History of Red Springs
History of Red Springs
About the Author
This history of Red Springs was compiled by Mrs. George Bullock, nee Beatrice McEachern, from research of her own and from material assembled by the late Miss Cornelia McMillan, long recognized as an authority on historical events in this community.
In addition to this work, Mrs. Bullock, in 1964, wrote a history of the Red Springs Presbyterian Church which was printed in the special program for the 75th anniversary celebration of that church and has become the official history.
Mrs. Bullock was born near Wagram and moved to Red Springs with her parents and sister in 1894. She attended Red Springs Seminary and for a year attended "State Normal" now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She completed her formal education at the Presbyterian College and Conservatory of Music here, with this school later being renamed Flora Macdonald College. She received a B.L. diploma and later a certificate in Music and voice.
For a time before her marriage she worked for the Red Springs Citizen. After
her wedding she moved with her husband to a tobacco plantation in Southwest
Georgia. Three years later they moved to Puerto Rico where her husband managed
tobacco plantations for a United States firm. The family lived in Puerto Rico
for a number of years after which Mr. Bullock was transferred to Cuba. Living
conditions were not so good in Cuba and schools were not available for the older
children, so Mrs. Bullock and the children returned to Red Springs to make their
home here, visiting every so often in Cuba.
During this time Mrs. Bullock became publicity chairman at Flora Macdonald, a position she held for 17 years, giving up the work in 1947. Always interested in community affairs, she was one of the few women ever to serve on the Red Springs Town Board to which she was appointed for one term.
Why the Water Is Red
An Indian Brave at sunset, returning wearied from the day's hunt, knelt to drink from the deep spring that bubbled cool and refreshing from the sands beneath the towering pines. He thought to rest awhile before seeking the lodge where a dark-eyed maiden waited. But alas, his rival for the maiden's hand, lurking in the forest, sent a death arrow speeding and the stricken warrior fell forward into the quiet waters and sank from sight. Only the bronze hued blanket flung across his shoulder, was left floating silently on the surface.
And even today when the late afternoon sun throws its slanting rays through the trees, the dying light catches the gleam of the blanket that lies always just beneath the surface of the water.
Gone long since is the wide, deep pool from which the Indians drank and to
which many years later, journeyed plantation families seeking the pleasant,
health-giving water. In its place came pipes from which the same medicated water
gushed freely, leaving behind the familiar russet sediment.
Summer cottages, a hotel and a few permanent homes began to cluster about the spring and a tiny village came into being and took its name from its famous water.
Grant From The State
Richard Dobbs Speight, Governor of N.C. to John Grey Blount
Grant from the State
Dated December 26, 1795
Below is a complete copy of Grant No. 921 from State of North Carolina to John Grey Blount.
"Know ye that for, and in consideration of, the sum of thirty shillings for every hundred acres hereby granted paid into our Treasury by John Grey Blount, have given and granted and by these presents do give and grant unto the said John Grey Blount a tract of land containing 85,000 acres lying and being in our County of Robeson in the fork between the Raft Swamp and Drowning Creek, beginning at a cypress stump by three small gum pointer just below the end of the Widow Campbell's bridge on the bank of the creek and runs down the various courses of the run of said creeks to the confluence of the Raft Swamp, thence up the various courses of the run of said Swamp to Cumberland County line; thence due West along that line six hundred chains to Drowning Creek, thence down the various courses thereof to the Bluff of Peter McEachin, thence South thirty five East to the Poast Road, thence along that road to the beginning, including sundry surveys previously entered surveyed by virtue of 133 warrants for 640 acres each, dated at Newbern the 25th day of December of the 19th year of independence and in the year of our Lord 1794.
Richard Dobbs Speight
By his Excellency Command
J. Glasgow, Secretary."
(The Post Office property for which this abstract is made is part of the above described land.)
Copy Of Will
Will of Hector McNeill Dated December 20, 1803
Below is a copy of the will as shown by the records:
"In the name of God Amen. I, Hector McNeill of the County of Robeson and State of North Carolina, being weak in body but a perfect mind and memory, do make this my last Will and Testament in the manner and form following, (Vis);
First I give and bequeath unto my beloved wife two Negroes, Quash and Hannah, likewise all my stock and household furniture to dispose of as she thinks proper, also the plantation whereon I now live and all my land adjoining it during her lifetime and then to become my son William's. Second: I give and bequeath to my son Malcolm, two Negroes, Ben and Susan, also one hundred acres of land lying on Bear Swamp.
