“Only Sign Remains at Moss Neck, One-Time Thriving Trade Center” by Helen Seaswell, Robesonian Staff Writer, as published in the Feb. 23, 1949 issue of The Robesonian, Lumberton, N.C.
Pembroke—When one of our old-timers came to Robeson county in 1909 there were signs all around pointing to Moss Neck, a thriving trading center. Its primary industry was the manufacture of turpentine.
The town had two turpentine stills, a water mill, several houses, a sawmill, a Methodist church, a school for white children, a hotel, a post office, and a railroad depot.
Moss Neck is located approximately 10 miles from Lumberton, about two miles north of the highway connecting Lumberton and Pembroke. Today, the only thing to be seen which is representative of a town is a wooden sign beside the road. And it is questionable that the sign will remain very much longer.
The main thing in the vanishing of Moss Neck was the moving of the turpentine industry. The naval stores industry was once important in North Carolina. Then it moved into South Carolina and Georgia. Also, demand for naval stores diminished with the increasing use of steel instead of wood in the construction of ships.
Growth of Pembroke
About 50 years ago what is now known as the Atlantic Coast Line railroad was cut through Robeson. A subsidiary of the railroad company, called the Atlantic Land Improvement company, bought up a lot of property where the road went through what is now called Pembroke. The land was sold cheaply to persons who would bring any sort of business into Pembroke. Sawmills were about the first industries to come.
Bringing the Atlantic Coast Line railroad through Moss Neck was considered, but objection was raised by a prominent citizen. The railroad went through Pembroke instead, and the encouragement given there to business tended to bring all the civilization at Moss Neck to Pembroke.
Over a period of about 30 years Moss Neck kept disintegrating gradually. The turpentine stills left. Newer kinds of machinery took the place of the old water mills. Prohibition hit the liquor saloons. After a while the only sign of community life was the church.
Then, about 25 years ago, the Methodist church was moved to Pembroke. Timber from the Moss Neck church was used in the new church for it was all heart timber, and still as good as new.
It's almost amazing what can happen to a one-time thriving rural trading center over a period of comparatively few years. Due to economic changes and probably to lack of foresight in meeting new conditions, the town completely dried up. What happened to Moss Neck leads to speculation on what the towns and trading centers that are thriving today will be like 30 to 50 years from now.