FAIRMONT HISTORY

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Pittman Family

Alfred Rowland Pittman was born June 18, 1829 to Nathan Byrd Pitman and Sarah Elziph Pitman in Robeson County, North Carolina near the village of Ashpole. He married Mary Catherine McArthur on January 15, 1852. Together they had three children -- Adelia Melvina, Alexander McArthur and Nathan Rowland. Sarah died within hours of Nathan's birth, leaving A. R. with three youngsters to raise by himself.

For some time afterward, A. R. felt moved to preach the gospel, and on May 15, 1859 he preached his first sermon in Ashpole Church. He married for the second time on December 25, 1860 to Mary Ellen Watson of Marion County, South Carolina. Together they had eight children, four of whom died in infancy. Those surviving were Mollie, Alfred E. C., Snow and Isham.

He served the Ashpole Baptist Church as pastor for more than 30 years in non-consecutive tenures as well as other churches in Robeson County. He was moderator of the Robeson Baptist Association every year from its inception in 1883 until his death in 1902 except one year.

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Rev. A. R. Pittman, standing, on right. Photo credit: "L" Floyd, used with permission.

One of his most significant accomplishments was the establishment of Ashpole Institute. He conceived the idea, then sold it to the Ashpole congregation. They formed a corporation and sold stock to build a building and hire a principal. Then he convinced the Cape Fear Baptist Association to sponsor the project. The association approved this in their October, 1877 annual meeting and the school opened in January, 1878, conducting classes in the Ashpole sanctuary until the building could be completed.

He travelled throughout Robeson and Columbus counties and upper Marion county in South Carolina selling the benefits of the school and soliciting funds for its upkeep. He recruited Rev. Stinceon Ivey to be the principal. For almost 25 years the school served as a feeder for Wake Forest College.

Pittman died in November, 1902 of old age.

Isham Pitman made his way here prior to the Revolutionary War. He and his wife Absela farmed the land near Pitman Mill Branch, a tributary of Ashpole Swamp, eventually purchasing a 1775 Land Grant from King Charles II to Daniel Willis, brother of John Willis, founder of Robeson County.

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Pitman dammed the branch, making a mill pond and building a grist mill to grind corn and wheat. He built a house nearby.

After the Revolutionary War began Pitman was called to fight for the colonists. Sending his wife to her family home on the Neuse River in Craven County, he turned out all of his livestock to forage the land. When he returned after the war, Pitman began purchasing Land Grants from the state of North Carolina. Eventually his land ownings totaled more than 24,000 acres, all of it in the Ashpole Swamp -- Hog Swamp area surrounding Fairmont. All of the land in downtown Fairmont was Pitman land.

In 1792 Pitman began preaching, organizing Pitman's Meeting House, a Baptist Church. In 1794 he build a building just north of his grist mill where he preached as pastor until his death. About 1820, recognizing that his days were getting short and having no children of his own, he convinced his nephew, Elias Pitman, to move from Horry County, South Carolina to look after Absela and himself until their death. He executed his Last Will and Testament on March 31, 1823, leaving the bulk of his land to Elias. He did leave a tract of land on the west side of Oldfield Swamp to nephews Silas and Hugh Pitman, sons of Joel. This land became part of downtown Fairmont, eventually being owned by J. A. B. Pitman through marriage to Silas' daughter Hannah. He also bequeathed slaves to his wife and other relatives.

Isham Pitman died in June, 1825 and is buried 1/2 mile west of the First Baptist Church off of Church Street.

Henry Flowers Pitman, son of Elias Pitman and Annis Gerrald Pitman, was born in Horry County, South Carolina on February 11, 1823. He arrived in the Ashpole area shortly thereafter as his father was attending to his uncle, Isham Pitman. Elias inherited Isham's plantation as stated in his will.

Henry married Rosa Ashley on December 14, 1847 and settled near her home in the Leesville community. In May, 1856 he purchased 1,000 acres of land in that area from John Wells Powell. Included in this land was the site of Hopewell Methodist Episcopal Church and the church parsonage. Henry and Rosa gifted the church land to the church trustees in 1868 and gifted the parsonage land in 1878.

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photo credit: Floyd Family Reunion, 2015, Pam Patterson Roberts

Pitman served in the Civil War from 1863 to 1865 and returned to the area to continue raising his family and building his farming operation. In the early 1870's Pitman and his son, John Henry Pitman, were the first farmers in Robeson County to cultivate tobacco. First they cut the entire stalk and tried to sun cure it but that failed. Next they broke off the ripe leaves from the stalk and heat cured them. This proved successful. As a byproduct, the Pitmans built the first tobacco barn in the area.

Henry Flowers Pitman died January 11, 1888, just one month short of his 65th birthday. He, along with his wife, are buried in the Ashley Graveyard on Old Stage Road, less than a mile from where he lived.

James Pinckney Pittman, son of Elias Pitman, was twelve years younger than his brother Henry Flowers Pitman. At Elias' death, James inherited the land that included Isham Pitman's grist mill and the surrounding area, including property that became downtown Fairmont proper. J. P., in 1870, constructed a rice mill as an adjunct to the existing grist mill. Apparently some enterprising farmers had figured out how to grow rice in the areas adjoining Ashpole Swamp and needed a place to process it.

Downtown was divided between Pittman land and Stephens land, with the Lumberton Highway (Main Street) serving as the dividing line. The area around the grist mill became Fisher Park, the land being inherited by Claudia Pittman Fisher and developed as Fisher Park after World War II by her and sons Willis, Pittman and Earl Fisher.

J. P.'s daughters married into prominent families of the area. Mollie, the oldest, married Andrew Justin Floyd, one of Ashpole's earliest merchants having opened for business in 1893. Claudia married Elijah Fisher, the railroad's depot agent who arrived shortly after the railroad began operating in 1898. Eula married Alex Davis of McDonald. Rose married J. Frank Davis, also of McDonald, later moving to Fairmont. Margaret Anne, the youngest, married Patrick R. Floyd, a son of Gus Floyd.

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