Robeson County, North Carolina

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Robeson County, North Carolina
Seal of Robeson County, North Carolina
Seal
Map of North Carolina highlighting Robeson County
Location in the U.S. state of North Carolina
Map of the United States highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location in the U.S.
Founded 1787
Named for Colonel Thomas Robeson
Seat Lumberton
Largest city Lumberton
Area
 • Total 951 sq mi (2,463 km2)
 • Land 949 sq mi (2,458 km2)
 • Water 1.8 sq mi (5 km2), 0.2%
Population
 • (2010) 134,168
 • Density 141/sq mi (54/km²)
Congressional district 9th
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Website www.co.robeson.nc.us

Robeson County is a county in the southern part of the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 134,168.[1] Its county seat is Lumberton.[2] The county was formed in 1787 from part of Bladen County. It was named in honor of Col. Thomas Robeson of Tar Heel, North Carolina, a hero of the Revolutionary War.

Robeson County comprises the Lumberton, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Fayetteville-Lumberton-Laurinburg, NC Combined Statistical Area.

Since 2008, Robeson County has been identified as among the 10% of United States counties that are majority-minority;[3] its combined population of American Indian, African American and Hispanic residents constitute more than 68 percent of the total. Members of the state-recognized Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, make up most of the 38 percent of the population who identify as Native American.

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke is located in the county. It developed from a normal school established here in the late 19th century for the training of teachers of students classified as Indian, from mixed-race families who had been free before the Civil War. In the late 1880s local state legislator Harold McMillan gained state authorization for separate schools for this population, which he theorized were descended from Croatan Indians. (There is no scholarly basis to this.) The public system was otherwise racially segregated into blacks (mostly freedmen's children), and whites.

History[edit]

The Lumber River as seen from the boat launch at Princess Ann near Orrum.
A railroad crossing and old general store in Rex
A view of St. Pauls

Archaeological excavation performed in Robeson County reveals widespread, continuous occupation of the region by various cultures of indigenous peoples since the end of the last Ice Age. They had camps and settlements near the Lumber River for its water, transportation, fish and related wildlife resources. Local excavations reveal that Native American peoples made stone tools, using materials brought to present-day Robeson County from the Carolina Piedmont. The large amounts of ancient pottery found at some Robeson County sites have been dated to the early Archaic Woodland period. Materials show that local settlements were part of an extensive Native American trade network with other regions. Portions of the river basin show that Robeson County was a "zone of cultural interactions."[citation needed]

Swamps, streams, and artesian wells provided an excellent supply of water for Native peoples. Fish were plentiful, and the region's lush vegetation included numerous food crops. "Carolina bays" continue to dot the landscape. Numerous 10,000-year-old Clovis points found along their banks indicate indigenous peoples used these depressions as campsites.

Colonial era[edit]

Early written sources specific to the territory of Robeson County region are few for the post-contact period of European colonization until the later 18th century and after.

Bladen County encompassed a portion of what is today Robeson County. English colonials named the river "Drowning Creek". After the violent upheavals of the Yamasee War of 1715-1717, and the Tuscarora War of 1711-1715, families of Algonquian Waccamaw left the South Carolina Colony in 1718 (it then encompassed North Carolina). They may have established a village west of present-day Pembroke, North Carolina by 1725.[citation needed]

Most of the surviving Iroquoian-speaking Tuscarora, who were not taken as slaves, migrated north as a tribe, settling in New York by 1722 and becoming accepted as the sixth nation of the Iroquois Confederacy.

