Harnett County Courthouse
STORY OF THE QUILT SQUARE: HARNETT COUNTY COURTHOUSE
INCLUDING HISTORY OF THE FORMATION OF HARNETT COUNTY BY THE SUMMERVILLE
EXTENSION HOMEMAKERS CLUB FOR THE HARNETT COUNTY HISTORICAL QUILT, 1989
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
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
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.
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
~;~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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
motion, ~pat~an Holl~ was appointed EPtry Taker for the
motion, amoun~ of the trustee's bond shall be twenty-five thousand
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.
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.
Motion, Jas. T. Reardon was appointed Standard Keeper for this
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.
ink had barely dried on the first documents at Toomer before the
protests poured in.
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.
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.
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
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.
site was all Lillington was. (It was composed of two buildings.)
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.
courthouse was built at Lillington until 1867. This was a wooden
building and burned in 1892. The present brick courthouse* was built 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.).
Passed his Way , by Malcolm Fowler, Copyright 1955
pages 58,59, 60 -sections in quotes
Newspaper Articles -acknowledgements under each article
written by: Vernie Lett Womack
Member Summerville Extension Homemakers Club
Quilt Square: Row
4, Number 21
Applique by: Vernie Lett Womack