A History of Averasboro, North Carolina

William Avera Home

Established by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1791, as Averysborough, in northeast Cumberland County near the Johnston County border, and on the northern bank of the Cape Fear River, the town has a long and distinguished history - as well as a few changes in the way it was spelled. In 1830, the name was shortened to simply Averysboro - like so many other American towns shrugging off their British heritage. This original town was renamed to McNeills Ferry on November 10, 1852 and its Post Office name was changed as well. The new Postmaster at McNeills Ferry was Mr. Willie T. Rhodes. But, McNeills Ferry closed its Post Office on July 14, 1854 - permanently.

The second incarnation of Averysborough (yes, with the -ugh back) was instantiated on April 4, 1855, when the new Post Office was established, with Mr. Neill S. Stewart as Postmaster. This was not a new town - it was the same old Averysboro that had been temporarily renamed to McNeills Ferry for over eighteen months, and it must have taken folks about nine months to re-secure its Post Office. True to American nature, the "-ugh" was again dropped in 1858, back to the good old American spelling of Averysboro. Shortly after this happened, Harnett County was created out of Cumberland County, and from that time forward Averysboro was located in the southeast corner of Harnett County.

The third incarnation of the town came on July 14, 1884 - 30 years to the day from when the Post Office permanently closed on McNeills Ferry - when the town was rightfully renamed - officially - to what its founder had intended ninety-three years earlier. Averysboro was now known as Averasboro - taking it's name from William Avera, who had donated the land for the town way back in 1791. The first Postmaster for the newly-named Averasboro was, again, Mr. Neill S. Stewart, who must have had a hand in getting the records straightened out and the official name change to happen.

However, not all was well. Averasboro soon began to dwindle and its people scattered to the wind. On December 14, 1903, the Averasboro Post Office was permanently closed, and soon thereafter the town simply faded away.

Migrating from Scotland, John McAllister, was the first European settler to this former town in present-day Harnett County. He established a gristmill on a creek that became known as McAllister’s Creek (now known as Bumpas Creek). John Matilinear, a German living on the west side of the Cape Fear River, soon operated a ferry, and by 1756 the King’s Highway, later known as the Post or Old Stage Road, connected Hillsborough in Orange County to Brunswick in New Hanover County. By 1766, the Avera family also settled in the region.

In 1774, William Avera bought McAllister’s gristmill and opened a tavern at the intersection of the Old Stage Road and the ferry’s dock. In 1791, he donated 120 acres to establish the town on the banks of the Cape Fear River, twenty-five miles north of Fayetteville in Cumberland County, North Carolina. That same year, the North Carolina General Assembly incorporated the town originally known as Averasburg. (Eventually the English “boro” replaced the Scottish “burg.”) The first commissioners included William Avera, Robert Draughon, Philemon Hodges, William Rand, and David Smith. Local legend has it that the North Carolina legislature could have named Averasboro the capital of the state, but the bill failed by one vote. Raleigh became the state capital.

Nevertheless, Averasboro was a thriving town during most of the nineteenth century. With a population of 600 by 1860, it served as an important terminus for inland farmers transporting naval stores (tar, pitch, and turpentine) and corn and cotton on flat river rafts to Fayetteville. Residents established an academy, a Masonic lodge, and two churches, as well. At the start of the American Civil War, the town served as a major recruiting station for young Confederates in Harnett County.

On March 16-17 of 1865, three miles south of the town, war came. More than thirty thousand (30,000) Federals battled six thousand (6,000) Confederates on a narrow strip of land between the Black River and the Cape Fear River. Led by Lieutenant General William J. Hardee, Confederates successfully checked and delayed the Union forces and allowed time for Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston to organize his forces to fight at Bentonville, the last major battle of the Civil War.

Notorious Ku Klux Klan activity during Reconstruction and the completion of Southern Railway line, which passed through Dunn, four miles east of Averasboro, contributed greatly to the town’s demise. A government informant secretly attended Klan meetings and later reported on who actively participated in the Klan. Before the federal marshals arrived in Averasboro, many had fled the state; some relocated in places as far away as Texas. By 1887, the Southern Railway line attracted any remaining Averasboro residents.

Only a cemetery surrounded by a grove and a Civil War museum reminds anyone passing through that a port town ever existed at its once prominent location...... Written by Lloyd Johnson [with minor editing].

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