In 1725, surveyors for the Wineau factory charted a village of Waccamaw Indians on the Lumber River, a few miles west of where Pembroke has developed. In 1773, colonial Governor Arthur Dobbs related a report from his agent, Col. Rutherford, head of a Bladen County militia, that a "mixed crew" of 50 families were living along Drowning Creek. They were referred to as "mullatos," generally meaning people of African and European descent.[4]

The anthropologist John R. Swanton of the Smithsonian Institution tried to identify the origin of the ethnic group known as Croatan Indians since the late 19th century. Swanton posited that the multi-racial people were the descendants of Siouan-speaking peoples, of which the most prominent in the area were the Cheraw and Keyauwee.[5]

Beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, many migrants from Virginia entered the frontier area, including free people of color, most of whom were descended from colonial unions and marriages between free white women and African or African-American men. By the late eighteenth century, settlement patterns shifted. The name of the region's river was changed.

After the American Revolution, the newly established state used a lottery to dispose of lots for developing Lumberton. The town was incorporated in 1788, and John Willis proposed the name "Lumberton", after the important lumber and naval stores industry. This dominated the otherwise agricultural economy of Robeson County throughout the nineteenth century.

Lumberton was developed at a section known throughout that century as "Drowning Creek," a term still used for the headwater portions of the river. The first Robeson County courthouse was erected on land of the Red Bluff Plantation, donated for that purpose by Lumberton founder John Willis. Robeson County's post office was established in 1794. In 1809, the state legislature renamed Drowning Creek as the Lumber River, after the area's major industry.

In the 1790-1810 censuses, descendants of these families were classified as both white (European American) and free people of color, a classification which included people of African-European, African-Native American, and tri-racial ancestry. These settlers were subsistence farmers and held few slaves.

Late 20th-century researchers have traced 80 percent of the free people of color in North Carolina listed in those two decades of federal censuses to African American families who were free in Virginia in colonial times. Based on court records, land deeds, indentures and other material, Paul Heinegg found that the free people of color (mixed-race) were descended mostly from white women (which is what gave them free status so early) and men who were African or African American in unions of the colonial years. In addition, some African male slaves had been freed in Virginia as early as the mid-17th century. Together with free white women, they founded free families of several generations before migrating to other areas. In the early years of the southern colonies, working-class whites and Africans had lived and worked closely together, marrying and forming unions. Many free people of color migrated to frontier areas to gain relief from the racial strictures of the coastal plantation areas.[6]

In the nineteenth century, mixed-race people sometimes identified as Indian, Portuguese or Arab, to account for physical differences from northern Europeans and to escape the racial segregation associated with descendants of Africans. Some may have descended from Atlantic Creoles, men of mixed African-Portuguese ancestry identified by the historian Ira Berlin as part of the "charter generation" of slaves, but most were descendants of English white women and African men in the British colonies. Some likely intermarried with remnants of Indian tribes who remained in the area. Names on early land deeds and other historic documents in Robeson County correspond to many of the families of free people of color, including ancestors of contemporary Lumbee.[6] Settlements included Prospect and Red Banks.

The Lumbee oral tradition says that they developed as a people from Native American ancestors, including refugees of other tribes, such as the Cheraw and Tuscarora, most of whom left the Carolinas in the early 18th century. They likely also intermarried with the free people of color of the area, absorbing their children into their culture. They developed in the antebellum era through a process of ethnogenesis.

Nineteenth century[edit]

By the beginning of the American Civil War, many remnant Native Americans in the Upper South struggled to survive and their status continued to decline. Since 1790, Native Americans in the southern states were enumerated as "free persons of color" on the local and federal census, included with free African Americans.

By 1835, in the wake of Nat Turner's Slave Rebellion of 1831, North Carolina like other southern states reduced the rights of free people of color. Out of fear of slave rebellion aided by free blacks, the legislature withdrew the rights of free people of color to vote, serve on juries, own and use firearms, and learn to read and write.

During the 1830s, the federal government forced Indian Removal, relocating the Cherokee and other of the Five Civilized Tribes of the Deep South and lower Southeast to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. Native Americans who stayed in the Southeast tended to live in frontier and marginal areas to avoid white supervision.

