Postbellum Period (1865 to 1918)
The end of the Civil War brought great social and economic change to the South and the Sandhills as black and white people struggled to adjust during the transition from slavery to freedom. The Freedmen’s Bureau established by Congress in 1865 was charged with assisting African Americans to find jobs, land, a home, and an education. Since monocrop plantation agriculture had not dominated the economy of the Sandhills, most enslaved people had worked on small farms with fewer than 10 slaves. As a result they often learned many skills other than farming. Some of these skills were related to timbering, turpentine production, and milling.
After the abolition of slavery many former slaves were well prepared to take up subsistence farming and became tenant farmers or sharecroppers. Some freed people were able to purchase their own land as cash-poor white landowners sold off small parcels of their former holdings. At the same time, improved farming practices including new fertilizers, deep plowing, and irrigation helped increase cash crop yields. Cotton, peaches, and tobacco introduced in 1900 brought money into the local economy. Cotton gins and spinning plants also expanded.
Some people continued to work in the turpentine business, this time as paid workers. Thanks to the efforts of Union General Joseph R. Hawley, economic incentives provided by the federal government helped jumpstart the industry. The turpentine business would continue to boom in the region for the next 20 years until the pine forests of the Sandhills were depleted and the industry moved to Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. Duncan Patterson, whose home was located here on Fort Bragg, owned the Patterson and Leslie Company which produced turpentine and tar. In 1880, the company employed 42 men.
At about this time, Eli Walden joined his brothers-in-law Edmund, Lucian (also known as Lawrence), and Martine Goins and established the Goins Brothers Company. Eli was a cooper who made barrels and kegs for the turpentine industry. The 1880 industrial census shows the company had 13 workers and produced $1,800.00 worth of goods that year. By 1889 the company owned nearly 4,500 acres of land, a saw mill, wagons, and other turpentining equipment, all located near the community of Silver Run. It is likely the Goins Brothers operation was the largest American Indian-owned turpentine business in the state.
By the beginning of 20th century the trees on the Goins’ land were tapped out. Edmund Goins moved to North Florida near the community of Rosewood. Eli Walden died in Florida while trying to negotiate a work contract. The rest of the Goins family stayed in Silver Run until the US Army began to purchase the land in 1918.
The lumber business also boomed for a few years after the war thanks to the demand for planking to rebuild homes and businesses and the need for ties to repair and extend railroad tracks throughout the region. The rot-resistant heart pine was a favorite for railroad construction. Slowly but surely the Sandhills began to recover from the devastating economic effects of the Civil War.
By the turn of the 20th century, tobacco farming and cotton mills began to dominate the landscape. Gradually subsistence farming became less desirable for both white and black communities. Increasingly, people left the land and the Sandhills for manufacturing jobs. In 1917 there were 170 families living in the area that would become Fort Bragg; 108 families owned their land and 62 families were tenants. Ownership was split almost evenly with 56 white landowners and 52 black landowners. It should be noted that whites owned much larger tracts of land. It is also important to note that some of the owners recorded as black likely were American Indians. At that time census takers did not distinguish between these two cultures.
Most of the historic archaeological sites at Fort Bragg (approximately 450 sites) date from the Postbellum era. Some of the most important sites associated with the people who once lived at Fort Bragg are the 27 cemeteries that were present when the US Army acquired the land. Some of the cemeteries are associated with churches such as Long Street Church and Sandy Grove Church or former churches; others served individual families. One of the most interesting cemeteries is associated with the Goins-Walden family. They buried family members in a cemetery in the western portion of Fort Bragg until the US Army acquired these lands.
Today Fort Bragg Cultural Resources Managers maintain these cemeteries as important historical resources. Fort Bragg encourages the descendants of people buried in these cemeteries to visit. The Goins-Walden descendants have held day-long reunions at their family cemetery. The historic cemeteries on Fort Bragg testify to 250 years of regional settlement. They are cultural landscape, sacred grounds, green spaces, managed historic sites, military memorials, and genealogical goldmines. They are direct, tangible connections to the past and the present.