A Sandy Beginning
While the central region of North Carolina known as the Sandhills had been settled by Highland Scots since the early 1700s, the area was at first slow to develop. The sandy soil could not produce many crops except the sprawling forests of pine trees, nor was it solid enough to allow easy travel by carriage. With the coming of the railroad in the mid-nineteenth century, however, everything changed.
Suddenly, the pine trees became a cash crop that could be easily harvested and shipped away as lumber and the people traveling through the area on the railroad between the North and Florida discovered Southern Pines as a convenient stopping point.
In 1884, John T. Patrick bought 675 acres of land for a grand total of $1,265, and began forming the town of Southern Pines. The very sandy soil that had hindered the area's development for so long was in fact one of the causes of the Sandhills' pleasant climate, which is drier and milder than the rest of the surrounding state. Patrick's dream for the town – for it to be a health resort – relied on this lovely weather. Even though Patrick's dream was never fully realized, the health aspect was the impetus for the early development of the town. Southern Pines quickly grew into a vibrant and prosperous community and became a favorite winter resort, especially for those seeking to escape the harsh weather of the north.
A Unified Town
Two communities by the name of Southern Pines sprouted up and grew in the later 19th and early 20th centuries:
- “East” Southern Pines, home primarily to locals of Scottish descent and seasonal visitors from the north
- “West” Southern Pines, one of the first incorporated African American towns in North Carolina
West Southern Pines was annexed into the larger Southern Pines municipality in 1931, bringing with it a rich cultural heritage that we continue to recognize and honor today. The unified town has flourished over the years, surviving world wars, the Depression, and changing economies to become the active community it is today with a shared vision for growth and development.
The Boyd Legacy
The town owes much of its prosperity to the activities of the Boyd family, who resided in the town since the beginning of the 20th century. The first James Boyd, a successful businessman in the steel and railroad industry, made his home in Southern Pines and established the 1,200-acre Weymouth estate. After the World War I, his grandsons, James and Jackson, divided the estate, and James moved to Weymouth to make his own mark on both the family home and the Town of Southern Pines.
This younger James Boyd began his life in Southern Pines by building what would become known as the Weymouth House. In his new home, James wrote his first and most well-known novel, Drums (1925). During his time there, the Weymouth House became a social center for other great writers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, and Paul Green, beginning a literary tradition in Southern Pines that remains a core aspect of the town’s heritage today. In fact, Weymouth Center, their beautifully restored house and gardens, is now home to numerous cultural programs, including the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. Visitors may tour the grounds daily and the house during limited hours on weekdays.
James and his wife Katherine left a legacy in Southern Pines and Moore County that extended beyond the literary. They were benefactors to the Moore County Hospital, the Southern Pines Library, the Weymouth Woods Nature Preserve, Penick Village, and Sandhills Community College, to name but a few. Their generosity, culture, and commitment to the community played key roles in our town’s growth and success.
We welcome you to visit our many historic sites around town to experience Southern Pines' history first-hand. Find more information about points of interest at the Southern Pines Welcome Center, which hosts a historic photo display of young Southern Pines and offers local maps and brochures. Learn more at the Moore County Historical Association website, or the office in the Shaw House.