Civil War[edit]

Maxton

North Carolina seceded from the Union in 1861. A major yellow fever epidemic in 1862 killed 10 percent of the Cape Fear region's population. Most white men of military age had either enlisted with the Confederacy or fled the region. The Confederate Army conscripted African-American slaves as workers to build a system of forts to defend Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, North Carolina. Some free people of color from as far away as Robeson County (80-90 miles) were also impressed as laborers.

Robeson County's home guard included county magistrates, clergymen, and lawyers, who mainly represented the interests of the planter class. During the war, large slaveholders were exempted from participation in the army. The Home Guard raided local farmers, taking food supplies and livestock for the Confederate Army and their own use. When they raided the farmstead of Allen Lowrie, they killed Lowrie and his son William.

His surviving son Henry Berry Lowrie, a mixed-race man of Croatan heritage, swore revenge and led an insurgency against the upper class, raiding homesteads and driving off livestock.

Late in the Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman and his army began to push their way toward Robeson County as they headed north. After hearing of the Union Army's burning of Columbia, South Carolina on February 17, 1865, residents of Robeson County worried about the troops' advance. Washington Chaffin, a Methodist minister in Lumberton speculated in his diary about how the county might be treated by Sherman and his Yankees. Chaffin noted that Henry Berry Lowrie and his gang were "doing much mischief in this country." Lowrie's gang had "torn up and destroyed" Confederate white homesteads.[citation needed] In the late stages of the war, such gangs and insurgents carried out private feuds.

During the next seven years, Henry Lowrie led a group of free people of color, poor whites and blacks in one of many postwar insurgent movements during years of social disruption. He campaigned against the white elite. His activities made him a folk hero to many of the poorer folk.[citation needed]

In a county with a high proportion of people of color, both Native Americans and African Americans were oppressed by the Jim Crow system established in the state after white conservative Democrats regained power following the Reconstruction era. The state legislature passed laws to raise barriers to voter registration and disfranchise minorities. In 1900 the Democrats adopted a constitutional suffrage amendment which lengthened the residence period required before registration (which worked against sharecroppers and tenant farmers), and enacted both an educational qualification (to be assessed by a registrar, who were white and applied it subjectively) and prepayment of a poll tax (difficult for poor people to raise who did not use much cash). A grandfather clause exempted from the poll tax those entitled to vote on January 1, 1867.[7] The effect in North Carolina was the complete elimination of black and mixed-race voters from voter rolls by 1904. Contemporary accounts estimated that 75,000 black male citizens across the state lost the vote.[8]

Twentieth century[edit]

Racial segregation continued through the 20th century, affecting the criminal justice system and the administration of federal aid programs in the state and county. Racial discrimination has been documented in farm and other aid programs.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, local farmers in 1938 formed a mutual-aid cooperative, known as the Red Banks Mutual Association. They made a 99-year lease on a large plot of land, which they farmed together through the association until 1968. Historian Ryan K. Anderson explored this association for its contributions not only to members' survival during the Depression, but its influence in building stability and networks within the community.[9]

As in other southern states, local Ku Klux Klan chapters persisted in North Carolinainto the late 20th century (and some still likely exist). In early 1958 they called for a gathering in Maxton, intended to intimidate the Lumbee and other people of color. On January 18, 1958, armed Lumbee responded by gathering many more men and they chased off an estimated 50 Klansmen and supporters led by grand wizard James W. "Catfish" Cole in what became known as the Battle of Hayes Pond, after the site of the action.

Geography[edit]

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 951 square miles (2,460 km2), of which 949 square miles (2,460 km2) is land and 1.8 square miles (4.7 km2) (0.2%) is water.[10] It is the largest county in North Carolina by land area, but not by total area, that title going to Dare County.

Robeson County is bordered by the state of South Carolina, and the North Carolina counties of Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Hoke, and Scotland.

