The original town of Lumberton began prior to the Revolutionary War as a settlement on the 250-acre plantation owned by General John Willis. Known as the founder of Lumberton, Willis in 1787 petitioned the state legislature for a charter granting the town status as the county seat of the newly formed Robeson County. The town's original lots were sold in 1787 and a building owned by Willis was deeded to the county to be used as a courthouse. Willis went on to represent Robeson County in both the State Senate and state convention that approved the Federal Constitution in 1789.

A 1794 law called for the governance of the town by five directors with power of taxation. Unobligated tax money was designed to support Lumberton Academy which also served as a church. This academy was first chartered in 1793 and re-chartered at three other times.

According to local historians, the main stage coaches from Elizabethtown and Fayetteville met at Lumberton to use the toll bridge across Drowning Creek (Lumber River). The river's high bluff was the launching point for thousands of logs floated down the river to Georgetown. Thus, Lumberton has been a center of economic development for over 210 years.

In the latter half of the 19th century, railroads replaced waterways and wagon roads as the main source of transporting local agriculture and timber products. The Wilmington to Lumberton line was completed in 1860.

An 1884 publication notes the town, "one of the prettiest in the state," with a population of 1200, twenty stores, five churches, saw mills, turpentine distilleries, and four hotels. Land could be purchased for as little as $5 per acre.

The turn of the century saw continued railroad expansion and growth in the tobacco and textile industries. Electric lights replaced kerosene street lamps in 1904. The public library was organized in 1924. The population grew to 4100 by 1930.

In 1945 the city of Lumberton was chartered by the North Carolina General Assembly. In recent years, its residents have been active in refurbishing the historic area and guiding its new industrial growth. Lumberton was among the finalists for designation as an All-American City in 1995. Home today to a diversified array of internationally owned companies, Lumberton takes pride in its contributions to the cultural and economic history of this area.

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