The New Bern Benevolent Society traces its roots to the 1812 founding of the New Bern Female Charitable Society, the first benevolent society incorporated in North Carolina. The society was formed to offer relief to the poor and to educate poor female children.
The North Carolina General Assembly incorporates The Newbern Female Charitable Society, a “Society for the education of poor female children; also relief of the poor” (p. 83). Charles Coon reprints the act in volume one of The Beginnings of Public Education in North Carolina; A Documentary History, 1790-1840. In Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History, Guion Johnson notes that the Society was the first “of the undenominational benevolent societies” in the state (p.702). [ref]Explore Women’s History in North Carolina by Jennifer L. Larson. Published online at Documenting the American South.[/ref]
The society reorganized in 1837 and was chartered in 1854, changing its name to the New Bern Female Benevolent Society. The name of the organization eventually evolved into the New Bern Benevolent Society. In 1953 the New Bern Benevolent Society built the Enoch Wadsworth Memorial Home to provide a home for elderly women on limited incomes. Funds for the building of the Wadsworth Home came in part from a trust fund left by Mrs. Enoch Wadsworth in her will. By the early 2000s the New Bern Benevolent Society had decreased to fewer than 20 members, mostly representatives from local Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish groups.
New Bern-Craven County Public Library published on DigitalNC the following manuscripts referencing this organization:
- Minute Book of the Female Benevolent SocietyMinute book contains the record of the administration and activities of the Female Benevolent Society of New Bern, N.C. for the dates of January 22, 1878 – May 1905.
- Roll Book of the Female Benevolent SocietyRoll Book contains the record of members present at meetings of the Female Benevolent Society of New Bern, N.C. for the years 1942-1962.