Robeson County, North Carolina

Infobox U.S. County
county = Robeson County
state = North Carolina

map size = 250
founded = 1787
seat = Lumberton | area_total_sq_mi =951
area_land_sq_mi =949
area_water_sq_mi =2
area percentage = 0.23%
census yr = 2000
pop = 123339
density_km2 =50
web =

Robeson County is in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of 2004, the county had a population of 126,469-- an increase of 2.54% from the 2000 census. Robeson County was incorporated in 1787 from Bladen County, and was named in honor of Col. Thomas Robeson of Tar Heel, North Carolina for his Revolutionary War service. While Col. Robeson never lived in the county that now bears his name, toward the end of the war in 1781, he and 70 colonial rebels defeated an army of 400 loyalists at the Battle of Elizabethtown.

LumbertonGR|6 is the county seat.

A January 2008 report revealed Robeson to be the poorest of North Carolina's 100 counties. [ cite web | url = | title = Report: poverty highest in Robeson County, lowest in Dare County | accessdate = 2008-01-10 | publisher = Charlotte Observer]


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

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 951 square miles (2,463 km²), making it the largest in North Carolina. 949 square miles (2,457 km²) of it is land and 2 square miles (6 km²) of it (0.23%) is water. Thus, 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 Lumbee, or Lumber River. The highest density of swamps is in that part of the county that is most populated by the Lumbee Indian Tribe of North Carolina.


As of the censusGR|2 of 2000, there were 123,339 people, 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:
*38.02% Native American
*32.80% White or European-American
*25.11% Black or African-American
*4.86% Hispanic or Latino of any race
*0.33% Asian
*0.06% Pacific Islander
*2.26% from other races
*1.41% from two or more races

In 2005 29.1% of the county population was non-Hispanic whites. 38.5% of the population was Native Americans. 24.3% of the population was African American. 7.4% of the population was Latino.

Native Americans

The Lumbee Indian Tribe of North Carolina comprises more than one-half the state of North Carolina's indigenous population of 84,000. 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 alone, there are currently 46,869 Lumbee Indians out of a total county population of 123,339, and thus, the Lumbee make up 38.02%, making them the largest racial/ethnic group in the county. In fact, the Lumbee are also the largest tribal nation east of the Mississippi River, the ninth largest tribal nation, and the largest non-reservation tribe of Native Americans in the United States.

Several Lumbee communities are located within Robeson County, including Prospect, New Hope, Back Swamp, Pembroke, Saddletree, Raft Swamp, Deep Branch, Union Chapel, Evan's Cross Roads, and Red Banks.


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 22.80% 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.


Archaeological excavation performed in Robeson County reveals a long and rich history of widespread and consistent occupation of the region, most especially near the Lumber River since the end of the last Ice Age. Local excavations indicate that Native American peoples made stone tools using materials brought into 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 Woodland period, and suggest that Native American settlements around the river were part of an extensive trade network with other regions. If anything, portions of the river basin show that Robeson County was a "zone of cultural interactions." After colonial contact, European-made items, such as kaolin tobacco pipes, were traded by the Spanish, French, and the English to Native American peoples of the coast, and found their way to the Robeson County region long before Europeans established permanent settlements along the Lumber River.

Swamps, streams, and artesian wells provided an excellent supply of water for Native peoples. Fish was plentiful, and the regions lush vegetation included numerous food crops. "Carolina bays" continue to dot the landscape, and, if the sheer number of 10,000 year old Clovis points found along their banks are any indication, Native peoples found these unique depressions filled with water to be ideal campsites.

Colonial Incursions

Early written sources specific to the Robeson County region are few for the post-contact period of European colonization. Surveyors for the Wineau factory charted a village of Waccamaw Indians on the Lumber River, a few miles west of the present-day town of Pembroke, North Carolina on a map in 1725. In 1754, North Carolina Governor Arthur Dobbs received a report from his agent, Col. Rutherford, the head of a Bladen County militia, that a "mixed crew" of 50 Indian families were living along Drowning Creek. The communication also reported the shooting of a surveyor who entered the area "to view vacant lands." These are the first written account of the Native peoples from whom the Lumbee descend.