Third, I give and bequeath to my daughter, Isabella, one Negro girl named Eve. I give and bequeath to my daughter Catherine one Negro wench named Lena, except her issue which I wish to be divided in the following manner (if any there should be) Viz; My son William to have the first child; my daughter, Mary the next, then should said wench have any more issue I desire that it should be divided equally between Isabella, Catherine, William and Mary. If said wench, Lena, should be without issue, then said Negroes, Ben, Susan, Eve, and Lena to be equally divided between my children Malcolm, Isabella, Catherine, William and Mary.
I also appoint my son Malcolm and my son-in-law Daniel Buie executors of this last Will and Testament.
In witness thereof, I here unto set my hand and seal this twentieth day of September 1803.
Signed and sealed in the presence of,
A BRIEF HISTORY OF RED SPRINGS
Red Springs is situated on the Columbia Division of the Atlantic Coast Line, about halfway between Bennettsville, South Carolina and Fayetteville in the healthful long-leaf section of Upper Robeson County. It is 204 feet above sea level and has a mild climate.
Its mineral springs were known for their beneficial qualities long before the town came into being, and later became a mecca, for many who were benefitted by these health-giving waters. The name of the town is derived from the rust colored sediment, caused by iron and sulphur deposits in the water.
The history of the town goes back to March 11, 1775 when "Sailor" Hector McNeill [son of Neill McNeill, Sr. of Jobes Branch who settled near the entrance to Greenbriar on Duffie Road, and a brother of "Shoemaker John" McNeill. "Sailor Hector" was using this nickname as early as 1771 in the Bladen County tax list for that year, and was living with Neill McNeill and a man named John Hart.], one of the first known settlers in this immediate community, received a grant of land from King George III of England, signed by Josiah Martin, Governor of the Province. He also purchased an adjoining tract that had been granted to a George Sizemore in 1767. The little stream back of the old High School buildings is known as Sizemore Branch. These grants cover the present town, including the College Campus. A good part of this property is still owned by McNeill descendants.
McNeill built a house on the Sizemore grant, near where the J.W. Hodgin home now stands, reared a family, lived to a ripe old age, and is buried in the McNeill cemetery in the western part of town, which he had laid off for a burying ground. There has never been a marker to his grave, only a piece of cement marks the spot. He left his son William his property in the village and settled his son Malcolm at nearby Moss Neck. William married Jane McNeill and built their home on the curve of the Maxton highway now enters the town. Ancient oaks still mark the site. His daughter, Nancy, married another McNeill, Archibald, and lived about a mile and a half away.
(photo of postcard Hotel Red Springs)
In 1852 as the health-giving waters had attracted more and more settlers, Malcolm Jr., grandson of "Sailor" Hector, built a hotel on the hill above the spring, a long, low house with a piazza running the length of the front, which was patronized for upwards of 40 years. At his death, his brother, "Red" Hector, took control. In 1891 a new and larger building was erected near the same site by S.R. Townsend and called Hotel Townsend, and which served the public for nearly a half century longer. Becoming unsafe, eventually it was closed and donated to the college and parts used to build a gymnasium there. The land was sold and now the site is occupied by the Mac-Land Chevrolet, Inc. The opening of the first hotel on July 4, 1852 was a great event. The Lumber Bridge Light Infantry came over and took part in the festivities. That same year Malcolm and his brother-in-law, A.D. McNeill, built and operated the first store, and a small frame school building was erected near the hotel and was also used for religious and social gatherings. About this time agricultural fairs were begun and held each year until the outbreak of the War Between the States. In the early 1880's they were renewed, large buildings erected, a race track laid off, and were great occasions for a number of years. One very special occasion in the middle 80's was the presence of Ex-Governor Zebulon Vance, the much beloved "War" Governor. He was met at the depot by a procession of outstanding citizens and the route from there to the fair grounds in the northern part of town has ever since been known as Vance Avenue.
