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"Plantation established by Richard Bennehan in 1776. Later a part of vast holdings of the Cameron family. House is 7 miles northeast."      Richard Bennehan, a Virginia merchant, traveled to North Carolina in 1768 to manage William Johnston’s Little River Store several miles west of present-day Stagville. The store provided the community with dry goods, banking, and post office services. Bennehan invested in the surrounding land where he raised tobacco, grains, and livestock. His marriage to Mary Amis in 1775 would produce two children, Rebecca and Thomas.
In 1787, Bennehan bought what would become the heart of his growing plantation from local widow Judith Stagville. Soon after this purchase, he built a handsome Georgian-style plantation house that featured details such as window glass ordered from England. Before Bennehan’s death in 1825, Stagville Plantation encompassed over 3,900 acres. He contributed to the development of the state by serving as one of the five commissioners charged with establishing Raleigh as the state capital and by aiding in the establishment of the University of North Carolina.
Shortly after Bennehan’s daughter Rebecca married Hillsborough lawyer Duncan Cameron in 1803, Bennehan and his son-in-law formed a partnership that eventually created one of the largest plantation systems in the antebellum South. At its peak in 1860, the Bennehan-Cameron landholdings totaled 30,000 acres over four counties. Their mutual holdings included multiple outbuildings, stores, mills, blacksmith shops, tanneries and distilleries and approximately 900 slaves.
Cameron, whose future accomplishments included a judgeship in the Superior Court, the presidency of the State Bank and the establishment of Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, built a home for his family one mile south of Stagville and named it Fairntosh. When Bennehan’s unmarried son Thomas died in 1847, Stagville passed to the Cameron family, while his nephew Paul inherited the combined estate. Paul Cameron’s progressive farming techniques insured the continued success of the plantation into the next generation. After his death, the estate passed through his heirs until the 1950s when Stagville left the family’s hands. In 1954, Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company bought Stagville and farmed the land until the company donated Stagville to the State of North Carolina in 1976.
Before the Civil War, most of the slaves at Stagville lived at Horton Grove, an area of the plantation that received its name from a pre-Revolutionary house purchased from William Horton in 1823. The adjacent surviving slave quarters are of a rare two-story, four-room design and were built by slaves between 1851 and 1860. Another significant building that testifies to the skills of the enslaved craftsmen is “the great barn” built in 1860. Today, Historic Stagville, operated as a historic site by the North Carolina Office of Archives and History is nationally recognized as an invaluable historical resource in educating the public about North Carolina’s agrarian and African American past.
Jean Bradley Anderson, Piedmont Plantation: The Bennehan-Cameron Family and Lands in North Carolina (1985)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 136-137, 309-311—sketches of Richard Bennehan, Bennehan Cameron, Duncan Cameron, and Paul Cameron by Charles Richard Sanders
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina, 1068-1009—entry by Kenneth McFarland
Historic Stagville website: http://www.historicstagvillefoundation.org
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
North Carolina Civil War Historical Markers.