County of Moore History

Early History

Archaeological findings indicate that Indians of the Siouan family inhabited the area that is now Moore County from as early as the beginning of the sixth century, until about 400 years ago. They hunted and camped throughout the area and, in places, settled in villages. A well-used Indian trail, which crosses the County, is thought to have first been beaten out by buffaloes on their annual migrations from the piedmont to the coastal marshes. This trail, which later came to be known as the Yadkin Road, played an important role in the early settlement of Moore County. The earliest European settlers came to the region about 1739. During the ensuing years, additional settlers, largely English, Ulster Scots, and Germans moved into the area, traveling down the "Great Wagon Road" from Pennsylvania or up the Cape Fear River Valley from Wilmington. Most settled on the fertile lands of the "clay country" along the Deep River in northern Moore County. By the mid-1750's, the area was sparsely, but evenly settled. The next twenty years saw a large influx of settlers, particularly Highland Scots, who immigrated to the colonies to escape the harsh economic and political conditions, which existed in Scotland at the time. These Highlanders settled in the Sandhills of the southeast, an area bypassed by earlier settlers due to the poorness of the soil. The industrious Scots, making the best of what they had, soon established the manufacture of naval stores as a major industry of the vast forests of longleaf pines.

American Revolution

The American Revolution curtailed the influx of settlers to the area and set the stage for bitter conflict. The Highlanders, who had taken an oath of allegiance to the King of England before leaving Scotland, remained loyal to the British throne; settlers in the "clay country" supported independence. Although no major battles were fought in Moore County, the guerrilla warfare between the two factions was bloody. The Highlanders paid dearly for their political views after the defeat of the British, facing the scorn of their neighbors, and in some cases, confiscation of their property and exile from the State.

In 1783, shortly after the end of the American Revolution, Moore, until that time a part of Cumberland, officially became a County. The new County was named for Alfred Moore of Brunswick, a famous militia colonel in the Revolution, and later a Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The citizens quickly set about establishing their government. As the area recovered from the disrupting effects of the war and began to prosper, some schools were built and several industries flourished in the North, including a gun factory in Robbins and a carriage factory in Carthage. The Sandhills area continued to lag behind.

Civil War & Beyond

The Civil War put an end to all progress, as every able-bodied man went to war. After the war, Moore County had a long struggle to recovery. But, in the 1870's, the Raleigh and Augusta Railroad came through the Sandhills, providing a means to ship the products of the pine forests. Little towns sprang up every ten miles or so along the line to serve as shipping points.

During the 1880's, yet another industry developed in Sandhills. At that time, there were a number of human ailments for which the only treatment was fresh air and mineral water. The area had an abundance of both, and plenty of cheap land. Town sites were laid out up and down the rail line. Soon, people wishing to improve their health or seeking "refuge from the northern blizzard" began to flock to the resort towns. Shaw's Ridge, later incorporated as Southern Pines, became the most popular. Several years later, in 1895, Pinehurst was built; a complete resort village with an elegant inn, electricity, and a telephone system.

Moore County is in the south central region of the State and is bordered by Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Scotland, Richmond, Montgomery, Randolph, Chatham, and Lee counties. The present area is 705.49 square miles or 451,514 acres. The population is in excess of 69,502 citizens.

Form of Government

Prior to the American Revolutionary War, North Carolina depended on a form of county government which was organized around a court known as the Court of Pleas, with three Justices that governed the County with judicial and administrative responsibilities.

The Court of Pleas appointed the Sheriff, Coroner, Register of Deeds, County Attorney, Clerk of Court, County Treasurer, Surveyor, and Warden of the Poor. The Justices also heard all civil and criminal cases that did not involve capital punishment.

In other words, the County was a self-contained political unit with no townships and no citizen control over what the Court did in terms of the government.

In 1868, the North Carolina Constitution was rewritten and the functions of county government were divided between the Superior Court and a Board of County Commissioners composed of five members elected by the citizens. Over the years, various changes were made concerning the responsibilities given to the Commissioners until in 1905, the people finally were given direct control over the Commissioners in all counties through the ballot box. Townships have no powers.

"Except as otherwise directed by law, each power, right, duty, function, privilege and immunity of the County shall be exercised by the Board of Commissioners as provided by the laws of the State; and if a power is not conferred by the State, the power or responsibility shall be carried into execution as provided by ordinance or resolution of The Board of Commissioners."

Moore County Government is now formed as State law dictates. The Commissioners, Sheriff and Register of Deeds are elected. There is a Board of Elections, Board of Education, Board of Health, Board of Social Services and an Alcoholic Beverage Control Board that are formed under State Statute. The County Manager, Clerk to the Board, County Attorney and Tax Administrator are appointed directly by the Board of Commissioners. All other departments, agencies and offices that are directly under the administrative jurisdiction of the Board are organized as the Board sees fit. The Board also appoints various committees that serve at the pleasure of the Board.

The County of Moore is governed by a five member Board of Commissioners elected in a partisan election by qualified voters of the entire County for overlapping four-year terms of office. The elections are held in November of even-numbered years and the Board is formed on the first Monday of December.

Moore County has adopted the County Manager Administrative Plan, which entails the appointment of a County Manager to serve at the pleasure of the Board of Commissioners. The Manager is the Chief Administrator of county government, with responsibility for the daily administration of all departments of government under the Board's general control, with State statutory powers and duties.

