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Dunn - A brief history



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Incorporated February 12, 1887, the city of Dunn has come a long way since its settlement some 110 years ago as a logging town and turpentine distilling center.

The name Dunn was in honor of Mr. Bennett R. Dunn, the civil engineer who laid out the roadbed and personally supervised the construction of the railroad between Wilson and Fayetteville. 

In the middle or late 1870's, what is now the Town of Dunn was chiefly woodland broken by small cotton fields and very occasionally a farm dwelling. On every side, deep swamps formed almost an impenetrable barrier. Even today it is most difficult to travel as much as three to four miles from the center of town in any direction without crossing a river or swamp of some kind.

Besides a small amount of farming, the chief occupation was turpentine and logging. Logs and turpentine were transported to a river landing near Averasboro and rafted down the Cape Fear River to Wilmington. The rafts men then walked from Wilmington back home to Dunn.

Logging camps sprang up and the rugged men who occupied them, embellished the colorful history of this area.  Barrooms naturally appeared. Life was cheap, especially on weekends. Guns, knives, bootheels, bungstarters and other favorite weapons of the era were the order of the day. Contact with the outside world centered through Averasboro. It was here the old stage coach or post road from Raleigh to Fayetteville converged with the road from Smithfield.

Soon after the town was chartered, the commissioners ordered that the town be fenced in. There were not any stock laws at the time. The stock was branded for identification purposes and allowed to run freely. The purpose of the fence was to keep the wandering stock out of town.

However, it was said by some that the fence served a double purpose. Practically every farmer had at least one cow and a pen of hogs.  Therefore, the second purpose of the fence was to keep the livestock of the town inhabitants inside the town.

The first and only street in Dunn at that time was Broad Street. It was little more than a winding hog path among shrubs and pine stumps. Of course there was only one railroad crossing.

On June 6, 1986, the home of Dunn's favorite son, Major General William C. Lee was dedicated and opened to the public.  The infamous “rendezvous with destiny”, gentleman who established the 101st Airborne for the United States Army during WWII. Major General Lee has since been regarded and revered as the father of the American paratrooper.  A summary of Dunn's history would not be complete without reference to the story of this remarkable man.


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