The earliest engraved North Carolina town plan is that of New Bern by Jonathan Price. The map was engraved by the local silversmith, Allen Fitch, who advertised it “ready for delivery” as early as the August 30, 1817, issue of the Carolina Federal Republican (New Bern, NC).
The first state of this copper plate engraving included vignettes of four prominent New Bern structures: The Academy [upper left corner], New Bern Bank [left of title], State Bank [right of title], and Christ Church [lower right corner]. An example of this first state is in the collection of Tryon Palace Historic Sites & Gardens and can be seen here.
The NC Map Blog is very grateful to Victor T. Jones, Jr., Head of Special Collections at New Bern-Craven County Public Library, for the following historical background for Price’s town plan:
The Minutes of the Town Council, 1797-1825 (the earliest surviving minute book for New Bern) has as follows:
“The Commissioners met April 26th 1809—Present John Jones, Samuel Simpson, John Sears…
The following Order made on the 14th inst. was directed to be inserted here.—
Ordered that Jonathan Price be requested to run off and survey the Town of Newbern and to establish such corners of squares, as near the original plan of said town, as possible—and that he make return of such survey to the Commissioners.”
Almost a year later, the minutes have the following entry:
“At a Meeting of the Commissioners the 22d April 1810 present John Jones, John Sears & Henry M. Cooke
Ordered that Jonathan Price be paid the Sum of Two hundred & fifty dollars for his Services in Surveying the Town—fixing the Corner Stones, making two plans of the town, with notes &c.”
After Jonathan Price’s death in May 1822, his meager estate was sold at auction on September 25, 1822. Joseph Bell, executor, purchased the New Bern town plan copper plate for $10. Bell had two new vignettes added to the plate, the Presbyterian Church, completed early in 1822, and the new Christ Church, completed in 1824. An example of this second state is in the North Carolina Collection at UNC and can be seen here.
In early 1859, the General Assembly enacted a law extending the town limits of New Bern. The legislation made several references to Jonathan Price’s earlier town plan, including:
Sec. 2. Be it further enacted, That the commissioners
of the town of Newbern shall, within six months after the
ratification of this act, employ a competent surveyor to
plant stones at each and every corner of the town limits ta-
ken in by the foregoing section, and shall cause to be desig-
nated on one of the plans of said town (made by Jonathan
Price) the lines corresponding to the aforesaid limits…
There was obviously a need at this later date for copies of Price’s plan of the town. That may have been the impetus for this antebellum lithographic facsimile:
This particular copy has a handwritten letter on the verso, addressed to someone in Boston, from First Lt. Charles A. Folsom of the 24th Regiment of Massachusetts:
This is a plate of a beautiful town which is connected with the results of our late battle. Trophies were numerous but the most vigilent [sic] ones got them.
Chas. A. Folsom
New Bern, N.C.
Mar. 15. 62
The Battle of New Bern occurred the previous day, March 14, 1862. In a post-script, Folsom referred to the map as a memento from the battle of Fort “Dixie”. Fortunately, this beautiful map has since found its way back home to “Dixie”.