Interesting Facts about Johnston County


Johnston County was formed in 1746 from Craven County.  It is named for Gabriel Johnston, royal governor of North Carolina from 1734 to 1752.

Johnston's topography is characteristic of both the Coastal Plain and Piedmont because it lies almost wholly within the "fall zone" or transitional area between these two geographic regions.  The elevation ranges from 80 to 350 feet above sea level.  The Neuse River, which flows through the center of the county, is the main drainage system.

Johnston has nine incorporated towns.  However, 65 percent of the people live outside incorporated areas.  The population mix is 80 percent white and 20 percent non-white.

Johnston has a total labor force of 36,000, of which 13 percent is in farming, 39 percent in manufacturing and 48 percent in service and other non-manufacturing jobs.

Johnston has 27 industries with 20 or more employees, most of which have opened since the 1950s.  These industries include processors of food and grain products and manufacturers of textiles, pharmaceuticals, furniture and electronic products.

Johnston has 249,000 acres of forestland and 222,000 acres of cropland and pastures.  Tobacco, corn and soybeans are major field crops.  Tobacco is grown on 2,400 farms and provides $35 million in gross income.  About 70,000 acres of both corn and soybeans are grown annually.

Hogs, beef cattle and poultry are the major forms of livestock.  Traditionally, hog production has been the major livestock enterprise; however, the poultry industry is increasing.  Turkey production accounts for the major portion of poultry income.

Johnston is the nation's top sweet potato producing county, accounting for 10 percent of the total U.S. production.  Often referred to as "yams," sweet potatoes are produced on 10,000 acres of land and gross over $16 million for growers.

Other significant fruits and vegetables are pickling cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, leafy greens, strawberries, and peaches.  Containerized nursery stock and greenhouse flowers are significant enterprises, generating $8.5 million.

Water is abundant although there are times each year when drought conditions occur.  Along with the Neuse River and its tributaries, the county has over 3,500 farm ponds.  Rainfall averages 50 inches per year, and farmers can count on an average of 200 frost-free days.

Johnston citizens are proud of their county's heritage and beauty.  Benson celebrates Mule Days the fourth weekend in September.  Kenly holds the Tobacco Festival the fourth weekend in June and is home to the Tobacco Museum of North Carolina.  Selma celebrates Railroad Days the first weekend in October.  Each April, Smithfield challenges its sister city of Smithfield, Virginia, at a Ham and Yam Festival for the right to be called the "Ham Capital of the World."

Johnston County was formed in 1746 from Craven County.  It is named for Gabriel Johnston, royal governor of North Carolina from 1734 to 1752.

Johnston County, North Carolina offers great connections to history, entertainment, dining, lodging, and outlet shopping, along with a generous helping of true southern hospitality. Located midway between New York and Florida on I-95 and at the cross-roads of I-95 and I-40, Johnston County connects the nation's North and South with East and West. Its location places it only a two-hour drive from Atlantic Coast Beaches and a four-hour drive from the Blue Ridge Mountains.

History of Johnston County page from the Heritage Center.  More information about Johnston County history can be found at the Johnston County Heritage Center.


Johnston County is home to eleven towns, listed in order of size:  Clayton, Smithfield (county seat since 1771), Selma, Benson, Archer Lodge, Kenly, Four Oaks, Pine Level, Princeton, Wilson's Mills, and Micro.


The Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site is the location of the last major battle of the Civil War and the largest military engagement ever fought on North Carolina soil. Atkinson's Mill is a working gristmill dating back 240 years. The Tobacco Farm Life Museum preserves an authentic slice of eastern North Carolina's rural heritage. The Ava Gardner Museum celebrates the career of the film legend who was born and raised near Smithfield. The Johnston County Heritage Center preserves the history and material culture of Johnston County with an exceptional collection of materials that includes 2,000 books, 800 reels of microfilm, 300 maps and atlases, 50,000 photographic images, 400 private collections of books and papers, and vertical files on genealogy, biography, and local history. Shoppers far and wide visit the 75 discount outlets and shops at Factory Stores of America in Smithfield. For more information about what to see and do in Johnston County, see the Johnston County Visitors Bureau web site.


Operating under the philosophy that every child can learn when a school system respects the individuality of each learner, Johnston County Schools structures their curriculum, programs, and staff to foster a flame for learning within every child that will last a lifetime. In the elementary schools, children learn by hands-on observation, a literature-based reading program, and a process-oriented writing program. In the middles, core academic teacher teams, teacher-based guidance programs, and exploratory curriculum courses strive to make use of the best features of both elementary and high school programs to serve this unique age group.

Since 1969 Johnston Community College has been providing an affordable higher education alternative that has helped thousands of the region's adult population become better equipped for the job market, while also providing a means for local citizens to earn high school diplomas and learn special skills to improve their quality of life. The college transfer program helps many young people cut the often insurmountable costs of a college education and at the same time ease the transition from high school to a four-year college.


The communities of Johnston County have many things in common--a relaxed atmosphere and friendly people. From community festivals to sporting events, Johnston County is a kaleidoscope of unique sights, sounds, ideas and experiences complemented by a colorful array of rural and small-town history and culture.

North Carolina Trivia Facts


Census Bureau information on Johnston County

Census History of Johnston County Towns

Census History of Johnston County Townships


How to find more information about Johnston County.




Page last updated on:  September 7, 2023