The county became a political entity in 1855, and was formed from Cumberland County. It was named for the Revolutionary War Patriot, Cornelius Harnett, delegate to the Continental Congress. The first settlers came in the mid 1720's, and were followed by the Highland "Scots." The Scots settled in the foot hills rather than in the rich alluvial soil area of the Coastal Plains. After the defeat by the British of Bonny Prince Charles at Culloden, the Scots came up the Cape Fear River in ever increasing numbers and settled in western Harnett County. The British also settled along the banks of the Cape Fear River in the coastal area, generally from Erwin to Wilmington.
During the Revolutionary War the Scots, who were forced to take ironclad vows never again to take up arms against the British, were considered as traitors. Since their activity assisted the British against the American Patriots, public executions were not uncommon. One site near Lillington was the scene of a mass execution of Scot "Traitors."
One of the last battles of the War Between the States took place at Averasboro near Erwin. General Sherman's army, on its march to the sea, defeated the army of General Hardee and proceeded eastward. The centennial celebration of that event was held at the site of the battlefield in 1965. Only after 1880, did the population begin to establish itself in urban rather than rural areas. Lillington, Dunn, Coats, Angier, and Erwin became trading and commercial areas. Today more than one-fifth of the population resides in towns or villages. Agriculture and agricultural products are the greatest source of income to the county. The preponderance of the population is either engaged directly in agriculture or derives a major portion of its income from the economy created by agricultural pursuits.
Harnett County is now moving into the industrial development phase. Community planning is being undertaken on an unprecedented scale and new leadership is emerging which holds promise of broadening the county's economic base. The western and southwestern portion of Harnett County could easily become the playground of East-Central Carolina. The terrain, the geological character and its proximity to large and growing metropolitan areas place this portion in an excellent competitive position. History is made by people, and the people of Harnett County accept the challenge that tomorrow shall hold unlimited opportunity.
**For more information, please contact the Harnett County Library at 910-893-3446 or visit their website at http://www.harnett.org/departme-210.asp?d=23&s=detail