The topography is mostly level to undulating coastal plain, largely made up of sandhills and coastal dunes with elevations above mean sea level that vary from 60 feet in the extreme southeastern portion of the county to 250 feet in the north, to the west of Parkton, North Carolina. Moreover, numerous swamps that generally flow in a northwest to southeast course, characterize the area and eventually drain into the Lumber River. The highest density of swamps is in that part of the county that is most populated by the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, a state recognized tribe.[11]

Major highways[edit]

Adjacent counties[edit]

Demographics[edit]

Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 5,343
1800 6,839 28.0%
1810 7,528 10.1%
1820 8,204 9.0%
1830 9,433 15.0%
1840 10,370 9.9%
1850 12,826 23.7%
1860 15,489 20.8%
1870 16,262 5.0%
1880 23,880 46.8%
1890 31,483 31.8%
1900 40,371 28.2%
1910 51,945 28.7%
1920 54,674 5.3%
1930 66,512 21.7%
1940 76,860 15.6%
1950 87,769 14.2%
1960 89,102 1.5%
1970 84,842 −4.8%
1980 101,610 19.8%
1990 105,179 3.5%
2000 123,339 17.3%
2010 134,168 8.8%
Est. 2015 134,197 [12] 0.0%
U.S. Decennial Census[13]
1790-1960[14] 1900-1990[15]
1990-2000[16] 2010-2013[1]

As of the census[17] of 2010, there were 134,168 people. In 2000 there were 43,677 households, and 32,015 families residing in the county. The population density was 130 people per square mile (50/km²). There were 47,779 housing units at an average density of 50 per square mile (19/km²).

As of 2000, the racial makeup of the county was:

In 2005 38.5% of the population identified as Native American, likely mostly associated with the state-recognized Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, which is prominent in the county. Some 29.1% of the county population was non-Hispanic whites. 24.3% of the population identified as African American. 7.4% of the population identified as Latino.

Pembroke is the tribal headquarters of the Lumbee Tribe.

Native Americans[edit]

The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, a state-recognized tribe, constitutes more than one-half the state of North Carolina's indigenous population of 101,000. With a population of 58,443 (reflecting a 34.5% increase from the 1980 population of 43,465 members), the Lumbee reside primarily in Robeson, Hoke, Cumberland, and Scotland counties. In Robeson County, people identifying as Native Americans number 46,869 out of a total county population of 123,339. Most identify as Lumbee. Native Americans make up 38.02%, comprising the largest ethnic group in the county.

The Lumbee comprise the largest non-federally recognized tribe east of the Mississippi River, and the ninth largest non-federally recognized tribe in the United States.[citation needed] Several majority-Lumbee communities are located within Robeson County.

Households[edit]

There were 43,677 households out of which 37.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.60% were married couples living together, 20.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.70% were non-families. 22.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.30% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.75 and the average family size was 3.20.

In the county, the population was spread out with 29.00% under the age of 18, 10.60% from 18 to 24, 29.30% from 25 to 44, 21.10% from 45 to 64, and 10.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 94.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.20 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $28,202, and the median income for a family was $32,514. Males had a median income of $26,646 versus $20,599 for females. The per capita income for the county was $13,224. About 19.60% of families and 28.20% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.00% of those under age 18 and 25.30% of those age 65 or over. It is ranked as North Carolina's poorest county. Industrial, technological and professional jobs are lacking in the area.

Law and government[edit]

A County Council, with members elected from single-member districts, forms the government of the county.

Robeson County is a member of the regional Lumber River Council of Governments.

Communities[edit]

Map of Robeson County, North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels

City[edit]

Towns[edit]

Townships[edit]

  • Alfordsville
  • Back Swamp
  • Barnesville
  • Britts
  • Burnt Swamp
  • East Howellsville
  • Gaddy
  • Parkton
  • Philadelphus
  • Raft Swamp
  • Rennert
  • Saddletree
  • Shannon
  • Smiths
  • Smyrna
  • Sterlings
  • Thompson
  • Union
  • West Howellsville
  • Whitehouse
  • Wishart

Census-designated places[edit]

The abandoned corner grocery in downtown Parkton.

