A History of Cross Creek, North Carolina

In 1724, the land office for the Cape Fear region opened and settlement along the Cape Fear River began. Initially, Lowland Scots populated the colony and the first true documentation of Highland settlements was about 1732. These settlements were in part dependent on the navigation of the Cape Fear River for ships limited to about 300 tons. New Hanover, Brunswick, Bladen, and Cumberland Counties began to see homesteads and plantations being established by names such as McDonald, McAlister, MacLeod, Innes, MacRae, Stewart, Cameron, Blue, McNeill, Campbell and many others. Tax incentives were implemented to encourage Highland immigration to North Carolina following the landing of 350 Highlanders from Argyll about 1739. Sadly, the emphasis was on “foreign Protestants” in these incentives, leaving many Highlanders of Catholic faith out of the immigration schemes.

Landing initially at Brunswick Town and subsequently Wilmington, some Highlanders settled near these two ports. Others made the slow journey up the Cape Fear River to the hub of the Scottish settlement, which was called Cross Creek, due, by tradition, to the two stream branches crossing one another before emptying into the Cape Fear River from the west. John Newberry built a gristmill in 1755, and the Cross Creek settlement, which would eventually merge with Campbellton to become Fayetteville, was under way.

Cross Creek was well established by 1765. As immigrants arrived in greater numbers and the settlements grew, the counties were further and further subdivided to accommodate the burdens of administration. Cumberland County, encompassing both Cross Creek and Campbellton, was named and branched off from Bladen County in 1754.

It has been speculated that the name was for King George II’s son, the Duke of Cumberland, also known as the “Butcher Cumberland” because of his brutal treatment of Highland folk and other Scots at the time of and following the final battle of the Rising of 1745 at Culloden Moor. The collapse of the ancient Scottish Clan system, in part due to its intentional dismemberment by the Hanoverian government to suppress further risings gave incentive to further immigration and transportation to North Carolina and other colonies, notably South Carolina, Georgia, and New York.

A rough estimate of the Highland Scot population in the Cape Fear region by the time of the American Revolution is approximately 12,000 based on records of the period and estimates of well over 3,000 potential recruits for the militia.

Cumberland County was formed in 1754 from Bladen County. It was named in honor of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, third son of King George II. Cumberland was the commander of the English Army at the Battle of Culloden, in which the Scots Highlanders were defeated in 1746. Many of them came to America, and their principal settlement was in Cumberland County, North Carolina.

Cumberland was briefly changed to Fayette County in early 1784, but the Act was repealed at the next General Assembly, which met in November of 1784. The county seat was first called Cumberland Court House. In 1762, Campbellton was established at Cross Creek with provisions for the public buildings. In 1778, Cross Creek and Campbellton were joined and the court house was ordered to be erected in that part of the town known as Cross Creek. In 1783, Campbellton was changed to Fayetteville in honor of Lafayette. Fayetteville is the county seat.

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