|Columbus County History
Compiled by Natasha Miles
Columbus County was named for Christopher Columbus. It was formed in 1808 from land that was originally part of Bladen and Brunswick Counties. Bordering counties are Brunswick, Pender, Bladen, Robeson, Dillon County, SC and Horry County, SC.
The county has several important geographical features including Lake Waccamaw, the largest natural lake between New York and Florida, the Waccamaw and Lumber Rivers which link this area to South Carolina and the coastal town of Georgetown, and the Cape Fear River which provides access to the port city of Wilmington.
The area in and around what is now known as Columbus County was originally inhabited by several tribes of Native Americans including the Waccamaw Indians, the Cape Fear Indians, and the Lumbee Indians. The "old lake road" was once part of an Indian trail that ran from Lake Waccamaw to the Outer Banks. The Lake Waccamaw Depot Museum, located in the train depot, built around 1904, today houses some Waccamaw-Siouan Indian artifacts found in the area. The town of Lake Waccamaw was originally known as Flemington from about 1853 until 1885.
Among the oldest towns in Columbus County are Fair Bluff and Whiteville. Fair Bluff appears on maps from the early 1800s. It is home to what is believed to be the oldest building in Columbus County, the Old Trading Post.
Whiteville is named for James Bunberry White, born 31 December 1774 to James and Bridget White. He and his siblings were raised at the Glen Etive Plantation in Bladen County. White was a millwright and owned thousands of acres of land in Bladen County as well as a plantation called Marsh Castle. In 1806 and 1807, White was a member of the NC House of Commons. Upon the formation of Columbus County in 1808, James White became the county's first state senator. He allocated land to be used for the county courthouse and gave it to the county. The settlement around the Courthouse grew, and in 1853 a train depot for the Wilmington and Manchester Railroad, lcoated a mile south of the Courthouse, helped the area to grow even more.
Agriculture has traditionally been an important part of life in Columbus County. Different towns are known for different crops such as Chadbourn and their strawberries, Tabor City and their sweet potatos, and Fair Bluff and their watermelons.
There are considerably less strawberries in Chadbourn today then there were in the early 1900s when Chadbourn was called the "Strawberry Capitol of the World" and supposedly had "hundreds of train loads" of the delicious berries. The strawberry industry in Chadbourn was started by Joseph A Brown who realized after visiting Louisiana that there was a gap in the strawberry market of six weeks that he could cash in on. A deal was made with the publisher of a popular magazine and with the railroad who offered excursions to the "Sunny South Colony." These excursions brought new faces and new business to Chadbourn. Chadbourn still hosts the annual Strawberry Festival, which has been an agricultural event for decades.
One of Tabor City's major crops is the sweet potato, also often mistakenly called "yams" in this area. The town for nearly 40 years has hosted the Annual Yam Festival and has been called the Yam Capital of the World.
Fair Bluff's Watermelon Festival began in the early 1980s by two local farmers, AJ Worley and Monroe Enzor, who grew excessively large watermelons, each weighing over 100 pounds.
History of Columbus County
Columbus County, North Carolina by James A Rogers, 1946
Our History from the Discover Columbus County web site