The Board of Commissioners appoints a Clerk to the Board to perform all duties that are required by State law or the Board. The Clerk to the Board is a public officer that serves at the pleasure of the Board of Commissioners. The Clerk's Office helps to provide stability and also serves as a central resource office where the public may obtain information regarding Board actions and services or functions of county government.

The County of Moore exercises its powers and discharges its responsibilities through the Board of Commissioners; through the use of ordinances, resolutions, and orders, so long as these directives and regulations are not reserved as powers of the State.

The County is divided into ten townships for historical and administrative purposes with no legal or governmental authorities. The townships, with corresponding square miles, are as follows: Bensalem, 97.48; Carthage, 98.14; Deep River, 43.16; Greenwood, 44.95; Little River, 33.72; Mineral Springs, 101.33; McNeill, 76.68; Ritter, 54.24; Sandhills, 81.74; and Sheffield, 74.05.

Historic Courthouse (JPG) Opens in new windowThe Historic Courthouse 

The present Historic Courthouse, built in 1922 in Carthage, is the most recent Governmental Administration Building in a line of three previous courthouses.

According to various historical accounts, court proceedings were first held in Kenchion Kitchen's home, beginning in August of 1784, and in the homes of other area residents. The first courthouse was constructed in 1785, southwest of the present Historic Courthouse, and was described as "a rather crude log building, small in size", that was moved to the present Historic Courthouse site in 1814. In 1820, this log structure was replaced by "a two-story wood structure, which was built high above the ground, with the space beneath the building used as a market place." In 1840, a two-story brick courthouse was built with four offices on the ground floor and a courtroom on the second floor. With no belfry, the Courthouse bell hung outside above the door. The bell is now displayed on the grounds of the Historic Courthouse. There was a jail cell in the courtroom where prisoners were always conveniently available to the judge.

Wade Wellman, in his book entitled The County of Moore: 1847-1947, writes that the 1840 Courthouse that stood in the central square of Carthage was "two-storied and two-chimneyed", and had been built of clay bricks from Dabney Cosby's clay pits south of Carthage to replace "the rickety wooden structure."

On September 5, 1889, the brick Courthouse burned. Meade Seawell's book entitled Edgehill Entry: Tale of a Tarheel Town, relates the editor of The Carthage Blade's description of the disaster. Editor Matthew Cagle laments that not only were the 1889 tax books and records of the County Superintendent's Office lost, but the County records for over 100 years were destroyed by fire. According to Seawell, the ropes to the well buckets had been cut by the fire, and the buckets were down in the well.

Wellman writes that the wooden portions of this building burned, but "within the walls of the Old Courthouse, built of locally molded brick, a new set of offices and doors were built and ready by the fall of the next year." According to Wellman, "the Old Courthouse was far outgrown and outdated. It was botched together of the brick and stone salvaged from the one that had burned down in 1889." Judge William J. Adams described the reconstructed Courthouse as "an uncertain composite of the old and the new."

A $150,000 bond issue was passed, and on January 16, 1922, construction began on the present Historic Courthouse. The cornerstone was laid in August and the present building, constructed of Indiana Limestone, was dedicated on September 17, 1923.

A June 27, 1922, editorial in the Moore County News stated, "more and more each year, people drop into Moore County, and the stranger is impressed by the exhibits that meet the eye. The Courthouse was not an awakener of much enthusiasm... a County with efficiency written on its public buildings makes a hit. The Old Courthouse was a drag. The new one present is an advance agent of enterprise."

When the present Historic Courthouse was finished, it was also described as "crowning the dominating ridge, visible against the blue-haze of the pines over the rolling Sandhills country; the Moore County Courthouse, glistening white in the brilliant Carolina sunshine is a significant exponent of the new age of peace, progress, prosperity, and plenty of our beloved Sandhills...."

The new building housed offices for the Register of Deeds, County Commissioners, County Clerk, Sheriff, Superintendent of Schools, Home Economic Demonstrator, and a lounge.

On the second floor was the courtroom and separate rooms for two petit juries, grand jury, judge, solicitor, attorney, and witnesses.

There were 364 chairs facing the polished wood judge's bar, and on the third story were two large rooms for the Road Commissioners and Farm Demonstrator. On the third floor, overlooking the Courtroom, there was a gallery.

In 1979, the Old Courthouse was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
In keeping with the previously mentioned editorial in the Moore County News of June 27, 1922, which stated that "a County with efficiency written on its public buildings makes a hit", the Historic Courthouse underwent a renovation process in 1988.

In conjunction with the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, the interior was freshly painted, doors and brass were stripped of paint and restored to the original 1922 finish. This revitalization was continued on the exterior by professionally trimming the four stately oaks, and by establishing a previously non-existent lawn with plantings of holly, azaleas, flowers and native plants.

This renovation and attention to historical detail will continue as a symbol of the pride, service, efficiency, vibrancy and strength of the County of Moore.

In order to bring the Historic Courthouse into compliance with the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act, the County began work on additional renovations to the facility. Renovation projects began during the Fall of 1999, with the construction of a handicap ramp on the exterior of the building, followed by improvements to the public restrooms in the basement, making them handicapped accessible. On April 4, 2000, demolition began inside the Courthouse, for the installation of a Dover Oildraulic four-stop elevator. The elevator was completed and serviceable in December 2000.