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Fayetteville - A brief history

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The area of present-day Fayetteville was inhabited by various Siouan Native American peoples such as the Eno, Shakori, Waccamaw, Keyauwee and Cape Fear Indians for more than 12,000 years. It is still home to the Lumbee tribe, which, including members in Robeson County, numbers over 50,000.

After the violent upheavals of the Yamasee War and Tuscarora Wars during the second decade of the 18th century, the administration of the North Carolina colony encouraged colonial settlement along the upper Cape Fear River, the only navigable waterway entirely within North Carolina. Two inland settlements, Cross Creek and the riverfront settlement of Campbellton, were established by Scots from Campbellton, Argyll and Bute, Scotland. 

Out of the dozens of U.S. cities and counties named after the Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette, Fayetteville, NC was the first, and it is told, the only one he actually visited. The Frenchman arrived in Fayetteville by horse-drawn carriage in 1825 during his grand tour of the United States in 1824 and 1825. After the American Revolutionary War, the two towns, Cambellton and Cross Creek, were united and renamed to honor General Lafayette, who fought with and significantly aided the American Army during the American Revolutionary War.

The area grew as a center of government and commerce because of its location as an inland port and the hub of the early “Plank Roads” system, key to overland travel from the 1840's to 1850's. 

Merchants in Wilmington wanted a town on the Cape Fear River to secure trade with the frontier country. Wilmington merchants bought land from Newberry in Cross Creek.

Fayetteville citizens joined together to rebuild their city after two separate calamities. The first was the Great Fire of 1831 that destroyed over 600 buildings. However, the ensuing reconstruction resulted in many of the landmark structures that are appreciated today.

The second calamity occurred during the Civil War when the city found itself in the path of General Sherman's Union troops. They wreaked destruction upon the town and burned the N.C. Arsenal, a manufacturing facility for weapons and ammunitions for the Confederacy.  Fayetteville rose to the challenge to repair the damages to their city.

Cumberland County's population exploded in the post-World War II years, with a 43% population increase in the 1960's the largest in any of North Carolina's 100 counties. Construction was fast-paced as shopping developments and suburban subdivisions began to spread outside the Fayetteville city limits toward Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base.

The Vietnam Era was a time of change in the Fayetteville area. Fort Bragg did not send many large units to Vietnam, but from 1966 to 1970, more than 200,000 soldiers trained at the post before leaving for the war. The effect of such a large troop rotation was dramatic and remnants of this era are still visible in much of Fayetteville. 

In March of 2011, Pope Airforce Base was officially turned over to the Army and is appended with Fort Bragg. The base has been renamed Pope Army Airfield. In September 2008, Fayetteville annexed 85% of Ft. Bragg, bringing the official population of the city to 206,000. Ft. Bragg still has its own police, fire and EMS services. Fayetteville hopes to attract large retail businesses to the area leveraging new population figures.

Known throughout its history for its cultural diversity and military presence, today the Fayetteville area stands testament to its proud past. Many structures have been painstakingly preserved to reflect this history in nine designated historic districts.

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