Quotations from The Robesonian of August 14, 1878, speak thus: "Red Springs, the delightful resort, now offers superior advantages to a limited number of select guests, as the hotel is refurnished this season and with daily mail connection." And again, "Don't forget the picnic at Red Springs next Saturday. This place is becoming a favorite resort under new management. There is no doubt about the medicinal properties of the water." But in 1884 a little booklet entitled, "All about Robeson County" remarks, "All that is necessary to make the Springs a place of resort for the general public is good hotel accommodations. The property where the springs are located is owned by gentlemen of capital and enterprise, so it is hoped such accommodations will be soon effected." The August issue of the town paper, The Scottish Chief, in 1888 says, "Capt. Blocker has built a bathing house at the spring for the accommodation of the hotel boarders. Give us a finer hotel, skating rink, ten-pin alley, and other attractions and the place will be over-run with visitors." In 1880, John McEachin started a turpentine still, located about where the cotton platforms are. Later it was bought by the Buie brothers who also ran a general store nearby.
The years 1884-85 were momentous ones for the little village. Up to that time communication with the outside world was slow. Mail was brought from Lumberton two or three times a week by a man driving a sulky or dog cart, his approach being announced by a bugle blast.
(photo of Yadkin Valley Railroad stock)
In June 1884 the Atlantic Coast Line, then known as the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad, completed a branch line from Fayetteville to Bennettsville and this was the occasion for another big celebration. This made the seventh railroad station in the county. The station building was the present freight depot and a Mr. Bell came from Bennettsville as express agent and telegraph operator. In 1886, J.S. Jones came from Sanford and took his place. Excursions up and down the road were popular, Red Springs being the picnic grounds and flooding the area with merrymakers. The third Saturday in August was the annual community picnic and Homecoming Day for former Robesonians. The Fall of 1884 saw the first church building completed by the Baptists near the present site and a Union Sunday School organized. This same year a regular post office was established with John McC. Buie as postmaster. The next year the post office, which had been called "Dora," was changed to Red Springs by an act of the Legislature, the bill being introduced by Hamilton McMillan, a member of the Legislature. In 1887 he also introduced a bill incorporating the town. "Red" Hector McNeill, a grandson of "Sailor" Hector, was the first mayor. In 1889 the charter was amended and A.B. Pearsall elected mayor under the new charter. In 1888 both the Presbyterians and Methodists organized and churches were built. The Methodist near where McKeithan Hardware is now, and Presbyterian near the site of the present home of the E.H. Alexanders.
In April 1888 a town newspaper came into being, The Scottish Chief, edited monthly by R.T. Covington. The Fayetteville Observer remarked: "The editor is a red-hot Democrat and we may predict that the new craft will enter the coming campaign with guns shotted and decks cleared for action. Editor Covington announces that the mission of the Chief will be to give prominence to our town, to assist in developing its varied resources, to invite men of capital to locate in our midst, to encourage the establishment of schools, to cultivate an obedience to law and order. We will support what we conscientiously believe to be right and denounce what we conceive to be wrong."
In that first issue the change of municipal government appears as follows: "On the 7th of May, with but one exception, the old board of mayor and commissioners stepped gracefully down and out and the following, who are to shape the next year's destinies and casualties, with a bold front and stiff upper lip, stepped quietly in." The old board were Mayor R.T. Covington, Aldermen Hector McNeill, J. McC. Buie, A.B. Pearsall, N.A. McQueen, William Pryor. The newly elected were Mayor Hector McNeill, Commissioners J.L. McMillan, Peter McQueen, W.H. Carver, William Pryor, M.A. Buie, Secretary and Treasurer J.S. Jones, Town Marshal Paisley McMillan. The Chief goes on to say that "this new board comprises the oldest and most respected citizens and it is expected of every good citizen to walk a chalk line and cooperate with them in putting down everything of a detrimental character, and all pull strongly and unceasingly together for the upbuilding of our town."
(photo of The Old Depot)
The town's directory appears is this issue. Dr. John Luther McMillan, physician, office at R.T. Covington's Store. B.W. Townsend, dealer in general merchandise, corner Spring and Fayetteville Streets (largest store in the village). N.A. McQueen, groceries and dry goods, west side of Spring Street. John A. McKay [son of Duncan and Harriett McNeill McKay of Philadelphus], dealer in groceries, confectioneries, dry goods and drugs, Spring Street. R.T. Covington, fancy groceries, confectioneries, dry goods and drugs, corner Spring and McKeathan Streets. Buie and Roberts, manufacturers and dealers in naval stores, corner of Fayetteville and McQueen streets. A.B. Pearsall, manufacturer of heart pine lumber. Hector McNeill, real estate agent. R.T. Covington, contractor and builder. Fitzhugh Bros., manufacturers of lumber, laths and worked flooring. James Dial, wheelwright and blacksmith. D.P. Scurlock, blacksmith and wheelwright. (Dial was an Indian, Scurlock a negro.)
