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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Hayes Plantation

by Eileen McGrath, 2006Hayes Plantation house as seen from the waterfront. Photograph by Tim Buchman. Courtesy of Preservation North Carolina.

Hayes Plantation is a farm in Chowan County, across Queen Anne's Creek from Edenton. The plantation is known chiefly as the seat of the Johnston family. Samuel Johnston (1733-1816) purchased Hayes in 1765 from David Rieusett and made it his family's home until 1793, when he moved to the Hermitage, a plantation in Martin County. In 1814 Samuel Johnston gave Hayes to his son, James Cathcart Johnston (1782-1865). With the help of the English architect-builder William Nichols, James Cathcart Johnston built a new plantation house at Hayes, and he and his three sisters returned there to live in 1817. The plantation remained in the Johnston family until James Cathcart Johnston's death. In his will, Johnston left all his Chowan County property, including Hayes, to a business associate, Edward Wood. The Wood family continues to operate Hayes as a working farm.

The plantation that Samuel Johnston purchased contained 543 acres. It grew modestly during his lifetime to 665 acres, but dramatic growth occurred under the ownership of his son James Cathcart Johnston. The younger Johnston was an energetic manager of his estates, keenly interested in agricultural innovations. He acquired and cleared additional land, so that by 1860 the plantation encompassed 1,374 acres. Corn was the principal crop grown in the antebellum era, but Johnston planted other grains as well and raised livestock.

James Cathcart Johnston also inherited a substantial collection of books from his father. To house those books, he built a special wing for the library in the new plantation house at Hayes. The octagonal, Gothic library is one of many distinctive features of the stately structure. The house, still in use as a private residence, is considered one of the finest antebellum houses in North Carolina. A reproduction of the library, which includes many of the original books and furnishings from the Hayes house, is on display in Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Catherine W. Bishir, "Severe Survitude to House Building: The Construction of Hayes Plantation House, 1814-1817," NCHR 68 (October 1991).

Additional Resources:

Hayes Collection, UNC Libraries:


Update from N.C. Government & Heritage Library staff: 

The spelling of the surname Rieusett varies across colonial documents. Variations include Rieusset, Rieuset, and Rieussetts. 

Origin - location: 



The 1769 Sauthier Map of Edenton identifies the area then as “ Hayes “ and appears to show a few buildings on the property. To this day there has never been a definitive answer as to where the name Hayes originated. There is no record of anyone named Hayes ever owning the property. One seeking to research the history of this land can go to the Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Library at The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The Hayes Collection there is a fabulous resource and contains records from 1694-1928.


I am a descended from the Hayes line and I see here that the Hayes Plantation was operated by slave labor. Please let me know where I can get more information as it may be relevant to my family.


Ms. Rucker, I have been reading the story of your descendants. It is very compelling. I would love to speak to you. Please reach out to me via email if you would like to discuss further.


I am also from the Hayes family. My great grandfathers name was York Hayes, all the Hayes in Bertie are my people.


Need to change incorrect spelling, as follows:
Change: "...purchased Hayes in 1765 from David Rieusett ..." to "...purchased Hayes in 1765 from David Rieusset..."
Thank you.
Anne Rieusset-Frazer
Melbourne, Australia


Dear Anne,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and giving us feedback. Unfortunately, we are unable to make changes because this article was published by UNC Press. Thank you!

Francesca Evans, Government & Heritage Library


Is there any documentation as to how the plantation became known as "Hayes Plantation?" I am descended from the Hays/Hayes line and they settled in that area in the late 1600's/early 1700's. I was just wondering if there is any connection to my family.


Sir Walter Raleigh was born at Hayes Barton in England.



Large homes like this were generally named by one of the family's that owned it. When it becamed named as "Hayes" is not known to me, but a search of land records might be able to clear that up.

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library


I assume the plantation was built and operated by slave labor. A mention of slaves might be appropriate .

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