The North Carolina Visitor Center




Historic Robeson Images
The images below are provided by Robeson County historian, Blake Tyner.  These and many more may be found in his book, Robeson County in Vintage Postcards.  For more information see:

According to poet John Charles McNeill (1874-1907), the Indian name of Lumbee was originally used for the river, from an Indian word that means "black water." Early European surveyors and settlers called it Drowning Creek; it appears in Colonial records of 1749. Legislative action of 1809 changed the name to Lumber River, most likely because of the river's heavy use by the lumber industry.

In the late 18th and the 19th centuries, the lumbering and naval stores industries were very important to the region, and the river was a vital route for transporting products of these industries. One-hundred-foot logs were rafted downriver in the late 1800's to Georgetown, South Carolina. Lumberton itself was an important turpentine and timber town. Unfortunately, no standing structure related to these industries has been found that could be considered of historic value. The few existing structures are from this century and are in a state of decay. Remnants of bridge abutments, tram bridges, and dock pilings in the Net Hole area are reminders of the lumbering and naval stores industries.

A favorite quote about the Lumber River appeared in John Charles McNeill’s Argus “writing about the Lumber River, to a man who has spent his summers in dalliance with her, is like writing about his sweetheart.  She is coquettish, as subject to change, as teasing as any girl that goes; and no human angel ever possessed more variable hues and tints and shadows in her misty eyes than this unconscious flirt.”



Iron Bridge Crossing Lumber River.  The iron bridge known as McNeill’s Bridge was removed when the road was enlarged around 2002.  It was near this site in 1984 that Paul Valenti found an Indian canoe dating to 930 AD.  The canoe is housed at the Native American Resource Center at UNC Pembroke.


Here’s To Lumberton. This wonderful poem telling all of the positive aspects of Lumberton was written in 1912 by Woodberry Lennon.


Straightline at Alma. This postcard of an autumn sunrise is viewed over a section of the longest stretch of straight track in the United States between Alma and Maxton.  This long stretch runs 78.86 without a curve between Wilmington and Hamlet former Wilmington, Charlotte and Rutherfordton Railroad now owned by CSX Railroad.


The Patterson Building was built in 1911 by J.A. “Archie” Patterson to house the Bank of Robeson, this flat-iron shaped Renaissance Revival Building was modeled after the famous flat-iron building in New York.  The building did not have the clock tower when first built; the local citizens raised funds to add the clock which is now the best known landmark in town.  The building also housed the post office before being converted to a laundromat.  The town purchased the building in the late 1990s and began to look for funds to restore the building.  Preservation Maxton with a grant from Clara McLean, former executive of McLean Trucking and Sea-Land, stepped forward with $500,000 to return the building to its former glory.


A movement in North Carolina for the higher education of women led to the founding of Red Springs Seminary in 1896. The Fayetteville Presbytery decided to establish a seminary for girls somewhere in the area. Red Springs came forward with the promise of $2500, four acres of land, and forty students, if the school was located there. The offer was immediately accepted. The name was changed in 1903 to Southern Presbyterian College and Conservatory of Music and in 1916 to Flora MacDoanld College.  The college was known for their gradens. They were started by Dr. Charles G. Vardell, President of Flora MacDonald, and under his guidance and his capable assistant, Dexter Garner, the Gardens became nationally known.  Considerable damage was done by a 1984 tornado and restoration has brought them back to a point where one can still walk the meandering paths, where many of the original plants gathered by Dr. Vardell survive.


Tobacco Warehouse.  At one time Lumberton boasted ten tobacco warehouses that drew large crowds during the season from August to November.


Shown here is the third county courthouse it was constructed in 1908 and served the county’s needs until 1969. The downtown Lumberton lot that has been home to all four courthouses given by General John Willis in 1787.

South of the Border
on the border of Robeson County and South Carolina officially started in 1949 Alan Schafer opened a small beer stand just over the Robeson County border. A year later to small grill called the South of the Border Drive-In was added when then-Gov. Strom Thurmond sought to stop complaints of North Carolina’s anti-drink forces. Schafer continued to add to his enterprise and the site grew to 350 acres. The complex has become a stopping point of millions of tourist each year making the trip from New York to Florida on Interstate 95. It’s billboards can be seen all up and down the interstate. South of the Border was one of the first rest stops between Washington, D.C., and Miami during the days of segregation to welcome African-Americans. Attractions include a 200 foot Sombrero Tower features a glass elevator and a 236 foot observation deck where you can see for miles; miniature golf and an amusement park.

K. Blake Tyner, MLS, FSA Scot

Curator, Robeson County History Museum

Coordinator, Robeson County NCGenWeb