Bladen County encompassed a portion of what is today Robeson County, and the Lumber River was at this time called by English colonials, "Drowning Creek." After the violent upheavals of the Yamasee War of 1715-1717, and the Tuscarora War of 1711-1715, families of Waccamaw Indians had left South Carolina Colony in 1718, and had very likely established a village west of present-day Pembroke, North Carolina by 1725. The “mixed crew” that Rutherford observed in 1754 were located in the same locale as the earlier Waccamaw settlement.

The research of the noted anthropologist, John R. Swanton of the Smithsonian Institution corroborates much of the oral tradition of the Lumbee Indians of Robeson County. Swanton posited that the Lumbee were the descendants of Siouan peoples of which the most prominent were the Cheraw and Keyauwee. These communities that would later comprise the Lumbee would also have included Siouan refugee groups of the Eno, Shakori, as well as coastal groups such as the Waccamaw and Cape Fear Indians. Interestingly, colonial migrants to the present-day Robeson County Lumber River basin came into contact with an acculturated population of Native Americans who reportedly spoke some English, owned European trade goods, and used primitive English-style farm tools in their agricultural pursuits. By then, English, Gaelic speaking highland Scots, and Welsh colonials had begun to make their way from present-day Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Laurinburg, North Carolina, and eventually, to Drowning Creek, or the present-day Lumber River. Critical to keep in mind is that at the same time that Native peoples were fleeing into the Robeson County region and seeking refuge from the incalculable destruction of warfare and disease, European colonials were in pursuit, attempting to gain a foothold, then wrest control of the resessed region of Robeson County.

By the mid-eighteenth century, Indians continued to populate the Lumber River basin area and its numerous tributaries. whites slowly moved into and established settlements, but overall, they initially lived on the periphery of those lands to which the ancestors of the Lumbee had managed to secure title with the colonial administration of North Carolina. The main Indian settlements during the late eighteenth century were Prospect and Red Banks. Individual land ownership by Native Americans had far-reaching consequences for the history of Robeson County in that Native peoples were less subject to the political and economic dominance of whites, managing to live in a homogeneous network of settlements that provided social and cultural security.

Nineteenth Century

By the middle of the nineteenth century however, settlement patterns had shifted: now ancestral Lumbee settlements were interspersed among faster growing white communities, and the name of the region's river was changed again. A lottery was used to dispose of lots with which to establish Lumberton. The town was later incorporated in 1788, and John Willis proposed the name "Lumberton" for the site, the name of which derives from the Lumber River, or is a reference to the lumber and naval stores industry that began to dominate, and continued to dominate the economy of Robeson County throughout the nineteenth century. The section of the Lumber River where Lumberton is located was known throughout that century as "Drowning Creek", a name by which portions of the river are still known. But then, in 1809, Drowning Creek was renamed the Lumber River.

The first Robeson County courthouse was erected on land which formed a part of the "Red Bluff Plantation" owned by Lumberton founder, John Willis.Robeson County's post office was established in 1794, and much like today, from the end of the eighteenth- to the mid-nineteenth centuries, numerous languages could be heard throughout Robeson County: the Gaelic of the highland Scots and the Welsh, English, and one can speculate, remnant Siouan, Algonkian, and Iroquoian languages of the ancestral Lumbee.

The Civil War

By the beginning of the American Civil War, most Native Americans attempted to eke out an impoverished existence. Their status had continued to decline. Since 1790, Native Americans in the southern states were enumerated as "free persons of color" on the local and federal census. By 1835, and in the wake of the convergence of three historical events, Nat Turner's Rebellion, the ratification of the North Carolina Constitutional Convention, and Indian removal, they were summarily stripped of their previously held right to vote, serve on juries, own and use firearms, and to learn to read and write. The gradual dispossession of tribal lands accelerated, and Robeson County's Native Americans regarded the local white slave-owning elite as robbers and oppressors.

Henry Berry Lowrie's War on Robeson County

Robeson County entered the American Civil War in 1861. After a major yellow fever epidemic the following year wherein 10 percent of the Cape Fear region's population succumbed to the disease, and free labor either joined the war effort or fled the region, Indians, along with African-American slaves, were forcibly conscripted to build a system of forts intended to defend the Gibraltar of the South, Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, North Carolina. North Carolina's adjutant general, John C. Gorman noted in his reports that Robeson County's conscription of several years duration especially impacted, "Scuffletown [which] was included in the impressment and almost ever able-bodied male in the [Indian] settlements was dragged from home and railroaded to the coast." Pembroke was then known as "Scuffletown," and three of the "able-bodied" Indians to which Gorman referred were the cousins of Henry Berry Lowrie who, after escaping from the disease-ridden conditions of Fort Fisher, were murdered by a local member of Robeson County's home guard.

