Cross Creek

Written By Lloyd Johnson

During the eighteenth century, Cross Creek became the second largest Cape Fear River town.

Because most of North Carolina’s interior rivers flow into South Carolina, this inland town became economically important, for its growth and expansion redirected North Carolina’s backcountry trade from South Carolina.  Cross Creek began in 1756, when Wilmington merchants Hugh Fullerton and Richard Lynn established a trading post about a mile from Cross Creek in present-day Fayetteville. The post became known as Spring Hill and attracted Moravian settlers and traders from the Piedmont.

Two early roads intersected at Cross Creek, the North-South Road that connected Cross Creek with Brunswick and Hillsborough and the Yadkin Road that linked Cross Creek to Salisbury in the west.  In  1754, where the North-South and the Yadkin roads intersected, John Newberry, a Quaker from the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, established a gristmill and a tavern. In 1760, he sold lots near the creek (now known as Cool Spring and located in downtown Fayetteville) to newcomers. Streets were planned and laid out, and settlers, including, merchants, innkeepers, tailors, shoemakers, butchers, and a sawmill operator, moved there.
In 1760, North Carolina General Assembly established a town on a 100-acre tract on the Cape Fear River, one mile from Cross Creek, named Campbelltown. Cumberland County had been carved out of Bladen in 1754, and the county’s first courthouse and jail were erected in 1756 at Choeffington, near present-day Linden. In 1763, they were relocated to Campbelltown. Meanwhile, the residents of Cross Creek disliked the new location and petitioned the legislature to relocate these public buildings in Cross Creek.  They were partially successful; only the jail was moved. It was not until 1778 that the General Assembly annexed Campbelltown with Cross Creek and relocated the courthouse there. 

The town had several distinguished residents in the colonial period, but none more so than Robert Rowan. He served as a sheriff in Cumberland County and as a delegate to the North Carolina General Assembly.   He was also a Revolutionary War leader and member of the Sons of Liberty. In June 1775, he drafted the “Liberty Point Resolves” that endorsed the Patriot cause against Great Britain and was circulated and signed at Cross Creek.

During the American Revolution, Cross Creek was a hotbed of wartime activity and home of divided loyalties. Highland Scots assembled there in 1776 and marched to Moore’s Creek Bridge, only to be defeated by the Patriots.  In 1778, the county court issued orders for about four hundred citizens suspected of being Loyalists across Cumberland County, many of them Highland Scots, to take an oath of allegiance to the Provincial government.  In  1788, when Charles Lord Cornwallis marched from South Carolina toward Guilford Courthouse, he and his troops passed through Cross Creek, where a battle ensued between Patriots and Loyalists. Fighting reoccurred when Cornwallis passed through again, this time following a retreat from Guilford Courthouse on April 7, 1781. On August 14, 1781, David Fanning raided Cross Creek with his band of Tories and captured several Patriots.

In 1783, the General Assembly established an act to lay out the streets in a grid pattern, and the legislature renamed the town Fayetteville, after the Marquis de Lafayette, a Frenchman who offered unwavering support for the American Revolution.