The conjunction of the Portsmouth & Roanoke Railroad and the Blackwater River in 1835 made this site, then a swampy wilderness, a natural link between the towns of the Chowan and Albemarle Sound and points to the northeast. The railroad, later known as the Seaboard & Roanoke and the Seaboard Line, transported people and goods between Norfolk and the Blackwater Depot, then on the east bank of the River. Beginning in 1836, steamboats, including the Bravo, the Fox, the Stag, and the Curlew, carried them between Blackwater Depot and Edenton on the Blackwater and Chowan rivers. This commerce encouraged the growth of a village, known by 1838 as Franklin Depot, on the Southampton side of the Blackwater. By the early 1860s Franklin had a depot, a warehouse, a steamboat landing, steamboat lines, a sawmill, a general store, a school, churches, and a popular hotel owned by Richard and Mary Rebecca Murfee Barrett.
"On approaching ... [the Blackwater] station... one looks in vain for the promised steamboat that is to convey him to Edenton. ... Anon, a blowing and fizzing draws his attnetion to... a white column of steam rising from the midst of the forest, and [he] follows a narrow path... [to] a very promising steamboat. Then, looking over her stern, he sees the Blackwater River, a narrow, black ditch, embanked with tangled bushes and cypress knees, and over-arched completely with trees clothed in vines and hanging moss. The stream being barely wide enough to float the boat, she is obliged to crab her way... [backwards] for a considerable distance, her... sides butting the cypress knees, and her wheel-houses raked by the overhanging boughs."
David H. Strother ("Porte Crayon"), 1856
"River Lawn", 1910. Occupied by the Bogart family, this home was built by William Murfee at the end of South Street in 1848.
Captain Thomas I. Burbage (X) and crew. Captain Burbage, a well-known master of steamers on the Blackwater, started Riddick and Burbage, a steamboat line, in partnership with Abram Riddick in 1859. Burbage later worked for the Albemarle Steam Navigation Company.
The Franklin freight station was built in 1857 when the railroad moved its depot to the Franklin side of the Blackwater.
The Neely sawmill. John Frisbee started this mill in 1856. The Neely brothers, from Pennsylvania, bought Frisbee out in the late 1850s and operated here - except during the War - until the Camps bought them out in 1887.
Elliot L. Story, a lifelong citizen of Southampton County, kept a store in Franklin during the 1850s.
Deck of the Stag at Blackwater Depot, drawn by artist David Strother when he took the Stag from Franklin to Edenton in 1856.