County Coverage? Absolute-Lee!

From it’s early days of dramatic population growth in the 1870s, the geographic area where Sanford (and Jonesboro prior to annexation) is located, has been the dominant focal point of the area that eventually formed Lee County. At present, the county population is approaching 60,000 residents, and just under half live in Sanford. But that statistic also means that just over half of Lee County’s residents live outside the city limits. Those are the geographic areas we’ll spotlight in today’s throwback feature, starting with a visit to Carbonton — a Lee County village that is older than Sanford itself.

Located along the Deep River and the county’s west border, Carbonton was founded in the 1850s. One of the town’s early landmarks was the Carbonton Academy, which came into being shortly after the town did. Our first image is a picture of the girls’ dormitory taken roughly half a century later, around the start of the 1900s. Another notable structure was the Carbonton Dam. Located on the Deep River and operated by Carolina Power & Light, the dam was built in 1921 and remained in place for nearly all of the 20th century.

Upstream from Carbonton is Cumnock, which began its history as an ill-fated mining town named Egypt. The Cumnock Mine operated from 1855 until the late 1920s. Sadly, mining disasters in 1855, 1895 and 1900 all claimed lives of miners. The Egypt Store was a popular gathering place for local residents. This picture was taken approximately a century ago.

In the southern part of the county is an unincorporated parcel called Lemon Springs. It is located several miles away from the spring and resort it was named for. This building, the Ferguson General Merchandise Store was owned and operated by the Richard Ferguson Family. New arrivals to the area around 1924, they served local residents at this location, well into the 1980s.

The only official town in Lee County is Broadway, a quiet village near the eastern border with Harnett County. Broadway has enjoyed a relaxed charm for several decades. Here’s a glimpse of the downtown area in the 1950s.

Finally, here’s a look at the White family farm in rural Lee County in 1914. The child on the far left, Aubrey, would eventually become Mayor of Sanford in the 1950s. Rural Lee County lacked running water and electricity in many areas, well into the middle of the 20th century. Brothers John & Guy Matthews operated a popular barbershop in downtown Sanford during that era and reported that Saturdays from 11am to 1pm were their most popular hours. Residents living on one of roughly 12,000 farms in the area at the time, came to town to use the running water in the shop. They were interested in getting their weekly bath, not a “city haircut!”

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