FAIRMONT HISTORY

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In 1909 Alexander Baker came to Fairmont to do survey work for the Beaufort County Lumber Company of Whaleyville, VA and Salisbury, MD. They had recently acquired land and timber rights from the South Eastern Lumber Company of Fairmont, which was in the process of winding down its business. Mr. Baker surveyed the land and laid out what was to become a lumber yard, sawmill and kiln drying plant as well as a residential area with streets and lots for building houses for the workers.

Transfer Machine Beaufort County Lumber Company Fairmont NC

Photo credit: NC Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill; used with permission

In early 1910 the first workers began to arrive. Among them were H. B. Phillips, manager; Dr. L. E. Ricks, the company doctor; D. C. Lassiter, engineer for the logging train and George Cole, company accountant. Homes were constructed on Jackson Street along with offices and the company store. Homes were built on the Lumberton Highway (North Main Street) for management personnel. Locals were hired but the management and key personnel were imported from the company's previous location in Shelmerdine, NC.

Jackson Avenue North Fairmont NC

Card should read Jackson Avenue, North Fairmont, N. C. North Fairmont became part of Fairmont in 1922 by act of the NC Legislature. Photo credit: NC Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill; used with permission

The local school, which had been constructed in 1906, was increased in capacity by 50% to accommodate children of employees of the company.

From 1910 until 1924 the company was a mainstay in the Fairmont business community and, at its peak, employed 400 people. The company's first rail shipment of logs to Whaleyville generated $703.83 in freight charges for 40 rail cars. It was reported that the company expected to ship this much every other day.

The company village, called North Fairmont, was incorporated into the town by act of the NC Legislature in 1922. When the company began moving its operations to Longwood, Columbus County in 1925, it started a selling program to divest itself of its Fairmont property. One of the many who purchased some of this property was Richard Bradshaw who eventually acquired more than fifty parcels from Jackson Brothers, Beaufort County Lumber Company and W. T. Sledge.

The South Eastern Lumber Company was originally chartered as the South Eastern Railroad and Lumber Company by Neill G. Wade and A. L. Jones. Wade and Jones met while Jones was operating a lumber mill in Buie, NC, near Philadelphus. Wade was widely known as a timber man, operating three saw mills as well as a large farming operation. Jones operated a general saw mill in Buie and also one in Purvis which produced railroad cross ties.

Wade and Jones were approached in early 1897 by Dr. John P. Brown, a surgeon for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and Ashpole resident. Brown's longstanding desire was to secure a railroad line to run through Ashpole and improve the economic circumstances of the area. By August, 1897, a survey had been done of the undeveloped right-of-way owned by the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad and work had begun to clear the right-of-way and build the road bed.

The construction work was done with prison labor contracted from the N. C. Department of Prisons. The right-of-way was leased by the South Eastern Rail Road and Lumber Company for an unknown duration. The first segment, Elrod (on the main line) to Ashpole, a distance of eleven miles, was completed in December, 1898 in time to make a shipment of lumber before the end of the year. That shipment yielded $588.44 in revenue, according to the 1898 annual report of the NC Board of Railroad Commissioners. The cost to build that segment was $123,800, also in the report.

At this point Wade became president of the railroad and also of the lumber company. Jones was named superintendent of the railroad and manager of the lumber mill. Wade also made plans to complete the nine-mile segment from Ashpole to Hub (Boardman) in Columbus County. Right-of-way construction began in July, 1899 with an expected completion date of December, 1899. The line was completed and placed into operation in June, 1900.

The physical location of the lumber mill is unknown but suspected to be in the Trinity Street area adjacent to the railroad. Tax records are inconclusive on this point. It was split from the railroad and named South Eastern Lumber Company by Wade and Jones, who continued to jointly own the lumber company until 1903 when they began negotiating to sell the company. Wade purchased Jones' interests and in 1904 sole the operation to J. Danforth Bush and Robert C. Rayner of Wilmington, DE. They continued to operate the mill until 1909 when it was acquired by the Beaufort County Lumber Company, a division of Jackson Brothers Lumber Company of Salisbury, MD, in 1909.

 

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