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Raeford - A brief history
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Raeford, North Carolina is located in Hoke County, North Carolina's 99th county. The bill establishing Hoke County was enacted into law on February 18, 1911, became effective on April 3, 1911. The county was named after Confederate General Robert F. Hoke, a North Carolina "Tar Heel" native.
The Upper Cape Fear Valley of North Carolina was in the 18th and 19th Century the largest settlement of Gaelic speaking Highland Scots in North America. Today many of these old families continue to live in the area, though their presence is noticeably diminished by the great numbers of newcomers to the area as a result of Fort Bragg.
Since World War II many Lumbee Indian families have moved northward from Robeson County and now constitute a significant element of the population that is otherwise European and African-American.
Raeford was designated as the county seat. The governor had the authority to appoint the entire slate of first officials, but chose to let a primary election by the people select the list. There were no paved roads and the economy was strictly based on cotton. The only high school in the county was the Raeford Institute. This school was established by the Dr. A.P. Dickson family, the J.W. McLauchlin family and the McRae family. The numbers of buildings for the institute grew to nine. In 1910 the school had an enrollment of 325 students.
Raeford, chartered in 1901, was composed almost exclusively of people who had moved to the community in the interest of their children obtaining a better education.
Raeford was originally settled on the site of an old cotton field, in 1898, with those few families who had settled there in 1898. In 1899, the Aberdeen and Rockfish Railroad was extended to the present location and present day Raeford began.
The gentlemen who operated the turpentine distillery and general store at old Raeford, located near what is known as the swimming hole on Rockfish Creek, wanted the post office in their store for the convenience of the townspeople. In order to choose a name for the post office, they took a syllable from each of their names...one being John McRae, and one being A.A. Williford...Thus the name "Raeford" was given to the town.
In 1918 Little River Township, located in the northern part of the county, was separated from the remainder of Hoke County by the Ft. Bragg Reservation, and in 1958 the 20,000 acres of the township became part of Moore County. The community has grown and no longer resembles the town that grew out of a need for educating children and transporting cotton to market.
Industrial development has kept the economy alive in spite of the mechanization of farms that has driven many families from agricultural activity during the past thirty years. Unilever, USA-HPC, Burlington Industries, the House of Raeford, Inc., and Tar Heel Turkey Hatchery, are major industrial firms providing employment in Hoke County today. Other business and professional firms provide the bulk of non-farm employment.