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Columbus County, North Carolina

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  • Richard Cartrette (1811 - 1860)
    Married Priscilla Cutrell. Children with Priscilla. Lucy Cartrette Female 1837–1914 • L2KV-H2W Mary Cartrette Female 1838–Deceased • KCVB-763 Moley Catrette Female 1838–Deceased • LZ8G-6L...
  • William Day Meares (1879 - 1943)
    Reference: Find A Grave Memorial - SmartCopy : Feb 20 2023, 11:44:29 UTC
  • Mary Caroline Butler (1872 - 1961)
    From "The State, Columbia, Richland Co., SC," Deaths and Funerals - Saturday, September 30, 1961 -- P. 9-B & Sunday, October 1, 1961 -- P. 8-E Mrs. Carrie Butler LORIS -- Mrs. Carrie Butler, widow o...
  • Ora Ellen Gore (1877 - 1965)
  • George Eddie Gore (1873 - 1950)

Please add profiles of those who were born, lived or died in Columbus County, North Carolina.

Official Website

The third largest county in North Carolina was formed in 1808 in the early federal period from parts of Bladen and Brunswick counties. Named for Christopher Columbus, the county was formed by an Act of the General Assembly because of the difficulties of the inhabitants getting to a county seat to transact legal business. The area comprising the county was once part of Bath precinct, organized under the English Crown in 1696. It was at least 50 years after that before the area began to achieve more than meager settlement by European settlers. Until then it was the land of the Waccamaw Siouan Indians.

Some settlers came from Barbados up the Cape Fear River in search of land. Their home island was becoming overcrowded and these people came in search of new opportunities in a new frontier. Other early settlers came mostly from Britain, but a number of other nationalities were represented. Not to be overlooked are the number of freedmen from Virginia and northeastern North Carolina who settled in the area.

Most of the free blacks of Virginia and North Carolina originated in Virginia where they became free in the seventeenth and eighteenth century before chattel slavery and racism fully developed in the colonies. A number of Columbus families descend from slaves who were freed before the 1723 Virginia law which required legislative approval for manumissions. Many were landowners who were generally accepted by their white neighbors. Intermarriage between ethnic groups has produced a diverse population, with many descendants today not truly understanding their family history due to assumptions based on appearance.

John Burgwin (1731-1803), colonial officer and merchant, left his native South Wales, England after his elder brother inherited their father's estate. Seeking his own fortune elsewhere, by early in 1750/51, Burgwin was employed as a merchant in Charleston, South Carolina with the firm of Hooper, Alexander and Company. The firm did business in Wilmington, and Burgwin apparently moved to the Cape Fear River area of North Carolina shortly thereafter. He built what is now known as the Burgwin-Wright house in Wilmington, which served as Lord Cornwallis' headquarters while he occupied the city in 1781. In addition to his Wilmington townhouse, Burgwin inherited from his wife the Hermitage Plantation and adjoining Castle Haynes Plantation. He also owned Marsh Castle at Lake Waccamaw in Columbus (then Bladen) County.

At least two skirmishes of the American Revolution were fought on Columbus soil, one was the Battle of Seven Creeks near Pireway. After this battle, General Joseph Graham said "We fixed the wounded, buried the dead, and then marched to Marsh Castle and encamped on the White Marsh." The next day they learned of Cornwallis' surrender as they marched by Lake Waccamaw and joined Colonel Smith above Livingston Creek.

The other skirmish was at Brown Marsh. General Graham wrote "The army continued to move down the Raft Swamp, from thence to Brown Marsh, where General Butler had had a battle with the British and Tories some weeks before, and encamped for several days near that place." Bullets from this battle have been plowed up on a farm on the east side of the Brown Marsh.

Firsts in Columbus County:

  • First bale of cotton grown in 1815 by Dr. Formy Duvall
  • First schoolhouse in Whiteville built shortly after the Civil War
  • First house in Chadbourn erected 1882
  • First mayor of Chadbourn was James B. Chadbourn, Jr.
  • First schoolhouse in Chadbourn built in 1886 by James H. Chadbourn, Jr.
  • First tobacco grown in county in 1896 by John Morley near Fair Bluff
  • First tobacco warehouse in 1896 at Fair Bluff
  • First strawberries for shipment grown in 1896 by Joseph A. Brown
  • First bank in the county was Bank of Whiteville in 1903

COLCOR From January 1979 through December 1982, State and Federal investigators conducted Operation NC Gateway, an investigation into the activities of several elected officials in Brunswick and Columbus counties. Law enforcement seized 37 million dollars of illegal drugs, and arrested several leading citizens in the area. The scandal was labeled "COLCOR" in the press, shorthand for Columbus Corruption. The federal investigation culminated in federal convictions of former Brunswick County Sheriff Herman Strong and former Shallotte Police Chief Hoyal Varnum Jr., among other government officials. The 1983 street value of the narcotics in Strong and his co-conspirators’ criminal enterprise was $180 million.

COLCOR's success was largely due to the deep undercover work by FBI Special Agent Robert Drdak. His testimony to the Grand Jury led to the arrest of a long list of prominent Brunswick and Columbus County citizens. In addition, former U.S. Attorney, Samuel Currin, was the force behind operations ColCor and Operation Gateway. The special investigative grand jury in Brunswick County indicted 22 persons, and 35 were indicted in Columbus County. Among those indicted were:

Brunswick County Sheriff Herman Strong (numerous charges of conspiring to smuggle drugs, providing protection to drug smugglers, accepting bribes and two incidents of drug smuggling marijuana and methaqualone tablets). Strong was released from prison on June 17, 1987, after serving less than four years.

Shallotte Police Chief Hoyal "Red" Varnum (conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 1,100 to 1,400 pounds of marijuana) Hoyal's brother Steve Varnum (a past Chairman of the Brunswick County Commissioners).

Lake Waccamaw Police Chief L. Harold Lowery (racketeering in connection with taking $1,650 in bribes for protection money).

Former Columbus County Commissioner Edward Walton Williamson (who gave the undercover agent money to deal with Star News reporter Judith Tillman and send her back to Alabama).

District Court Judge J. Wilton Hunt (racketeering and interstate gambling) A federal judge sentenced Hunt to 14 years in prison and a $10,000 for his role in the corruption ring.

State Rep. G. Ronald Taylor, (burning three warehouses belonging to another state senator who was Taylor's competition in the farm-implement business).

Lt. Governor James C. Green (charged with taking a $2,000 bribe and conspiring to take $10,000 in bribes a month) [18][19] The jury found insufficient evidence for the charges and acquitted Green.

NC State Senator R C Soles was indicted on federal charges of aiding and abetting a former Columbus County commissioner in obtaining bribes from undercover FBI agents, conspiracy, vote-buying and perjury, but these charges were later dismissed.

Adjacent Counties

Cities & Towns

  • Boardman
  • Bogue
  • Bolton
  • Brunswick
  • Bug Hill
  • Cerro Gordo
  • Chadbourn
  • Fair Bluff
  • Hallsboro
  • Lake Waccamaw
  • Lees
  • Ransom
  • Sandyfield
  • South Williams
  • Tabor City
  • Tatums
  • Waccamaw
  • Welch Creek
  • Western Prong
  • Whiteville (County Seat)
  • Williams

Other Communities: Acme, Cherry Cove, Evergreen - Tatums & Ransom Townships, Hallsboro, Nakina, Olyphic, Pireway, Riegelwood, Riverview and Sellerstown



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