In the late 1700's when the land was asphalt and technology-free, a man by the name of Thomas Newby settled in a remote location not yet known as Northeastern North Carolina. Upon almost 1,000 acres on the Perquimans River, he built a sophisticated plantation home with a gambrel roof and unique features. Belvidere became its name, and the growing community took it on as the name of the local post office as well as the area at large.
Newby was of the Quaker faith, a denomination dedicated to loving God and others, with a special interest in education. Quakers began to settle in North Carolina as they searched for religious freedom.
In 1770, as a leader in his congregation, Newby stood before Perquimans' Monthly Meeting of Quakers and delivered his burden on the issue of slavery. Quakers quickly became known for their advocacy of slave emancipation. Just a few, short years later, Newby and ten other friends made NC history by purchasing and freeing 40 slaves. This type of civil rebellion had not yet been seen in the state of NC. Although many were recaptured and sold back into slavery, Newby and the Quaker congregation continued their efforts toward ending slavery.
Eventually, Belvidere Plantation was passed down to Newby's son, Exum Newby. He followed in his father's footsteps as a prominent land owner and leader in the church. He operated saw mills, grist mills, a wharf, and a shipyard on the river front property while serving as overseer of Piney Woods Friends Meeting. Piney Woods is the oldest congregation in the state of NC and still meets in the Belvidere community today. The estate of Belvidere remained in the family for the following century before it was sold.
But that's not where the story ends.
In the 1970's, Belvidere Plantation returned to the Newby family bloodline. Robert Smith and Lucy Lamb Smith moved onto the property and made it their home. Mrs. Smith was a descendant of Thomas Newby and was drawn back to her family's roots. Mr. Smith was better known to most as the famous radio personality, Wolfman Jack.
Wolfman Jack rose to fame in the 70's and 80's as a beloved Disc Jockey heard all around North America. His role in the movie, American Graffiti solidified his rugged and raspy voice as a household staple across the country. He became the first radio DJ to nationally produce a weekly show.
With his wife by his side, he lived a lavish Los Angeles and Beverly Hills lifestyle. Drugs, rock and roll, hustle, and fame. He spent time with all of the greats of his day. From rockers like The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith to sentimental singers like Kenny Rogers and Marvin Gaye.
He also became known as the disc jockey who gave black artists and musicians plenty of air time, while others shunned their culture and music. The Temptations made him an honorary member of their band, and he was once quoted as saying that most people wish they had the 'I'm-so-glad-to-be-me' spirit that black folks have made a part of American life. But a life in the limelight has its fair share of trouble. By the late 1980's, Wolfman and his wife Lucy (or Wolfwoman as he called her) were ready for a change of scenery.
While Wolf still loved his career, he decided on a cleaner and quieter way of living. They decided to move permanently to the home they purchased as a getaway 15 years earlier.
When asked what he liked about his new location, he said, "People in North Carolina live real good. Real clean livin' folks." Breathing in deeply, he also noted the fresh air.
Wolfman built a studio behind the house and continued to do what he loved. He also brought some of his long-time friends to his quiet piece of paradise. Douglas Layden, local butcher, remembers delivering steaks to Wolfman's home and being stunned to find Mick Jagger casually lounging with Wolf. He lived out his days at Belvidere Plantation until he passed away in 1995 as a result of a heart attack. Many in the community remember him fondly.
What began as a brave adventure into a new land has come full circle with a legacy of conviction, perseverance, and a voice for all people. Belvidere plantation was built with the blood, sweat, and tears of a man that believed in freedom and a life well-lived. Wolfman Jack also believed in a life well-lived for all. The foundation of his career was to make people happy. He famously stated, "I know it sounds corny, man but I like to bring people joy, and I like to have a good time."