north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     With several partners, Josiah Collins Sr. (1735-1819) in 1785 formed a company to, with slave labor, drain and open for farming the lands around Lake Phelps (discovered in 1755 and formerly known as Lake Scuppernong). Initially rice was Collins’s principal crop; the switch was made to corn to avoid diseases among the slaves. Collins left the plantation to his grandson but his son Josiah Jr. (1763-1839) maintained the farm until the grandson was of age. Josiah III (1808-1863) married in 1829 and shortly thereafter began construction of the present large mansion house. Visitors such as Edmund Ruffin were impressed by both the elegant home life and advanced agricultural methods. Sen. Willie P. Mangum pronounced Somerset Place the “finest estate in North Carolina.”

     In 1860 Collins owned 14,500 acres (2,000 improved) and 328 slaves. Collins died in 1863. The family, devastated by the economic changes wrought by the war, sold the property in 1870 to cover debts. Restoration work on the main house began in 1951. Today the house, outbuildings, and grounds are operated by the Office of Archives and History as a state historic site. In recent years reunions of Collins family members and of the descendants of slaves who worked on the plantation have brought considerable attention to the site.

William S. Tarlton, “Somerset Place and Its Restoration” (1954)
Dorothy Spruill Redford, Somerset Homecoming: Recovering a Lost Heritage (1988)
Wayne K. Durrill, War of Another Kind: A Southern Community in the Great Rebellion (1990)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 404-440 – sketches by A. C. Menius III
1860 Federal Census. Agricultural and Slave Schedules
North Carolina State Historic Sites website:
Location: County:

Original Date Cast:




north carolina highway historical marker program

Somerset Plantation

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources