In 1911, the counties of Cumberland and Robeson spanned a great deal of territory. The people who lived in the outlying areas of both counties had quite a distance to travel if they had business to conduct at either county seat. Residents in the far reaches of Robeson County had to travel two days to visit the county seat.
In 1907, North Carolina Senator John W. McLauchlin, a representative of Cumberland County, proposed the formation of a new county in this outlaying area. At the time, he proposed it be named Glenn County in honor of the governor. The bill did not garner the support it needed in 1907 or 1909. Instead he found opposition from people in both counties. But in 1911, he built enough support to pass the bill, and instead of naming the county after the governor, the N.C. Legislature decided to name it in honor of Gen. Robert F. Hoke, a Confederate Army officer.
Hoke, a contemporary and friend of Robert E. Lee, served the Confederacy with distinction. Hoke, hero of the Confederacy, had captured 3,000 prisoners at a battle in Plymouth. He was a spirited and inspiring commander. North Carolinians had filled his ranks and were proud of the successes they achieved under him. North Carolinians across the state wanted to have General Hoke honored. A new county named for him was a popular concept with people across the state.
Although the legislation passed the legislature on Feb. 15, 1911, it did not actually go into effect until April 1, and it is that auspicious event that the citizens of Hoke County are celebrating.
Throughout the month of April, a number of events will take place to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the county. Put together by a committee of local citizens, the Hoke 100 project kicked off March 30 with a carnival and will end on April 16 with a special dinner and celebration of life in the county.
So if you live in Hoke County, and even if you live in the counties surrounding it, you might want to take a drive over to Raeford to take part in the celebration of this unique event.
On Friday, April 8 and Saturday, April 9, the Centennial Play, The Music Man, will be on stage at Turlington School. Directed by Beth Walters, the show features some of the county’s most talented citizens. Tickets to the show are $8 and can be purchased at The News Journal or at the Raeford-Hoke Museum. The curtain rises at 7 p.m. each night.
On Sunday, April 10, the celebration will focus on the museum, with the dedication of the Raeford-Hoke Emergency Service Museum. The event will feature an old-fashion singing, carriage rides, a band and the dedication. The fun starts at 2 p.m. and ends at 4 p.m.
On Friday, April 15, a Family Fun Night will take center stage at the Raz Autry Stadium at Hoke High School. Sponsored by First Health of the Carolina, the event begins at 6 p.m. and is free to the public.
And while there will be some traditional events, like bands, games and inflatables for children, there will also be a couple of unique events to celebrate life 100 years ago. Men will have the opportunity to participate in the Warm Chins for Charity Beard Contest. Yes, that’s right, men are asked to grow their beards to pay homage to the farmers who worked the area that is now Hoke County, but also to support local charities. The individual with the best beard will win $200 and a $400 prize will be awarded to a charity.
If growing a beard isn’t up your alley, you can also try your hand at creating a period costume to reflect the styles of 100 years ago. Prizes will also be awarded. You must be 18 years or older to participate in the contests.
And if you aren’t in the mood to compete, you can just have fun with your family enjoy food from local vendors or play the myriad of games that will be on hand. The night will end with a fabulous fireworks display.
The closing event will be held on Saturday, April 16, with the burying of a time capsule at the county courthouse at 2 p.m. Later that evening, a dinner will close out the celebration. The dinner will feature guest speakers, entertainment and a glimpse at the history of the county. Raeford Presbyterian Church will host the event in the John Ropp Hall. Tickets for the event are $10.
For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit www.hoke100.org.
Photo: Hoke County residents will celebrate 100 Years of History during April.