Harnett County (1855)

Written By Jonathan Martin

Named after the famous Revolutionary War Patriot, Cornelius Harnett, the County of Harnett was formed from parts of Cumberland County in 1855. There are several communities within the county, including Erwin, Dunn, Angier, Buies Creek, Coats, Johnsonville, and Bunnlevel. In 1859, Lillington was chartered to become the county seat for the county.


The Tuscarora and Saura were the first Indians to dwell in the area that is now Harnett County. By the early-eighteenth century, Scottish immigrants were the first settlers who migrated to the region. In 1745, after the last of the Jacobite Rebellions many Highland Scots moved to America to settle in the foothills of the middle Carolinas. Most immigrants were coerced to take oaths never to fight against Britain during the Revolutionary War. The Scots in the region were labeled as traitors, and the Patriots executed many Scottish immigrants during the war.


One of the last battles of the Civil War occurred at Averasboro (near Erwin). On his march to the sea, Union General William Sherman defeated the Confederate General William Hardee and his Confederate troops in March 1865.


In the 1880s, Harnett County towns and communities started developing into commercial and urban regions. Industrialization did not advance until the early-twenty-first-century, yet agriculture remains the principal economic system in the area. Tobacco, cotton, soybeans, wheat, and cattle are the top agriculture products while textiles, furniture, and mobile homes are the most important manufactured goods of the county.


Founded in 1970, Raven Rock State Park is the county’s primary tourist attraction. The park offers visitors the chance to camp, picnic, hike, ride horseback on the trails, or even fish and canoe the Cape Fear River.  Harnett County also claims home to Campbell University, the Lillington campus of Central Carolina Community College, and the General William Lee Airborne Museum.