Princeville unveils town museum

September 19, 2009 5:17:49 PM PDT
The country's oldest town charted by freed African Americans unveiled its new history museum Saturday.The museum is at the old Princeville grade school from 1863, which later became the town hall and now a museum and town welcome center.

"This is an affirmation of people coming together and giving credence to this historical town that it shouldn't die," said Eva Clayton, former Congresswoman and keynote speaker during the museum's grand opening.

The 3,600 square foot space has many of its original features including the wooden floors and some of the masonry.

"This was the very first school for black people in this area," interim director of the Princeville museum Linda Worsley said."The bricks you see were made by carpenters in Princeville, the leathers, the ax the saws and everything is what they used to build with."

Former Princeville Mayor Ed Bridges donated his childhood water pump to the museum for display. Just 10 days shy of his 90th birthday; he's the town's oldest resident and historian.

"It brings back memories," he said. "We had been used to floods, from 1919, 1924, 1926, 1940, 1958."

It was the flood of 1999 that almost wiped Princeville off the map. The Tar River overflowed, virtually submerging the town for 10 consecutive days. So badly, the federal government wanted to buy out the property, but residents refused.

New homes and apartments around the town are evidence of a phoenix rising.

"The younger kids coming up, it gives them something to look forward to, to see where, you know, the things that we've come from, what we've been through and where we're headed," Princeville resident Ajia Hunter said. "I'm proud, I'm proud to be a Princevillian."

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