Also in this issue J. McC. Buie advertises for sale "the Exchange Hotel near the depot, eight plastered large rooms, fireplace and closet in each room, good well water, stables on lot." Two issues later A.B. Pearsall and G.H. Hall announce they have taken charge of the Exchange Hotel and assure their guests of "the best water at all hours!" A very popular commercial hotel was conducted by Mrs. Nellie Shooter [Nellie Currie, daughter of Adam Currie and his cousin Flora Currie of Robeson County. Nellie married Romulus Shooter.] and later by L. Allen Huggins from about 1890 until some time in the 1920's. It stood on the corner of Main Street and E. 3rd Avenue.
Again quoting from The Chief, July 1888: "Messrs. W.F. and J.G. Williams' Mills, located in the western part of town near the plant of Messrs. Tardy and Vandergrift, will be ready for sawing within two days. The Tardy-Vandergrift and Williams Railroad is being rapidly built from Red Springs to Millprong, ten or twelve miles northwest of Red Springs. The railroad is narrow gauge and equipped for the express purpose of hauling logs. These firms have bought several thousand acres of the best pine timber and the road taps one of the finest farming sections of the county." In September of that year the new engine for the railroad arrived and was named "The Little Hector," in compliment to our worthy townsman who has been active in promoting the building of this road. For upwards of 40 years this road did a thriving business and was known by all as the Little Hector Road. Later a branch line was run to the present town of Wagram, being the main factor in the establishment of that town. Mr. W.F. Williams (Cap'n Bill) was a great admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte, and named Wagram for one of his great battles. That winter the Fayetteville Observer says: "The construction of a lumber railroad and the erection of additional mills at Red Springs have awakened a new interest among the people of that section. Trade has increased, larger tacks of goods have been bought than in former years, and we think Red springs is on a boom at last." There were five sawmills in and around the town within the next few years. Besides those mentioned, William Love and Son of Greensboro started operations in 1889, and a little later the McDiarmid Lumber Company of Fayetteville operated for several years. During 1888 and '89 five million two hundred thousand feet of lumber and five million each of laths and shingles were shipped. Saw milling became so extensive in fact, that a correspondent to The Chief was moved to complain that "If the saw mills don't let up the stock law will be forced on this community in a few years for lack of timber to build fences." Well, that prophecy came true when scarcity of timber forced the Loves to shut down in 1962, the lone survivors of a prosperous era.
(photo of six ladies at tea)
The Scottish Chief was eventually purchased by W.B. Harker of Maxton and published there under the name for a number of years. In 1895, Archibald Johnson, father of the writer, Gerald Johnson, started the Red Springs Citizen which he published for some two years before accepting the editorship of Charity and Children, an organ of the Baptist Church in Thomasville. After Mr. Johnson came R.B. Branch who headed the staff for twelve or fifteen years. The paper changed name and ownership several times. Dougald Coxe merged both names into the Scottish Citizen in 1948, making it more of a county than local paper, but eventually its original name was restored under succeeding ownerships. It is now owned and operated by the Wilson brothers.
In 1892 Fayetteville Presbytery established here what was called an Elders and Deacons Institute, a ten-day meeting open to all, which lasted for about five summers. The large open tabernacle in which the services took place was also used by the Baptists of the state for three years for their summer assembly called Chautauquas.
In 1896 telephones were installed in places of business and some homes, and before any of the surrounding small towns were able to have electric lights, the college plant furnished adequate lighting for the town. In 1909, Dr. Vardell, college president, employed two electricians from Greensboro, G.C. and J.A. Lang. The lines were built by these men with the help of the college force to dig holes and raise the poles. The 2300 volt generator was operated by a steam engine connected to a steam boiler which was fired by two men, Hoyle Davis and Bizzell Davis, each working 12 hour shifts. They used wood which was cut from pine trees and stacked in cord wood lots on the college grounds. Electricity was generated for night service for twelve years by the college before the town took over the plant and operated it day and night.
