming Exhibits, Working in the Kitchen and Home, Benson Singing Convention, Benson Mule Days and Local Benson Artists.
Learn more about this historic rail town and farming community on their website: Benson Museum of Local History
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