At this same time, William Tecumseh Sherman and his army began to push their way toward Robeson County. After his army sacked and burned Columbia, South Carolina on February 17, 1865, Robesonians to the north held their breath. Washington Chaffin, a prominent white Methodist minister in Lumberton nervously speculated in his diary about what the county could expect from Sherman and the Yankees. At the same time, Chaffin made reference to the young Indian, Henry Berry Lowrie and his guerilla band's campaign against those local Robeson County white elites who were "doing much mischief in this country." Moreover, they had "torn up and destroyed" elite white homesteads. Paranoid about Sherman's imminent approach, and fearful of Yankees in their midst, Robeson County's home guard, which included county magistrates, clergymen, and lawyers who largely represented the interests of the county's planter class, raided the farmstead of Allen Lowrie, Henry Berry Lowrie's father, and murdered the old man and one of his sons. Henry Berry Lowrie swore revenge, and two days after Allen and William Lowrie's funerals, local Tuscarora guides helped Sherman's army cross the Lumber River through torrential rains and into North Carolina. According to Sherman, the trek across the Lumber River, and through the swamps, pocosins, and creeks of Robeson County "was the damnest marching I ever saw." And for the next ten years, Robeson County was at war with Henry Berry Lowrie, the Tuscarora community, and its poor black and white residents.

Twentieth Century

Until late in the 20th Century, Robeson County was a center of Ku Klux Klan activity and support in North Carolina. On January 18, 1958, armed Lumbee Native Americans chased off an estimated 50 Klansmen and supporters led by grand wizard James W. "Catfish" Cole at the town of Maxton in the Battle of Hayes Pond.

Law and government

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

Adjacent counties

*Cumberland County, North Carolina - north-northeast
*Bladen County, North Carolina - east
*Columbus County, North Carolina - southeast
*Dillon County, South Carolina - southwest
*Marlboro County, South Carolina - west
*Scotland County, North Carolina - northwest
*Hoke County, North Carolina - north-northwest

Municipalities and communities




Notable Robesonians

*John Beard, a former Los Angeles television news anchor grew up in St. Pauls.
*Afeni Shakur is the mother of the deceased rapper Tupac Shakur, and was an early member of the Black Panther Party.
*Mike McIntyre represents North Carolina's 7th Congressional district in the United States House of Representatives.
*Sean Locklear, born in Lumberton, is the starting offensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL.
*Rebekah Revels is former Miss North Carolina
*Henry Berry Lowrie, a Tuscarora Indian and culture hero of the Lumbee and Tuscarora Indian Tribes of North Carolina was a pioneer in the fight for the indigenous rights of Indians and the civil rights of African Americans during the American Civil War and Reconstruction.
*Joseph Mitchell, journalist for "The New Yorker".
*Kelvin Sampson, is the men's basketball coach of the Indiana Hoosiers at Indiana University. He previously held the same position at Montana Tech (1981-86), Washington State University (1988-94) and the University of Oklahoma (1994-2006).
*Drew Levinson is a CBS news correspondent.
*Chris Chavis is a professional wrestler better known as, "Tatanka" and "The War Eagle," and is a member of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
*Malcom McLean, entrepreneur from Maxton, often called "the father of containerization".
*Eddie Hatcher, a Native American Activist who was the first person to be charged under the 1984 Anti-Terrorist Act for holding the Robesonian Newspaper hostage February 1, 1988.
*Vonta Leach, born in Lumberton, is a football player and currently a fullback in the NFL for the Houston Texans.

External links

* [ Robeson County government official website]
* [ Online News for Lumberton (]


*Chaffin, Washington Sandford. "February 25 - March 1, 1865," in "Diary." Durham, NC: 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, DC: Government Printing Office, 1908.
*U.S. Bureau of the Census. "We the People":
*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

ee also

*The Lowry War

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