(photo of East Avenue Red Springs)
It was in that year that the Fayetteville Presbytery established a girls' school here calling it "Red Springs Seminary," with Rev. C.G. Vardell as president, and Mrs. Vardell as head of the Conservatory of Music. With the coming of the college the town began to grow. Citizens from other communities moved in to educate their daughters, and new business houses came into being and well established firms were enlarged. Disastrous fires swept the business section several times. One in February 1906 practically wiped out the western side of Main Street and a part of the other side. After that fire laws were enforced and a fire engine purchased, costing $1,100.00 with reel and 500 feet of hose. Ours was one of the first towns in the county to secure modern fire fighting equipment. In January 1911 bonds had been voted for a water and sewerage plant. In 1921 the town established its own light plant and in 1923 all main streets were paved. And in 1923 the town fathers with S.H. Toon, as mayor, decided to try an experiment and elected three women on the board: Miss Katie Brown, business woman; Miss Elizabeth Frye, welfare worker, and Mrs. George Bullock, housewife. An outstanding event of that administration was when a group from the board, including the three lady members, made a trip to Jacksonville, North Carolina to study a light and water plant, recommended as feasible type for our town. As a result, we soon had a new plant. The women members wielded some influence in cleanup campaigns and general beautification of the town. Apparently though, the "experiment" was not considered a success as there have been no women on the town board since that day.
(two photos of town fires)
Among the earlier business firms of the town were Grantham's Drug Store, Miss Katie R. Brown's Millinery Shop, the Bank of Red Springs, W.J. Councils Dry Goods and Groceries, Townsend's Drug Store, Garrett's Grocery, John T. McNeill Hardware, Livermore and McKinnon Farmers Supply Company (later the Trading Company). All these in 1900. J.S. Jones left the depot and became first cashier of the bank. He remained in that capacity and later as president for over 25 years before resigning because of ill health. Cooks Funeral Home was established in 1902. W.H. Carr Hardware, Brewer's Sales Stables, Cooks Motor and Machine Shop, J.A. Singleton, general merchandise, W.P. Kay, hardware, John J. Thrower Company, all came in 1903. In 1904 a Masonic Fair was held in a vacant store on Main Street, proceeds to go towards the building of a Masonic Temple. It was a great gala week with many visitors from surrounding towns and communities. L.M. Cook was the leader in the movement and a good sum was realized. Another successful fair was held in 1911. For years and up to this time, Red Springs was a favorite resort for northern hunters who found the countryside abundantly supplied with birds. Some brought their families and wintered at the hotel until the newly developed Pinehurst, offering more and varied attractions, drew them away.
(photo of L.M. Cook Funeral Home)
J.D. Odom opened a meat market in 1912, the same year that D.M. McMillan started out selling Ford products, and M.E. Watson opened a barber shop. Before that most barbers were Negroes. In 1916 Ernest Graham and Henry McLeod started the town's first department store, still in operation as Graham Company.
Perhaps of all the early event none eclipsed the week of Homecoming, August 21-26, 1905. Far-flung Robesonians came from eight states until every available bed in the community was filled. Prominent speakers were present, including Governor Glenn, Senator McLaurin, Hon. Josephus Daniels, Dr. Charles D. McIver, Dr. Alexander Graham, Judge [William David Torrey] McKay of Texas--all who made the welkin ring with true southern oratory.
Immediately after World War I, business was greatly stimulated by the coming of a cotton mill located in the western end of town and called "Dora Mill." It developed into Robbins Mills for the manufacture of rayon fabrics, again changing name to Mid-State Cloth Mill in 1945. It operates now under the name of Amerotron Corporation.
In 1906 the Morgan Oil and Fertilizer Mill began operation, but known since 1920 as Liberty Manufacturing Company. In 1922 an ice factory was started by B.W. Townsend and operated by Bob Owen, who also sold coal, and continued in operation until 1958. Before this ice was shipped in from Fayetteville and handled mostly by Mr. Talbot, who owned a fish and meat market.
Another bank, Carolina Bank and Trust Company, was organized in September 1910 with John H. McKay as cashier and Dickson McLean, president, but became a victim of the depression and was liquidated in 1934. It was located on the corner of Main Street and East Third Avenue.
(photo of Main Street looking south)
W.D. Humphrey ("Ole Timer") opened the first regular picture theatre in 1928. Before this several shows had run for short periods from time to time in various locations. Mr. Humphrey erected a modern theatre on Main Street and furnished a first-class type of pictures for over ten years before removing to Florida. This building burned in 1948, was rebuilt, better equipped, and gave good service to town and community until the closing of Flora Macdonald in 1961. Reopened in 1965 under new management.
Also in 1928 McNeill Cleaners opened for business. Prior to this most dry cleaning was done by John Brown, a Negro, who had his own plant. Warren McNeill gave good service for about 35 years. The business is now owned by Kennerty Company.
