Antebellum Period (1783 to 1861)

In 1789 North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the Constitution. However, life in North Carolina and the Sandhills did not change much after the Revolutionary War, earning it the nickname the Rip Van Winkle State. While the population of the region increased significantly, the area remained largely rural and the old ways of making a living went on. Families went back to tending their fields of corn and peas and working in the pine barrens for timber and turpentine.

Generally the land around Fort Bragg was not conducive to large scale rice or cotton production. Therefore the region was not home to a large population of enslaved African Americans. Unlike coastal areas, the majority of the population was white. Most enslaved people worked on small farms that were home to fewer than five slaves. In addition, there were nearly 564 free people of color in Cumberland County in1820. From 1776 until 1835, Free People of Color were allowed to vote. When North Carolina amended the State Constitution in 1835 to further disenfranchise black people, many American Indians also were caught up in the process and lost their right to vote and bear arms. Indian people sought to distance themselves culturally in order to preserve their communities and traditions.

In 1783, Cross Creek and Campbelltown merged. The new town was named Fayetteville to honor Revolutionary War hero General Marquis de LaFayette. In 1832 a post office was established in the Longstreet Road community. Its name was changed to Argyle in 1833 and it existed until 1918 when Camp Bragg was created. Sarah Jane McLauchlin Holt served as postmistress from the 1870s to 1898. She is buried in Long Street Church cemetery. The Inverness post office, located in the James Creek community along the Gillilan Road, operated from 1854 until 1912. The Endon Post Office (1896-1902) was located on Fort Bragg near Campbell’s Crossroads off Chicken Road. Four other post offices that served the region were located just outside the modern boundary of Fort Bragg including Montrose to the west, Gillisville to the south, Manchster to the east, and Overhills to the north.

Congregations were first established in the region in the 1750s. Before there were church buildings, congregations met in local meeting houses and taverns. Members of the Argyle community met at Alexander McKay’s tavern (now archaeological site 31HK1842). The original Long Street Presbyterian Church was built on the Yadkin Road in 1766. It is now archaeological site 31HK1839. The church served the Protestant Scots Highlanders and their descendants and the Scots-Irish, Lowland Scots, English settlers and their descendants, and African Americans who also adhered to the Presbyterian denomination. The first church burned around 1800 and was replaced by another building that was used until 1846. A third church building was constructed that year.

As populations grew, new churches were established to serve the expanding communities. At least 10 churches existed within the boundaries of modern-day Fort Bragg during the nineteenth century. Although most of these buildings were removed when the US Army acquired Fort Bragg, Sandy Grove Presbyterian Church (built in 1854) and Long Street Presbyterian Church (built in 1846) still exist. Interestingly, Gaelic continued to be used in some of the Presbyterian churches in the Sandhills well into the 1860s. Ministers delivered one sermon in English and one sermon in Gaelic. The last Gaelic sermon reportedly was preached at Long Street Church in 1869.

These two churches also have adjacent community cemeteries. Long Street Church cemetery contains graves that date from the 1770s through to the 1930s. The earliest internments likely are members of the original congregation. Sandy Grove Church cemetery contains graves that date from 1859 to 1977.

Fort Bragg Cultural Resources Managers maintain these buildings and cemeteries because they are important connections to the people who once lived on Fort Bragg and their descendants.

Regional fairs called “Scotch Fairs” became popular biannual events from 1783 until the 1880s. These gatherings of traveling salesmen, suppliers, and local farmers allowed rural people to sell heir homegrown produce and purchase manufactured goods and food staples, and enjoy a few days of festive entertainment.

Waterways continued to be the principal means of transportation. Steamboats began to ply the waters of the Cape Fear River carrying naval stores, cotton, and coal to Wilmington and bringing back salt, sugar, coffee, and manufactured goods. The Henrietta, built in 1818, was the first steamboat to make the run between Fayetteville and Wilmington. More and more wharves and warehouses were constructed along the Fayetteville waterfront. By 1854, five steamboat lines operated on the river and 15 steamboats made the Fayetteville to Wilmington run regularly.

In the 1850s, white laborers and slaves hired out by local plantation owners constructed a 12-foot-wide and 129-mile-long wooden plank road between Fayetteville and Salem. Called the Fayetteville and Western Plank Road, it helped local businessmen and farmers get their produce, cotton, and forest products to processing plants and shipping depots on the Cape Fear River. The overland shipping business began a slow decline in the 1850s as railroad service started to expand throughout the region.

The region’s longleaf pine stands insured that turpentine remained the leading industry of the Sandhills. Larger operations used African American slaves for most of the arduous tasks of cutting and boxing the trees and collecting the pine gum. As the demand for lamp fuel and turpentine-based paints and varnishes increased, distilleries were constructed to process the crude gum. Simple earthen tar kilns were built across the region. Tar was made by burning pine logs in the kilns and collecting the runoff liquid. The tar was used to coat the rigging of sailing ships or processed to produce pitch used to caulk wooden ships.

The trees of the Sandhills were also harvested for timber. A number of saw mills operated in the area on and around Fort Bragg. Archaeological site 31HK1641, located on Fort Bragg, is the former location of Cabin Branch Mill, a grist mill and saw mill owned by John Chappell.

While cotton was not grown extensively in the Sandhills, cotton ginning, spinning and weaving became an important industry. The first mill in Cumberland County was built in 1824. The number of mills grew to seven by 1852. Small communities developed around the mills. Other antebellum Sandhills industries included gun making, gun powder production, brick making, coopering (barrel-making), pottery manufacture, and wine making.

A number of antebellum structures around Fort Bragg survived into the 20th century. Log cabins and plank houses set on brick or stone foundations were common. When Camp Bragg was established in 1918 most existing houses were removed. Today many of these old homesteads remain as archaeological sites. Some of these resources, including the early 19th century home of Rodderick Gillis (31HK1624) and the late 19th century homes of Catherine Chappell (31HK1640/1641) and Duncan Patterson (31HK1078), have been investigated by archaeologists working at Fort Bragg. Go to the archaeology section to learn more about these interesting sites.