The Revolutionary War is over, and Cornelius Harnett’s widow sells off tracts of the family estate known as Poplar Grove…
In 1795, James Foy, Jr., son of Captain James Foy, Sr. of Onslow County, who also served with Colonel Henry Rhodes at Moore’s Creek Battlefield, has just purchased 628 acres of land from Francis Clayton, who had purchased the land in 1784 from the recently widowed, Mary Harnett, wife of Cornelius Harnett. The acreage is located on Topsail Sound in New Hanover County, including the northern banks of Figure Eight Island.
James Foy, Jr., newly married to Henrietta Rhodes of Onslow County, and daughter of Colonel Henry Rhodes, built the couple’s home close to the sound to more easily transport goods via boats and water barges to the port of Wilmington, since the arduous trip by road took about twelve hours round trip.
Ownership passed to James’ son, Joseph Mumford Foy, in 1838. When a fire destroyed the homestead, Joseph M. Foy selected this current location because of its proximity to the Old New Bern Road. Construction began circa 1850. The Manor House was designed by Joseph, an amateur architect, in the popular Greek-Revival Style, mixing earlier Federal Style flourishes. The home is 4,284 square feet, with twelve fireplaces, two pairs of corbelled interior chimneys, eight principle rooms, and a full basement.
Belonging to a larger planter class in the community of Scotts Hill and Wilmington, Joseph Mumford Foy owned fifty-nine slaves in 1860. Although rice plantations along the Cape Fear River brought economic prosperity, and everywhere within the region thousands of farmers owed their livelihoods to the ‘golden leaf,’ tobacco, the Foy family owed its financial success to planting and harvesting the lowly peanut.
Joseph Mumford Foy pioneered peanut production in antebellum coastal North Carolina. On nearby Porters Neck Plantation, planter, Nicholas Nixon and his workers invented a steam-powered thresher, making the peanut crop more profitable for area planters. Both Foy and Nixon wrote numerous articles on scientific farming and peanut cultivation.
‘… goodness how delicious, … eatin’ goober peas …’
Just a few minutes north of Wilmington, North Carolina, Poplar Grove was a self-sustaining plantation, including a sawmill, brickyard, grist mill, salt works, turpentine still, a blacksmith’s forge and skilled slave artisans. Today, the Manor House and grounds echo the cultural and economic structure of the planter class and the beginning of the New South in the form of tenant farming and emancipation.
Providing guided Manor House tours, demonstrations, exhibits, and community events, Poplar Grove Plantation seeks to bridge social ties in the region through its mission to promote conservation, education, and preservation.
Poplar Grove Foundation, Inc., strives to provide culturally rich and sustainable educational programs and exhibits that celebrates and cultivates mutual respect and understanding in a diverse and every-changing society. Come see us changing!