The old bank building erected in 1900, had an upper story that was used for entertainments and known as the "Opera House." There home talent blossomed and occasional road shows performed.
(photo of Opera House today)
It was the most important building on Main Street and was, for a time, headquarters
for the Masonic and Eastern Star organizations, and also for Episcopal services
before the church was built. After the bank was moved across the street, J.A.
Singleton's Grocery occupied the lower section. Sanders Furniture now occupies
the building, using the "Old Opery" as a storage area.
Tribute is due the honor and integrity of the leaders among our colored citizens in the days past. Among them were John Walker, engineer of the "Little Hector;" "Big Bogue" Smith, boss of the logging teams for the Williams Mill; Henry Jones of the mill; Tom Brown, cafe owner and first cook for the college; John Brown, merchant. Another younger John Brown ran a cleaning plant and was leader of one of the sweetest sounding quartets to be found anywhere. Simon DeVane and John McNeill, farmers; John's brother, Vander McNeill, long-time janitor at the Graded School and loved by the students; John McPhaul, ardent fox hunter and famous for his barbecue; Eli Haywood, popular yard man; Orange Williams, the Pearsalls' "Big Tom," whom the children loved and obeyed; John Richardson, brickmason; "Bizzell," drayman; "Uncle" Baldwin--"I buttles for Mr. Toon;" other McNeills, no kin, Robert, Jim and Fletcher; Archie Parker and wife Lou; "Aunt" Mary Ann Dumas who was blind, and when she got tired of sitting got down on her knees by her chair and prayed, are a few who should be mentioned as well as famous cooks, Reppa McPhaul, Eliza Drake, Liza Gainey and daughters, Georgie and Emma, and later, Clara Evangeline; Uncle Henry Carr, of the town sanitation department; and Dan McEachern, handyman of Garrett's Store.
Red Springs has always been club happy--fraternal, civic, historical, business, etc. Since the Kings Daughters of the 1880's, a Lyseum and Shakespearean Club, there have been the Masons, Eastern Star, Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, Woodmen of the World, Parent-Teacher Association, Woman's Club, Home Demonstration Club, Music Club, Garden Club, American Legion, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, D.A.R., U.D.C., V.F.W., National Guard, Rotary and Lions Clubs, Merchants Association, Chamber of Commerce, Credit Woman's Association, Dilettantes (Senior and Junior), Book Clubs, besides the various church organizations, and Bridge Clubs galore. A Cotton Growers Association was formed in 1906 and a Farmers Institute held in 1909.
(photo of Red Springs street)
With paved roads connecting with all surrounding towns and bus lines established, travel by rail fell off to such an extent that all passenger trains were discontinued eventually. The station building where the youth of the town went together to greet the incoming trains, was torn down and express handled from the freight depot. Once Capt. Campbell, veteran conductor, was asked the population of Red Springs. He answered, "Be at the station at train time and you can see for yourself!" Oh, well, there were no TV, autos or picture shows in those days and train time was a social event.
A New Cemetery
"A very perplexing problem, one of some years standing--that of securing a larger and more suitable site for the repose of our dead--has at last been solved. A company composed of five or six of our worthy citizens last week purchased 30 acres of land from John McPhaul [a mulatto] and converted them into a cemetery.
"The location is a most desirable one, situated about three-fourths of a mile from the center of the town, northwest. The plot is high with excellent drainage.
"Those who have taken the work in hand deserve the thanks of the community, as the lots are to be sold at figures little above the price paid for them and will, consequently be within reach of all.
"The grounds will be improved and beautified by laying off squares and
driveways and planting of shrubbery and setting out shade trees."
--Red Springs Citizen, July 14, 1905.
This movement was started by the late Dr. Luther McMillan after the graded school was located below the McNeill Cemetery, as he feared the drainage from the slope would contaminate the school's water supply. He gave the new cemetery its name, Alloway, from an ancient burying ground near the church in Scotland where Robert Burns worshipped and was made famous by this poem Tam O'Shanter.
The first known religious history of this section was in 1757 when a Scotsman, Rev. James Campbell, came on infrequent trips from his pastorates at Long Street and Bluff Churches in the Cape Fear Section, and preached in a grove at McPhaul's Mill. During the Revolutionary period he spoke openly in favor of freedom of the colonies which displeased his Scottish listeners, still loyal to the King, to such an extent that he was forced to leave. He went to Guilford county but returned in later years where he died and is buried across the Cape Fear River from old Bluff Church. After the Revolution, occasional ministers passed through this section but the first recorded sermons in Red Springs were by a Presbyterian, Rev. Archibald Buie in 1821, and in that same year by "Father" John Monroe, a Baptist divine from the Spring Hill community. These and later services were held in a log hut near the present Liberty Manufacturing plant--years were to pass before a frame building was built in the center of a fine stand of pines near the hotel and used as a school and place for recreation as well as a church.
