Harnett County Courthouse

History of the Quilt


Project Description

Evaluations of Accomplishments

Future Plans for the Project

Proposal Letter

Request to Commissioners

Biographies by Homemakers Clubs

Biographies by Friends of the Library


Harnett County Courthouse


In 1854 Cornelius Harnett Coffield, who lived between Angier and Chalybeate Springs, was elected as the Harnett area representative from Cumberland County to the State Legislature in Raleigh, North Carolina.

When the legislative body met in November 1854 Coffield introduced the bill providing for formation of Harnett County. J. G. Shepherd, another Cumberland representative who lived in Fayetteville, bitterly fought the bill. Nevertheless, the bill was ratified by the Legislature February 7, 1855. It was entitled: "An Act to Lay Off and Establish a New County by the name of Harnett." In the Act boundaries were established.

Following this Act there was a supplemental Chapter, entitled Chapter 9, that made provision for the organization of the county, its government, its courts, and the terms thereof, its officers, its temporary county seat, and many things needed in launching a new county. As listed in Section 7 of Chapter 9, the Legislature appointed seven men, namely: George W. Pegram, John ~reen, Eldridge Stewart, James A. Johnson, James P. Hodges, John W. McKay and Samuel E. Johnson to layoff and allot the county seat of Harnett within three miles of the geographical center with power to purchase or, take by gift, or donation a track of land not less than one hundred acres, for a town to be laid off called Toomer and within its limits a courthouse and other public buildings to be located and erected. This center was the Summerville area.

Section 8 of Chapter 9 provided for laying off of other public lots for academies and churches. The above named commissioners did select a site for the courthouse and other public buildings in the village of Summerville.

On ~;~arch 11, 18,5 the majority of the Justices of The Peace* "in and for the County of Cumberland within the limits and lines of the County of Harnett" convened "within Cumberland Academy, the following Justices being present (VIZ): Robert Belden, Samuel E. Johnson, A. J. Cameron, D. B. Cameron, Duncan McCormick, John McDonald, James Harrington, A. Clark, John L. Atkins, r~. McKay, J. Senter, Nathan Douglass, J. W. McKay, A. Cameron, G. W. Pegram, S. Douglass, Stephen Pearson, Matthew Wilder, K. Jones, Daniel Cutts, Joseph Reardon, Henry Avery, Norman Matthews, Nathan Tart, E. Stewart, Samuel Ellis, and 'William Williams."

"Whereupon on motion G. W. Pe,Q;!:am was elected Chairman of the Court and James Banks, Clerk Pro-Tem. Samuel E. Johnson, Benjamin F. Shaw and John L. Atkins were put in nomination for the Office of ! Clerk, and K. Jones and Allen J. Cameron were appointed tellers, and upon a ballot being had Benjamin F. Shaw, having received , a majority of the whole votes cast, ';'as declared to be duly elected who tendered as his securities Angus Shaw, H. J'l1. McLean, Julius Matthews, Eldridge Stewart, and J. W. McKay who were approved of by the court, and qualified and entered upon the discharge of his duties.

The names of James A. Johnson and John R. McLean were put in nomination for the Office of Sheriff, and upon a ballot being had James A. Johnson ~received a majority of the whole number of vote~ cast and was deflated to be duly elected Sheriff and tendered as his Securities upon his Bond the names of Tapley Johnson, J. L. Bethea, A. H. Dewar, k. M. Turner, and Neill S. Stewart, who were approved by the court! and he qualified and entered upon the discharge of the duties of his office.

* They Passed This Way-by Malcolm Fowler -page 58

The names of S. Pearson, J. w. Spence, J. L. Bethea, Robert B. Smith, and Hugh ~~McLean, were put in nomination for the office of QQunty Trus~~~ an~ ~ohn L. Bethe_~, having received a majority of the whole number ~f votes cast was declared to be duly elected and tendered as securities the names of John W, ~11cKay, Dan PficCormick, Tapley Johnson, who w'ere approved by the Court when he qualified and entered upon the pischarge of his duties.

The names of Johh McDonald and Arch Bethea were put in nomination for the Qiiice of County Surv~~, and Arch Bethe~ having received a majority of the whole number of votes cast and was declared to be duty elected and tendered as securities the names of John L. Beth and Hugh McLean, who were approved by the court.

On motion, ~Qa* MQ~~ was ~ppointed BeRister of Deegs for the county and tendered as his securities Hugh McLean, John Spence, Julius W. McLeod who were approved by the court.

On motion, ~pat~an Holl~ was appointed EPtry Taker for the county. I

On motion, amoun~ of the trustee's bond shall be twenty-five thousand dollars.

On motion, Hecto~ M. McLean was appointed Qoroner for this county and tendered as securities Hugh McLean, and Arch McLean who were approved by the court.

The names of John: M. McDonald, John Green, A. S. McNeill, Daniel McCormick, Daniel Cutts, John L. Atkins were put in nomination for Committee of FinanQe§t John Green, A. S. McNeill, :Daniel McCormick having received a majority over the whole number of votes cast, were approved.

On Motion, Jas. T. Reardon was appointed Standard Keeper for this county."

In continuing the story of the formation of Harnett County fI/falcolm Fowler ~/ays: (on page 60 of They Passed This Way) "No finer men probably ever lived than the seven appointed by the Legislature to select a county seat for Harnett. Actually the site they selected (at Summerville) called Toomer, by directive was and is, a better location for a town than is the land which Lillington now occupies.

The ink had barely dried on the first documents at Toomer before the protests poured in.

First, some didn't like the name Toomer. We spend 100 years breaking away from Cumberland and the first thing we do is honor a Fayetteville lawyer by naming our county seat for him, they said.

On the East side of the river the complaints were far more vociferous. When the river was up -which it frequently was in those days -the people had to leave their vehicles strung out all the way from where Willoughby Spence now lives down to the river, cross on Atkins' Ferry and walk, mind you, walk the three miles to the county seat.

Owners of the land at Summerville which was to be the county seat site wanted a reverter clause in the deed. This the County Commissioners would not accept.

So heated became the controversy that the Legislature of 1858-59 passed an act providing for an election to determine if the county seat should remain where it was or be moved to the proposed site of Lillington.

For site was all Lillington was. (It was composed of two buildings.)

Lillington carrfed the election held in October, 1859, by 312 votes. The County Commissioners bought 100 acres of land from Nathaniel G. Jones for $500.00, and in ua61, the town, named for General Alexander Lillington, a hero of the Revolution, was officially laid off. I It is rather curious that the new county should be named in honor of their two most hated enemies, neither of whom probably ever set foot in Harnett.

No courthouse was built at Lillington until 1867. This was a wooden building and burned in 1892. The present brick courthouse* was built in 1897.

In the meantime all superior and county court cases continued to be held lat the Academy in Summerville. Prisoners were jailed in Fayettleville. Deeds were registered in the home of The Register of Deleds.

* This courthouse was remodeled and enlarged in 1959. Its unique mission style rrchitecture was stripped and the building is a plain rectangular biox-like structure. (V.W.).

Sources: They Passed his Way , by Malcolm Fowler, Copyright 1955

pages 58,59, 60 -sections in quotes

Newspaper Articles -acknowledgements under each article

Researched and written by: Vernie Lett Womack

Member Summerville Extension Homemakers Club

Quilt Square: Row 4, Number 21

Embroidery and Applique by: Vernie Lett Womack