A Village Emerges

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This is Main Street about the time that Ashpole Institute was built. The house in the background belonged to Alonzo Thompson. Photo credit: First Baptist Church archives, used with permission.

With the establishment of Ashpole Institute the village of Ashpole began to emerge as more than just a Baptist Church. In 1878, Alonzo Thompson opened a General Merchandise store to cater to the students and teachers at the Institute.

In 1879, Stephen Wells Ashley and John Bray opened a blacksmith shop. Over the door a hand-painted sign stated company policy: "Come have your blacksmithing don. Vehicles repaired, made same as new and when you come, don't forget to bring the cash with you."

Misters Collier and Lennon and Stephen Thompson opened stores afterward, and about 1883 a U. S. Post Office was established. Folks no longer had to go to Leesville to send and receive mail.

In the 1872 Andrew Justin Floyd began working at Collier & Co. as a 14 year-old. In 1893, he purchased the business and went on to become a prominent merchant and financier. He married Mollie, the oldest daughter of James Pinckney Pittman, and built a home on Iona Street one block from downtown that still stands today.

In 1897, Neill G. Wade and A. L. Jones leased the right-of-way of the proposed shortcut from Elrod to Hub (Boardman) in Columbus County. The Wilmington & Weldon Railroad owned this, and in August, 1897, began to survey and clear the path for the roadbed. By the spring of 1898, the right-of-way was cleared and Wade & Jones' company, the Southeastern Railroad and Lumber Co., began laying track and building necessary bridges. The line was completed to Ashpole in December, 1898, and the first train of lumber was shipped in late December.

In October, 1898, Dr. John P. Brown had streets and lots mapped out by a surveyor and conducted the first auction of lots in Robeson County. The little village had a population of 24 in August, 1897, but now had more than 250 people and was about to become a bustling little town.

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Unloading cotton for shipment at the time of completion of the railroad. Photo credit: "L" Floyd, used with permission.


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