About 1880 Mr. S.R. Townsend had come from Anson County to settle in the Red Banks section of Robeson County and was the owner of large turpentine and farming interests. Assisting him was a young man, Robert T. Covington, also from Anson, and an ardent Baptist. There being no church close enough to attend, he and Mr. Townsend decided that the little settlement of Red Springs, which was without a church, would be a good place to start one. So with the backing of Mr. Townsend and Mr. R.F. DeVane and encouragement from a group of Baptist laymen, Messrs. Graham McGugan, M.R. Baggett, and W.R. Webster, also citizens of other faiths, in the fall of 1884 a small frame building was erected on approximately the site of the present church and attended by all. A Union Sunday School was organized , with Mr. J.S. Jones, a Methodist, as superintendent. Rev. J.F. Lynch was engaged as temporary pastor until Rev. R.A. Moore of Guilford County was called as permanent pastor and who labored faithfully for many years. Mr. Covington had moved into the town and eventually became one of the foremost citizens, merchant and editor of the town paper, Scottish Chief, which he organized. After moving to Red Springs, Mr. Townsend led in the development and growth of the community, continued on down the years by his son, Ben, and grandson, Will Townsend. The present church building was erected in 1916.
(photo of the First Baptist Church building going up)
In 1888 the Presbyterians began a church on the south corner of the lot next to the home of Mr. Ben Townsend, now the home of the E.H. Alexanders. "Squire" Hector [also known as "Red" Hector"] McNeill, first mayor of the town, gave this location and joined the church on the Sunday of its dedication. He also gave the communion service and a baptismal font. He was buried in the Philadelphus Churchyard, but like this forebear, has no marker to his grave. [He is buried adjacent to and on the west side of the graves of his two wives--both named Susan--marked a pineknot placed there by J.F. McKay and his granddaughter Dot Pellegrini Edgerton, and, more recently, in 2011, I placed a funeral home marker at his grave just at the pine knot.] Presbytery met in the new church the next Spring and the pews not being finished, the Baptists loaned theirs. Eventually the congregation outgrew the little wooden building and the present brick church was erected in 1907 on a location further up the street. The first pastor was a ministerial student, Rev. J.M. Clark. He was assistant to "Father" Hector McLean, pastor of Philadelphus and Antioch Churches, where this congregation had originally worshipped. There were 17 charter members, most coming from the Philadelphus congregation. Soon a Sunday School was organized with Mr. John McLean as superintendent and who remained in that capacity almost continually until his death in 1913. In 1890 a Ladies' Missionary Society was organized with Mrs. Peter McQueen [Margaret B. McNeill] as president. A Christian Endeavor Society, begun in 1895, developed into today's Young People of the Church Group.
In 1800 Bishop Asbury passed through the lower end of the county preaching at Bethesda, near Barnesville, also at Olivet in Marietta. Another age-honored church, Asbury, in that same community was created through his influence. Among the early ministers was Peter Doub, whose flock numbered more slaves than whites, it is said. He also ministered to other Methodist flocks in the county. He was followed by Rev. John Tillit, whose many descendants are in the Charlotte area today. Methodism was a little slower in reaching upper Robeson. In the 1850's Rev. Neill Ray preached here in the grove school house, alternating every other Sunday with Father McLean. A well-loved minister, Rev. A.D. Betts visited this section occasionally also. But a church was not organized until after the Presbyterians had established theirs. In the Fall of 1889 a wooden building was erected near where McKeithan Hardware Store is now, and dedicated with 12 charter members and J.S. Jones as superintendent of the Sunday School (who ran a close race with Presbyterian John McLean in years of service). First pastor was Rev. W.S. Hayes. An Epworth League was organized among the young people about 1894. In 1911, under the pastorate of Rev. S.A. Cotton, the building was sold to the Negro Baptists who moved it to another location and is still in service. The present brick building on East Third Avenue was then erected and dedicated, Trinity Methodist Church, South. The first brick was laid by Mrs. Ruth McNeill, oldest member and first contributor. In 1955 an education building was erected and named for a beloved pastor, Rev. Leon Hall, who took an active part in its construction.
