Raeford City Hall is located at 315 North Main Street, Raeford, NC 28376; phone: 910-875-8161.
While these Scottish settlers occupied the land on which the town of Raeford is situated during the eighteenth century, Raeford's genesis lie in the second half of the nineteenth century. At that time, most of the people living in present-day Hoke County remained closely tied to their Scottish and Presbyterian roots despite the upheavals of the Revolutionary War, and later, the Civil War. It was these Scottish Presbyterians, long respected for their devotion to education who founded a school where Raeford now stands.
In the late 1800s Dr. Albert Picket Dickson and his wife Frances Wyatt joined with the McDiarmid family to establish a private school for their children. The school did not thrive, but around 1891, the Dicksons and other neighbors tried again. This second academy also failed, but Dr. and Mrs. Dickson, as the parents of thirteen children, remained committed to creating educational opportunities, so along with the McLauchlin and McRae families, they built a new school on five acres of land between present-day Main Street, Magnolia Street, Edinborough Avenue, and Donaldson Avenue. In September 1895, the non-sectarian, co-educational Raeford Institute opened in a substantial two-story building with two teachers. By 1898, the school's faculty included five college-educated teachers, and the catalogue portrayed the institute's location as "free from temptation to extravagance, from opportunities for misconduct and wrongdoing of every kind, and from distracting influences." By 1906, when the school's enrollment stood at 260 students representing twelve counties and three states, the catalogue depicted Raeford as a "Scotch and Scotch-Irish settlement ... composed almost entirely of people who have gathered here for the purpose of educating their children."
At the same time the Raeford Institute was getting its start, two other events helped set the scene for Raeford's inception. One was the arrival of an Aberdeen & Rockfish Railroad survey party. John Blue organized the A & R in 1892, and in 1895 Blue, surveyor Hector Smith, and Dan McLauchlin laid out the depot's location and a main street for what would become Raeford. The other formative event also occurred in 1895 when A. A. Williford and John McRae applied for a permit to operate a post office at their store, gristmill, and turpentine distillery complex on Rockfish Creek. The two men combined their names to create Raeford. Williford and McRae's post office stood about a mile away from the center of present-day Raeford, however, the name was applied to the new school, to the planned A & R depot, and to the settlement that emerged around the institute and railroad.
These seminal events in Raeford's history, the establishment of a school, a post office, and the promise of rail service, occurred during the New South era when optimistic farmers, merchants, industrialists, and politicians backed the expansion of the state's existing municipalities and founded hundreds of new towns. Promoters of the New South movement championed industry, education, and transportation as the vehicles that would deliver the South from the dark days of Reconstruction and an antebellum dependence on volatile cash crops and now nonexistent slave labor. The philosophy's optimism and the era's energy, charged with humming turbines, drumming industrial looms, clanking engines, dazzling electric lights, and ringing telephones, spread along the region's railways.