Cameron Historic District
The Cameron Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2012, The Gombach Group.
The Cameron Historic District boundaries are drawn to include the lots extending along both sides of Carthage Street from U.S. 1 to the railroad. Visually, this is the area which is most intact and best portrays the character of Cameron. The original town plan for Cameron, date unknown, contains 164 lots. The lots adjoining Carthage Street, however, were the ones chosen by the residents on which to build their houses and businesses. Apparently no substantial residences were built on the lots east of the railroad; at least none exist there now. In addition the western boundary of the Cameron Historic District extends beyond the lots shown on the town plan since the town extends in that direction. Of the buildings in the Cameron Historic District, 16 are pivotal, 20 are contributing, 9 are fill, and 5 are intrusive.
Built up from the rural landscape of Moore County, Cameron still seems something of an isolated town in the midst of the expansive farms. The buildings extend down Carthage Street in relatively close proximity; however, farms border the back property lines of several of the lands on which the structures exist. Most of the houses are set fairly close to the street, but the spacious lots and the profusion of deciduous and evergreen trees which line the street and yards help provide a rural village setting and serve to isolate the houses from the traffic. A collection of fences of various materials define individual properties, contributing to the feeling of expanse within the compact community.
The buildings are one and two story frame and brick displaying elements of the popular styles of the era in which most of them were built — 1875 to 1925. While there is little information on builders or suppliers of materials for the buildings in Cameron, certain features recur throughout the town. The profusion of sawnwork detail varies from house to house but often the variations of porch railings or brackets from one house to the next is slight. German siding is found on a number of the houses as well as several outbuildings. Board-and-batten was also a favorite construction technique for outbuildings in the town. One very notable recurring feature is a door with two horizontal panels below and two arched vertical windows above. In some houses the windows are replaced by panels which have the same configuration. Within the houses, many of them have mantels with similar molded and turned ornamentation.
The most common house type on Carthage Street is one-and-a-half stories with a front gable. The most notable of these are the Dr. Kenneth Ferguson (509 Carthage Street) and Everette Borst houses. Both are Victorian cottages with sawtooth bargeboards in the gable ends. The Ferguson House has a porch carrying across the front facade supported by square posts with carved brackets. The Borst House displays a three-sided bay on the front and has a small porch with simple posts and a railing of turned balusters. Other one-and-a-half-story structures with varying degrees of ornamentation extend along Carthage Street.
Two-story frame houses compose the second large group of house types in Cameron. This group ranges in character from the simple I-house built by John M. Foust (637 Carthage Street) to the elaborate Queen Anne style E.P. Rodwell House. The Murdock McKeithen, Neill A. McFadyen, Turner-McPherson, John C. Muse, and E.P. Rodwell houses were all built by early successful businessmen in Cameron. The McKeithen, McFadyen, and Muse houses have a variety of turned and sawn ornamentation while the Turner-McPherson House has a combination of Victorian and classical details. The Rodwell House, with its corner turret, irregular massing, and stained glass is the most sophisticated of the Victorian era houses.
The third significant group of residences consists of those houses built in the early twentieth century which display elements of the Bungalow style. The W.G. Parker and J.D. McLean houses, both ca.1918, have many of the traditional Bungalow features such as hip roofs, small dormers, and columns supported by brick piers. The Leighton McKeithen House, which contains elements of both the Bungalow and Colonial Revival styles, is a large, rambling structure with numerous gables. A porch with a wide cornice supported by heavy columns on brick piers also carries across the front. Fanlights decorate the gable ends.
Perhaps the most notable feature of Cameron is its churches. They occupy prominent places along Carthage Street and are indicative of the importance religion played in the development of North Carolina towns. The Cameron United Methodist Church (465 Carthage Street) and Cameron Presbyterian Church (142 Carthage Street) are one-story, frame buildings with bell towers topped by a cross and a spire, respectively. In addition, the Methodist Church retains its very fine interior features such as the paneled wainscot with molded chair rails. Historically the Cameron Baptist Church (593 Carthage Street) has occupied the same spot since 1892. Though the present building retains the same basic form as its sister churches, it is a brick veneer building which replaced the original frame structure in 1952.
Commercial structures in Cameron are a mixture of frame and brick. The Muse Brothers (John C. and Andrew Muse, 422 Carthage Street), Pharmacy, and Phillip's Hardware (485 Carthage Street) stores are of brick construction. Muse Brothers displays notable brick corbelling along the roofline while the other two stores retain their recessed entrance ways so typical of early-twentieth century commercial buildings.
The frame commercial buildings are more numerous and range in character from the very plain one-story Millinery Shop to the two-story Greenwood Inn (109 Carthage Street) with its double-tiered porch and carved balustrade. The McKeithen Store its double doors, 6/6 sash, and original shelves and counters. The Cameron Depot, having been moved to avoid demolition by the railroad, now stands behind the Greenwood Inn. Its board-and-batten walls have been covered over by siding, but the exterior form is the same.
Cameron suffered several disastrous fires in the 1870s and 1880s. The Muse Brothers and McKeithen stores both replaced earlier buildings lost to fire. Other early structures have been demolished or moved. Fortunately documentary photographs exist for many of them.
The late-nineteenth century Hotel Halcyon (Britton Hotel), razed during the Depression, was a two-story brick structure with a double porch extending across the front facade. Square posts with carved brackets, much like those on the McFadyen House, supported the porch roof. A railing with carved balusters extended around both the first and second stories. Another two-story brick commercial structure which stood beside it is also gone. The building, which appears to have been a simple, gable-front structure with plain surrounds and 2/2 sash, housed a mercantile and barber shop among other things.