During the late 1880's Episcopal services were held intermittently in various town buildings, and later in the college auditorium. Then in 1898 a permanent organization was effected and a lot purchased in the southern end of town. After the frame was up a high wind blew it down. This site was then abandoned and a new location selected across from the Graded School. Again, after this second structure was practically completed, another storm destroyed it completely. Nothing daunted the faithful few selected yet another site, across town, parallel with the railroad, and a third building erected. This one lived and was dedicated in September 1910 and named St. Stephen. The former ill-fated structure had been called St. Jude. Under the leadership of Rev. Isaac Hughes of the Fayetteville Church, the congregation though small, held regular bi-monthly services until he left Fayetteville. Bishop Wright, now of the Eastern Diocese, served part of his apprenticeship here, coming from the Seminary once a month where he was a student. It closed in 1961 after the removal of Flora Macdonald deleted its attendance to almost the vanishing point. It was reactivated in 1964 when Vardell Hall furnished some 35 additional communicants, and regular services are held once more.
In 1915 a young man from Oxford came to Red Springs and with his brother opened a fruit stand which eventually developed into one of the leading dry goods stores in town. His name was T. Mikill, and looking into the background of this quiet individual one finds him to have been the truest type of good citizen. Few knew that it was through his influence that the once crooked South College Street became a throughway to the college campus. A devout Catholic, he and his loyal wife put their shoulders to the wheel and in 1957 started a regular worship service, first in the parlor of the Funeral Home and later in the Armory, with Father Noonan from the Laurinburg church holding Mass. But the Mikills wanted their own church and with the backing of Dr. J.J. Bender and other interested individuals, in 1959 succeeded in convincing the Bishop that there were enough of the faithful in the community to support a church. With much labor and sacrifice on their part, this dedicated couple saw their dream fulfilled in the erection of the picturesque little chapel on the Lumberton Road which was consecrated in October of that year and named St. Andrew. The organ and carpet were given by the Mikills. Though he did not live to see the complete fulfillment of his labor of love, now at Sunday Mass the church is comfortably filled, students from Vardell Hall, Pembroke College and the Academy in Maxton contributing a sizable percent to the local congregation.
Our colored historians tell us that one of their churches anti-dates all ours by many years. Organized in 1868 it was called Brush Arbor and developed into the present St. James AME Zion, locally known as Hickory Grove. Located in the northern end of town, the congregation now worships in the sixth building since its organization almost a century ago.
Elders and Deacons Institute
In 1892 Fayetteville Presbytery established an Elders and Deacons Institute here in Red Springs. This was a ten-day meeting open to all and held each August for some twelve years. The first two sessions were held under a large tent in the northern end of town. But by the third year a huge wooden building open on all sides, called a Tabernacle, was erected on the present college campus, right where the tennis courts are today. This building was also used by the Baptists of the state who held Chatauquas there for several years. Prominent speakers and divines of both denominations from all over the south were heard. Large orchestras and trained choirs held forth at these services and hotels and most private homes overflowed with visitors from far and near. Some even camped for the duration in vacant stores, bringing their food with them. When the college was built on the same location and, until its auditorium was built in 1901, this Tabernacle served for Commencement events and was used as a makeshift gymnasium for awhile.
(photo of the First-First Baptist Church Building)
A Cultural Center
As has been stated, the first school building was a log structure near the present site of Liberty Manufacturing Plant, used also as a place of worship with Rev. Archibald Buie as teacher. In 1852 a frame building was erected across from the hotel, in a pine grove, and used for social as well as religious meetings until 1890. Though crude and with scanty equipment, this academy had the best of teachers. In order of service they were Hamilton McMillan, Peter Shaw, D.A. Buie, William Stewart, Mary Ellen Makepeace, Mrs. Sarah Bryan, Elma Gwathney, Maj. Jesse R. McLean and daughter, Jessie McLean. During the Shaw administration in the late 1870's the school was known as Red Springs Male and Female Academy.
(photo of cadets standing with rifles)
After the fairs were discontinued, the "Floral Hall" was converted into a school building and used first under Prof. Petty and sister, Miss Annie Petty, and then by Prof. N.D. Johnson, brother Archibald Johnson, and Mrs. D.P. McEachern, until 1898. In that year a boys' school took its place, taught by Mr. Marcellus Wooten. Some pupils transferred