Unincorporated communities[edit]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 29, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ Kelvin Pollard and Mark Mather, "10% of U.S. Counties Now 'Majority-Minority'", 2008
  4. ^ Colonial Records: North Carolina 1890; 768 and North Carolina 1887; 161, respectively
  5. ^ John R. Swanton, The Indian Tribes of North America, Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin, No. 145. Washington: GPO, 1952
  6. ^ a b Paul Heinegg, Free African Americans in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware, 2005
  7. ^ Richard H. Pildes, ‘Democracy, Anti-Democracy, and the Canon’, Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 17, 2000
  8. ^ Albert Shaw, The American Monthly Review of Reviews, Vol.XXII, Jul-Dec 1900, p.274
  9. ^ Ryan K. Anderson, "Lumbee Kinship, Community, and the Success of the Red Banks Mutual Association", American Indian Quarterly Vol. 23, No. 2 (Spring, 1999), pp. 39-58; Published by: University of Nebraska Press, DOI: 10.2307/1185966; available via JSTOR; accessed 8 May 2017
  10. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved January 19, 2015. 
  11. ^ http://www.lumbeetribe.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=135&Itemid=115
  12. ^ "County Totals Dataset: Population, Population Change and Estimated Components of Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  13. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 19, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 19, 2015. 
  15. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 19, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved January 19, 2015. 
  17. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  • Chaffin, Washington Sandford. "February 25 - March 1, 1865", in Diary. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Archives.
  • Evans, William McKee. To Die Game: The Story of the Lowry Band: Indian Guerillas of Reconstruction. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971.
  • Glatthaar, Joseph T. The March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman's Troops in the Savannah and Carolinas Campaigns. New York: New York University Press, 1985.
  • Gorman, John C. "Recollections." Thomas A. Norment affidavit, December 8, 1865. Superior Court of North Carolina Records: Criminal action papers concerning Henry Berry Lowry, Robeson County, 1862-1865.
  • Gragg, Rod. Confederate Goliath: The Battle of Fort Fisher. New York: Harper Collins, 1991.
  • Hauptman, Lawrence M. "River Pilots and Swamp Guerillas: Pamunkee and Lumbee Unionists." In Between Two Fires: American Indians in the Civil War. New York: Free Press, 1995.
  • McKinnon, Henry A. Jr. Historical Sketches of Robeson County. N.P.: Historic Robeson, Inc., 2001.
  • "North Carolina: Indian raid." Newsweek 51 (27 Jan. 1958): 27.
  • Swanton, John R. "Probable Identity of the 'Croatan' Indians." [National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. MS 4126].
  • Taukchiray, Wesley D., "American Indian References in the South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Royal South Carolina Gazette, South Carolina Gazette and Public Advertiser, and State Gazette of South Carolina, 1766–1792", South Carolina Historical Magazine 100 (Oct. 1999), pp. 319–27.
  • U.S. Bureau of the Census. The First Census of the U.S.: 1790. Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States: North Carolina. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1908.
  • U.S. Bureau of the Census. We the People: http://www.census.gov/main/www/cen2000.html
  • William McKee Evans, "To Die Game: The Story of the Lowry Band, Indian Guerrillas of Reconstruction", Syracuse University Press, 1995
  • Adolph L. Dial, David K. Eliades, "The Only Land I Know: A History of the Lumbee Indians", Syracuse University Press, 1996
  • Karen I. Blu, "The Lumbee Problem: The Making of an American Indian", University of Nebraska Press, 2001
  • E. Stanly Godbold, Jr. and Mattie U. Russell, "Confederate Colonel And Cherokee Chief: The Life Of William Holland Thomas", University of Tennessee Press, 1990

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°38′N 79°07′W / 34.64°N 79.11°W / 34.64; -79.11