Historic Robeson Papers Find a Home at UNCP


UNC Pembroke's Sampson-Livermore Library is the new home to a significant collection of letters and documents of the founders of Robeson County.

The library officially accepted the papers from Judge Henry A. McKinnon, who represented Historic Robeson, Inc. The papers were placed on a continuing loan basis. The documents - personal letters, state land grants, business and legal papers - will be stored in the Special Collections room and available to the public.

The papers were contributed to Robeson County by the families of Jacob Rhodes and Ralzmon and Augustus Fuller during the county's bicentennial celebration in 1987.

Rhodes, who died in 1824, was acknowledged as one of the founders of Lumberton and Robeson County in the late 18th century.

Ralzmon Fuller, who died in 1846, was a prominent businessman and played an important role in the early history of Robeson County. Augustus was his son.

"This interesting thing about the papers is what they reveal about life in those times," Mr. McKinnon said. "Especially revealing are the letters back and forth to family in Alabama during the period immediately following the Civil War. These were tough times."

Mr. McKinnon is a retired Superior Court judge and a leading historian of the county.

"Jacob Rhodes served in the Revolution. He was truly an entrepreneur and a character of his time," Mr. McKinnon said. "He was a surveyor, land speculator, tanner, farmer and businessman with diverse interests in shipping and even fish nets on the coast."

The Fuller family, which moved to Robeson County in the 1830s, were also entrepreneurs in early Robeson County.

"With their papers, you have documentation of the Fuller family, their business affairs, personal lives and so on," Judge McKinnon said. He thanked the university for housing the collection.

"I think it's great that this university has a place to keep local historical documents," he said. "The only other place for these would be the State Archives, but who would ever see them there?"

In receiving the documents, Library Director Elinor Foster thanked Mr. McKinnon for his continuing interest in preserving important pieces of local history.

"These papers are welcome and will be here for research purposes," Dr. Foster said. "This is Judge McKinnon's second contribution of research materials to the library and to the Native American Resource Center on our campus."

Special Collections staff members Carlene Cummings and Lillian Brewington organized and cataloged the papers. Ms. Cummings, who read every document, said there is a great deal of interesting material in the collection.

"They are fascinating, and it was hard to work with them and not read them," Ms. Cummings said. "I found the letters to be particularly interesting regarding their personal lives during this time period in the history of Robeson County."

Mr. McKinnon described the personal lives of these families as occasionally "unusual" but more often than not "very honorable."

The papers are available during library hours. Questions may be directed to Ms. Cummings at 910.521.6835 or carlene.cummings@uncp.edu.