PUBLISHED ONLINE JULY 11, 2019   •   VOL. 1, NO. 28

Stories and photos by Wingate Lassiter
unless otherwise noted

Feature: Holt Lake's man of wildlife
Sports & Recreation: River Rats & Wiffleballers
 Observations: We're in Top 10 for industrial incentives


Johnston's County Commissioners Monday received Moseley Architects' "schematic design" of the new Detention Center to be constructed off US 70 Business east of Smithfield. The architects said the idea is to make the facility's entrance look more like a commercial business office than a jail. They also noted that the building will be located on the back side of the property, which wraps around the John Deere dealership at the intersection of 70 Business and Yelverton Grove Road.

The architects estimate the "probable total project cost" at $45 million, including a 15% contingency since the start of construction is a year away. The 112,000-square-foot detention center will include 469 modular steel cells with support facilities like kitchen and laundry sized to accommodate 600 inmates in the future. Completion is projected in December 2021.

Sheriff Steve Bizzell told commissioners that average occupancy of the present Courthouse jail is 263 --- well beyond its ideal capacity. As a result, Johnston sends inmates to Sampson and Wayne counties for incarceration at a cost to the county of $50 per day, the sheriff noted.

Attorney at Law
102 S. Third St.



Benjamin Williams came of age in eastern Johnston County

He wasn't a "native son" since he was likely born in what is today Wayne County, but that shouldn't keep Johnston County from recognizing one of its own who served as Governor of the new State of North Carolina in 1798-1801 and again in 1807.

His name was Benjamin Williams, and he spent his formative years on his uncle's Woodbury Plantation in eastern Johnston County almost 10 miles from Smithfield.

An historical marker funded by the Johnston County Visitors Bureau under auspices of the Johnston County Heritage Center is being erected in the Governor's memory near the easternmost intersection of Grabtown and Brogden roads --- close to the site of his plantation home no longer standing.

A ceremony unveiling the Williams marker was held last Saturday inside the Smithfield Masonic Lodge (because of uncertain weather). Hosting the event was the Smith-Bryan Chapter of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), which helped pay for the marker. Chapter regent Gayenell Gull (at left in the photo) and state regent Carole Weiss handled the unveiling.

Heritage Center Director Todd Johnson talked about the man Benjamin Williams, whom he described as a product of North Carolina's "rugged aristocracy." Born in 1751, at age 23 he represented Johnston County in the state's First Provincial Congress that met in New Bern in 1774 "in open defiance of the British Crown." At age 24 he joined the 2nd N.C. Regiment and fought for the cause of Independence throughout the Revolutionary War, attaining the rank of colonel. In 1780 he represented Johnston in the new state's legislature.

He had moved his family to Moore County by the time he was elected Governor.

Adding historical context to Saturday's marker unveiling were musical performances by Gabrielle Langdon and Adam Young (pictured above) along with George Langdon --- of Johnston County's Camp Flintlock --- and a talk by Roy Timbs, interpreter from the House-in-the-Horseshoe State Historic Site in Moore County where Benjamin Williams spent the last years of his life. Deputy Secretary Kevin Cherry of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources also spoke.

"We do this to build community," Dr. Cherry said, "because history is a part of building community." He said his department over the years has erected more than 1,600 roadside historical markers throughout North Carolina --- 35 of them in Johnston County.

The Benjamin Williams marker is one of five being erected this summer by Johnston County to complement the state's markers. The others commemorate the Freedmen's Schoolhouse in Smithfield (erected 1868-69), Atkinson's Mill north of Selma (established in 1757), Hinton's Quarter courthouse site at Clayton (1759-1771), and site of the Catch-Me-Eye wartime munitions explosion at Selma in March of 1942.


Two incumbent councilmen file

for re-election

Stephen Rabil (pictured) was among the first in line at noon last Friday to file for municipal offices up for election in Johnston County November 5.

Mr. Rabil is seeking re-election to a second four-year term on the Smithfield Town Council.

Fellow Councilman John Dunn filed on Tuesday for re-election, also to a second term. The third Smithfield Council seat up for grabs this year is held by Emery Ashley, who has said he will not run again.

The three council seats are elected "at large" by all Smithfield voters rather than by districts, which means the top three finishers in the November 5 municipal election will begin four-year terms of service in December.

The filing deadline for candidates is noon Friday, July 19. All filings must be done at the Johnston County Board of Elections office at 205 South Second Street. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Smithfield Council advised to put more funding into stormwater management

An engineering consultant says the Town of Smithfield needs to step up its replacement of aging infrastructure as part of a plan to mitigate damage from flooding caused by a rising number of heavy-rain events....

READ MORE from Tuesday's monthly meeting of the Town Council>

US 301 South, Smithfield • 919-934-8913 •

Community Foundation awards $41,500

in public-service grants and scholarships

The board of advisors of the Johnston County Community Foundation recently awarded $41,500 in local grants and scholarships.

Grant recipients include the Johnston County Heritage Center, the Johnston County Animal Protection League, the Johnston County Arts Council, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, My Kid's Club, Episcopal Farmworker Ministry, Harbor Inc., Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, the Partnership for Children, and several other community-service programs.

College scholarships were awarded from several named endowments to seven students:
Michael Aguilar, Brooke Burns, Lindsay Hall, Ashlyn Hogg, Nathan Kiser, Hasana Muhammad, and Linda Nurrito.

READ the complete list of grant recipients on the foundation's website>

  real-estate broker


Gonna be a zany weekend in Smithfield!

The town's Parks and Recreation Department is hosting the 2nd annual "River Rat Regatta" Saturday afternoon, and the North Carolina Wiffle Ball Tournament on Saturday and Sunday. READ MORE>

A rundown of upcoming civic and cultural opportunities in our community
that we've been told about or seen publicized in other media:

MUSIC FOR THE LUNCH BUNCH SERIES continues on Wednesday, July 17 at 12:15 p.m. at Smithfield's First Presbyterian Church with a performance by pianist Dexter Ruffin. View the full series schedule>

monthly outdoor concert series continues on Friday, July 19 from 7:00 till 9:30 p.m. on South Third Street with "beach music" by Jim Quick & Coastline.

"BIRDS, BEES, BUTTERFILES," a symposium on "Growing a Pollinator Garden," will be hosted by Johnston County Extension's Master Gardener volunteers on Saturday, September 14 from 8:30 a.m. till 4:00 p.m. at the Johnston County Agricultural Center. For more information, e-mail;
to register, visit




Each week we'll post links to obituaries about persons who have died during the past week. We'll monitor the websites of local funeral homes to compile our list, and we welcome links provided by readers to obituaries of persons with Smithfield connections who have died outside our immediate area.