Merrimon Township in northern Carteret County was once a vast wilderness...and extremely hard to get to. Early on, there were no roads or bridges...only a few rivers and creeks.
The township’s northern boundary is the Neuse River. To get your bearings, Merrimon Township is almost directly south of Oriental in Pamlico County.
The western border of Merrimon Township is defined by Adams and Back creeks, and the eastern border is at Turnagain Bay.
The southern border, however, is a tad harder to define. It is a nondescript line that basically extends from the headwaters of the North River to the headwaters of the South River.
Carteret County’s premier historian and storyteller Rodney Kemp has a whole lecture lesson that explains why the North River flows south and the South River flows north.
“Perhaps it’s because when you go upriver on the North River, you are going north, and vice versa on the South River,” Kemp says. “Got it?”
Today, about 550 people live in Merrimon Township, mainly in the unincorporated villages of Merrimon and South River. Life is quiet and good here.
The village of Merrimon was first known as Adams Creek. The late Dollie C. Carraway, a Carteret County historian, said the settlement and the creek were likely named after Addam Fergason or Adam Lewis. Both men were listed as landowners as early as 1707.
When the U.S. post office was established in 1881 to serve the community, postmaster Edward F. Carraway decided to name the community Merrimon.
This was a tribute to a man Carraway admired most – Augustus Summerfield Merrimon of Asheville. (Merrimon served North Carolina as a U.S. Senator from 1873-79 and as Chief Justice of North Carolina’s Supreme Court from 1889 until his death in 1892.)
This is believed to be the only place in the United States that is named Merrimon. Interestingly, Merrimon Township started out in Craven County, but for some good reason, it was ceded to Carteret County in 1885.
More than a century later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came calling in 1910 to construct a 5-mile canal to connect Adams Creek to Core Creek, forming the first link of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), which now extends from Maine to Texas.
The ICW opened up waterway access from New Bern and Oriental on the Neuse River by way of the canal to Morehead City and Beaufort.
There’s just one road into Merrimon Township – from Beaufort about 19 miles due south – and the men living in the township built the road themselves and maintained it, best they could.
(The State of North Carolina assumed responsibility for highways and roads in 1921. It took highway engineers a long time to complete all the necessary projects.)
Dollie Carraway said Merrimon Road (Route 1300) was finally paved in 1950. The short stretch from Merrimon to South River (Route 1318) was “hard-topped” in 1954.
Sadly, the Merrimon post office was closed in 1957, and residents of Merrimon Township are now included in the 28516 zip code (Beaufort).
Technically, Merrimon Township “doesn’t qualify” to be part of Down East Carteret County.
The traditional boundary of Down East has been the North River Bridge on U.S. Route 70. All the waterfront communities on the eastern side of the bridge, extending to Cedar Island, are officially Down East.
The communities of Merrimon and South River are essentially buffered from Down East by the 57,000-acre Open Grounds Farm, the largest farm east of the Mississippi River.