The North Carolina
Columbus County was created from Bladen and Brunswick Counties in 1808. In 1810, Whiteville was laid out on James B. White's land and the public buildings were ordered to be constructed there. Whiteville has been the county seat ever since.
The territory of Columbus County, though rarely mentioned in historical writing, has experienced many of the major episodes of American history. The Indian presence, the colonial period, the Revolutionary War, the establishment of railroads, the Civil War and Reconstruction – all have touched the county and have involved local citizens. Throughout the years, developments which occurred in Columbus County have reflected familiar themes of state and national history.
The land and its heritage have been shaped by several geographical features. Lake Waccamaw, the largest natural lake between New York and Florida, was the site of the Indian habitation long before the arrival of white men. The Waccamaw River, which flows from the lake, has linked the southeastern section of the county with South Carolina and its coastal ports. The western limits of the county are defined by the swift, dark waters of the Lumber River. The Cape Fear River comprises a section of the northeastern border, in Ransom Township. Access to the Cape Fear and the port city of Wilmington has been a major factor in the settlement and commercial development of the county. Before construction of roads, the Cape Fear, Lumber and Waccamaw Rivers were the main arteries which penetrated the dense woodlands of the area.
Railroad history is still alive in our depot museums in Chadbourn, Fair Bluff, and Lake Waccamaw. Vineland Station in Whiteville is being restored and will be open in late 2005. The North Carolina Museum of Forestry celebrates the importance of the forestry industry in Columbus County both past and present. Other historic sites to visit include the Reuben Brown House, the Columbus County Courthouse, Mille-Christine Gravesite, Bogue Chapel, the Trading Post, and Mt. Tabor School.
The very first written record about Columbus County is about William Bartram, a well-educated colonial planter, who was the brother of John Bartram, the first scientist to form a botanic garden for American plants in America. John Bartram traveled wide and far collecting plants for his garden, and he documented his travels to the Columbus County area in 1734 while visiting his brother. In this documentary, John Bartram describes Lake Waccamaw in great detail, including some Indian mounds near the lake.
We know that Indians once roamed the area. When the first settlers came up the Cape Fear River, they were here. The settlers called them the Cape Fear Indians, the Waccamaw Indians, and the Saponas. The Waccamaws were a peaceful tribe and when the whites began to show up they voluntarily withdrew and joined the Catawbas further west, and some, at least, joined the Seminoles in Florida. It is said that the celebrated chief of the Seminoles, Osceola, was born on the Waccamaw River, and tradition says that his father was John Powell, a white man living in present-day Columbus County.
Colonel Alfred Moore Waddell, in his history of the Revolutionary War in New Hanover County, states that Gen. Francis Marion, the Horrys, and General Huger, all of South Carolina, met in Brompton, country seat of Royal Governor Gabriel Johnston in Brunswick, to reorganize Marion's men, and that a large portion of these men came from Bladen and Brunswick Counties. Therefore, it can be reasonably concluded that these men were from present-day Columbus County. Additionally, several battles/skirmishes with the British were fought at Brown Marsh - about five miles from present-day Clarkton, NC.
Whiteville and Fair Bluff probably divide honors as the oldest towns in Columbus County. Originally known as White's Crossing, the town was laid out in 1810 on James B. White's land, and after he served as the first state senator from the county the name was changed to Whiteville and it was named the county seat. The town was chartered in 1873, and J.A. Maultsby was its first mayor.
The city of Chadbourn was started in 1882 and incorporated in 1886. The first charter stipulated that there should be no legalized sale of whiskey in the town, and Chadbourn has the distinction of never having had liquor stores in it.
Many other towns and cities sprang up along the way. Tabor City is world famous for producing yams along the South Carolina border. On the other side of the county, Riegelwood is famous for its paper mill. Folks from Crusoe Island claim to be descendents of Sir Walter Raleigh's "lost colony of Roanoke," and they definitely have a unique accent to perhaps prove it.
Opened in 1810 by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, the Chadbourn Depot is a must for railroad lovers. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the picturesque depot displays a variety of historical artifacts, including model railroads, period furnishings, Audubon prints, railroad memorabilia and even fashions from the 1900s.
The Old Trading Post in Fair Bluff, probably the oldest building in Columbus County, stands on the banks of the Lumber River . Built in the late eighteenth century, people from Robeson, Bladen, and Columbus counties brought farm produce and naval goods to be sold or exchanged for other products.
Originally built in 1897 as a combined Atlantic Coast Line passenger and freight depot, the Fair Bluff Depot museum offers a step back into the past. Today it houses railroad memorabilia and equipment from the early 1900s until its closing in the 1960s.
Begin your day in Fair Bluff strolling the streets and shopping in the antique mall and quaint stores of the downtown district. Take a walk on the Riverside Boardwalk where visitors from all over enjoy the beautiful Lumber River and Cypress Swamp. Discover the indigenous trees of the river as you relax in the serenity of the river.
The town of Fair Bluff incorporated in 1873, having endured the exportation of its textile industry to other countries and its rail traffic to the interstates, is attempting to revitalize itself through local effort and Federal assistance. Currently, with the help of an energetic town council and mayor, Fair Bluff has installed street lighting and new sidewalks with the view toward making Fair Bluff a theme town of the 30s and 40s. Merchants in the downtown area are encouraged to redo their store fronts and display areas in keeping with this theme with a view toward attracting the touring public and encouraging other unique businesses to find a home in Fair Bluff.
In Tabor City, stop and a visit to the Mt. Tabor School which was built in 1870 using a floor plan and building technique which had been in use since 1820. It was not only the first school in Tabor City but also in 1905 served as the original meeting place for St. Paul United Methodist Church.
Visit the Horace Carter Museum and explore the pages of the Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper, the Tabor City Tribune. Mr. Carter himself may even be around to share his stories with you.
What a better way to end your day than with dinner at the Todd House, serving good food since Mary Todd opened her boarding house in 1928. Known throughout for its delightful old-fashioned homestyle cooking, the Todd House is one of Tabor City 's oldest businesses.
- Source: J.D. Lewis - Little River, SC