Robeson County is a county in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of 2004 it had a population of 126,469an increase of 2.54% from the 2000 census. Since then, it has been one of the 10% of United States counties that were majority-minority; its combined population of American Indian, African American and Latino residents comprise over 68% of the total. Native Americans make up 38% of the population.
Robeson County was formed in 1787 from part of Bladen County. It was named in honor of Col. Thomas Robeson of Tar Heel, North Carolina, a hero of the Revolutionary War. In 1781, Robeson and 70 Patriots defeated an army of 400 Loyalists at the Battle of Elizabethtown.
Archaeological excavation performed in Robeson County reveals a long and rich history since the end of the last Ice Age of widespread, continuous occupation of the region by various cultures of indigenous peoples. They had camps and settlements near the Lumber River for its water, transportation, fish and related resources. Local excavations reveal that Native American peoples made stone tools using materials brought to 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. Materials show that local settlements were part of an extensive Native American trade network with other regions. Portions of the river basin show that Robeson County was a "zone of cultural interactions."Template:Citation needed
Swamps, streams, and artesian wells provided an excellent supply of water for Native peoples. Fish was plentiful, and the region's lush vegetation included numerous food crops. "Carolina bays" continue to dot the landscape. Numerous 10,000-year-old Clovis points found along their banks indicate indigenous peoples used these depressions as campsites.
After colonial contact, European-made items, such as kaolin tobacco pipes, were traded by the Spanish, French, and English to Native American peoples of the coastal region. The coastal peoples traded with those further inland. Remnants of European goods have been dated prior to permanent European settlements along the Lumber River.Template:Citation needed
Early written sources specific to the Robeson County region are few for the post-contact period of European colonization. In 1725, 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. In 1754, North Carolina Governor Arthur Dobbs received a report from his agent, Col. Rutherford, head of a Bladen County militia, that a "mixed crew" of 50 families were living along Drowning Creek. The communication also reported the shooting of a surveyor who entered the area "to view vacant lands."Template:Citation needed These are the first written accounts about the Native peoples from whom the Lumbee claim descent.
Bladen County encompassed a portion of what is today Robeson County. English colonials named the river "Drowning Creek". After the violent upheavals of the Yamasee War of 1715-1717, and the Tuscarora War of 1711-1715, families of Algonquian Waccamaw left South Carolina Colony in 1718. They may have 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.
Anthropologist John R. Swanton of the Smithsonian Institution tried to identify the origin of the people known as Croatan Indians before the 1950s and now known as the Lumbee. Swanton posited that the people were the descendants of Siouan-speaking peoples, of which the most prominent in the area were the Cheraw and Keyauwee. They were not his major area of study, however, and some of his findings have been superseded by more recent evidence. The descent from Cheraw peoples is part of the Lumbee oral tradition, as well as a basis of their campaign for federal recognition as a tribe. In addition, they suggest that Native American refugees of other tribes, such as Tuscarora, gathered in the Robeson County area and merged as a people in the early nineteenth century.
By the mid-eighteenth century, migrants entered the frontier area from Virginia. In the 1790-1810 censuses, descendants of these families were classified as both white (European American) and free people of color, which could include people of full and partial African and Native American descent, as well as combinations of the three. They held few slaves. Late 20th-century researchers have traced 80 percent of the free people of color in North Carolina listed in those early censuses to African Americans free in Virginia in colonial times. The families were mostly descended from white women (which is what gave them free status so early) and men who were African or African American. In addition, some African male slaves had been freed in Virginia as early as the mid-17th century. They founded free families of several generations before migrating to other areas. In the early years of the southern colonies, working-class whites and Africans lived and worked closely together, marrying and forming unions. Many free people of color migrated to frontier areas to gain relief from the racial strictures of the coastal areas.
Other settlers often identified mixed-race people as Indian, Portuguese or Arab, in attempts to classify them. They sometimes self-identified as Indian as well, trying to escape from racial segregation. Some likely intermarried with refugee Indians who remained in the area after the populations were dramatically reduced due to infectious disease, war, migration and social dislocation. Names on early land deeds and other historic documents in Robeson County correspond to many of the free people of color, including ancestors of contemporary Lumbee. Settlements included Prospect and Red Banks.
By the late eighteenth century, settlement patterns shifted. 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, named for 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 the upper headwater portions of the river are still known. 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.
In 1809, the state legislature renamed Drowning Creek the Lumber River, after the area's major industry. From the end of the eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries, numerous languages could be heard throughout Robeson County: English and possibly remnant Siouan, Algonkian, and Iroquoian languages, although it is likely Native American languages disappeared before mid-century.
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, there are 46,869 Lumbee out of a total county population of 123,339. The Lumbee make up 38.02%, comprising the largest racial/ethnic group in the county.
The Lumbee are the largest tribal nation east of the Mississippi River, and the ninth largest tribal nation in the United States. They are the largest non-reservation tribe of Native Americans in the United States.Template:Citation needed Several majority-Lumbee communities are located within Robeson County.
|Scotland County||Hoke County||Cumberland County|
|Marlboro County, South Carolina||Bladen County|
|Robeson County, North Carolina|
|Dillon County, South Carolina||Columbus County|
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