During the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was not uncommon for towns to get up and move to a new location.  These moves were often thanks to the railroad coming through - as communities moved their businesses and homes closer to the new railroad station on the new rail line.  In some cases, like Grifton, towns shifted thanks to the overflowing banks of a nearby stream, creek, or river.

Flooding in 1903 caused town leaders to move the central part of town away from the banks of the Contentnea Creek about two north from Main Street to Queen Street.  Today, Main and Water Streets are quiet residential streets.

Grifton is also one of Eastern North Carolina's older communities, dating back to 1754.  Originally known as Peter's Ferry, ten years later, the area's name changed to Blount's Ferry or Blount's Ford.  During the Civil War, a bridge over the Contentnea was burned, and a local blacksmith, Franklin Bell, started operating a ferry.  Blount's Ferry was now known as Bell's Ferry.  Bell's Ferry was incorporated as a town in 1883.

Downtown Grifton

At the time of incorporation, Bell's Ferry had two other nicknames - "Coward's Bridge," named after the gentleman who built the replacement bridge over the Contentnea in 1869, and "Skinhead" after a series of deadly accidents occurred at the local sawmill.  In 1889, town leaders changed the name of Bell's Ferry to Griffton, after C. M. A. Griffin - a local shopkeeper.  The extra 'f' was dropped in time, and Grifton has stuck.

Today, Grifton is a town of roughly 2500 people.  Since 1971, it has been home to the annual Shad Festival.  The Hickory Shad fish spends most of its time in the Atlantic Ocean but returns to freshwater to spawn.  The Shad Festival occurs every April - when the shad head back up the Contentnea.

The festival is a fun multi-day gathering that includes a fishing contest, a beauty pageant, a fishy tales (lying) competition, a parade, an art show, and more.  However, the highlight is the Shad Toss with live shad.

"Eat Mo Shad"

For fifty years, the Shad Festival slogan has been 'Eat Mo Shad.'  In 1974, the slogan 'Eat Mo Shad' was spray painted on a local drawbridge - and it's stuck around ever since.

Grifton's location on the Contentnea has made it a popular kayaking destination.  Recently, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science opened a facility at the Bray Hollow Conservancy north of town.  There is plenty to do there, including many hiking and running trails and a digital planetarium and observatory.

All photos taken by post author - May 1, 2024

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