The dewberry sheds were one-story frame buildings with open platforms located adjacent to the railroad tracks. Carts or trucks were driven up to the platform and unloaded. It was from here that the dewberries were auctioned off and loaded on the trains for shipping.
Several small frame stores have also disappeared. The Phillip's Store, a two-story, frame structure, was replaced by a modern brick building. The Moses Britton Store, which looked much like the McPherson Store (415 Carthage Street), was located where the Cameron Womans Club building is now .
As already stated, the frame Cameron Baptist Church building was destroyed in 1952. It was a simple gable-front building, three-bays wide and four long with Gothic windows and entrance.
The Andrew Muse House, built by the other partner of Muse Brother's Store, stood where the Muse-Hemphill House now stands. Though no documentary photos are available, local citizens recall that it was a very fine two-story structure with a front bay and contained a walnut stair. It burned in the 1930s.
The intrusions in Cameron are few. About a dozen 1950s and 1960s brick structures have appeared, but they are few, small, and not prominent in the streetscape. For the most part, the late-nineteenth century character has remained through the years despite the changes in fortunes and circumstances. The churches, the houses, the stores, even the trees have been carefully guarded by the descendants of those who established the town, preserving the integrity of this tight-knit railroad community.
Born of a plank road and a railroad and spurred on by the turpentine and dewberry industries, Cameron, North Carolina, prospered in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Entrepreneurs settled here and made a substantial living in various businesses, notably turpentine distilleries, the mercantile or hotel trades, and especially dewberry farming and consignment. The dewberry business became so successful that for many years Cameron was considered the dewberry capital of the world. Surrounded by the farmland of Moore County, the planned town developed along the main thoroughfare, Carthage Street, radiating from the railroad around which its major activities centered. Along Carthage Street, the town's railroad men, merchants, and farmers built a compact community consisting of one- and two-story frame and brick houses, stores, and churches displaying elements of the styles popular in the era ca.1875 to 1925. Essentially unchanged, Cameron still retains its turn of the century character and its feeling of a modest, isolated, concentrated village.
Because the Moore County Courthouse burned in 1889 destroying most of the early records, it is impossible to know the exact transactions leading to the present configuration of the town of Cameron. However, strong local tradition and certain surviving records serve to reconstruct the development somewhat.
The largest single group of settlers to enter North Carolina directly from their native land was the Highland Scots, who began arriving in this country around 1732 and continued to settle in the Cape Fear region until the Revolution. Many of these immigrants established homes in the sandhills area which in 1784 would become Moore County. Because most of them had been farmers in their native land, that is the life style they pursued upon their arrival in this country. Archibald McDougald was a member of one such family.
In 1835 McDougald willed to his son Dougald McDougald "all lands lying south of the Fayetteville Road" as well as the lower lands on Dry Fork. Strong local tradition maintains that Dougald McDougald, who was a successful farmer, contracted to build the Fayetteville Plank Road which reached the Crain's Creek area and his expansive holdings in the 1850s. To do this, he rented a number of slaves in addition to his own. When a typhoid epidemic killed many of the slaves, McDougald was financially ruined, forcing him to sell much of his lands to pay his debt. He reportedly died soon after. McDougald is, in fact, listed in the 1850 agricultural schedule as owning 1,000 acres. He does not appear in the 1860 agricultural schedule although he does appear in the census. By 1870 he is not listed in the census at all.
The sandhills region made a steady recovery after the Civil War. The abundance of pines in the area made it a prime candidate for lumber and turpentine industry which in turn brought increasing demand for the railroad which was extending toward the region.
Again according to tradition, the present Cameron lands were sold to Coy MacNeill who in turn sold them to the Goodman Brothers. The Goodmans then made an agreement with a Major John Scott that if he could get the Raleigh and Augusta Railroad to come through the area, he would be given alternating lots in the town. On July 1, 1972, Scott is listed as owning one share of Raleigh and Augusta Railroad stock, and he continued to be an active voting member. Scott was also known as a land speculator. According to later deed transactions, Scott sold a large number of the lots in Cameron, although in many instances it was two adjoining lots rather than every other one. The Goodmans also sold numerous lots.
At least two of the original town maps still survive in the ownership of descendants of early Cameron residents. The map, which is undated, is entitled, "Plan of Cameron" and bears the inscription, "This plan represents 127 acres purchased by J.W. Scott from Dr. W. Arnold and the Goodman Brothers including 68 town lots in the Town of Cameron, Moore County, N.C. Situated each side of the R&ARR and Cranes Creek." The railroad arrived in Cameron in 1875, and with it a variety of merchants who began to build a community. The town was incorporated the following year and local tradition maintains that it was named for Paul Cameron, who was at that time an official of the Raleigh and Augusta.
The town grew rapidly, taking advantage of the lumber in the area. Branson's Business Directory for 1877-78 lists six turpentine distilleries and three sawmills operating in the town. It also lists three cotton gins, two corn mills, ten general stores, five liquor suppliers, and a classical school. By 1884 the town also had two hotels, a saddle and harness maker, a carriage company, a physician, and a drug store. By 1890 all three churches appear in the listing as well.
Among the earliest merchants to set up practice in Cameron was J.C. Muse, who with his brother Andrew, operated Muse Brothers Store. The present building, ca.1889, replaced a previous one lost to fire. J.C. Muses' house survives, along with the Greenwood Inn which the brothers operated for several years as the Muse Brothers' Hotel. Murdock McKeithen operated his mercantile business along with farming interests from Cameron's beginning well into the twentieth century. His store and fine house remain, as well as the house of his son Leighton, who ran the business until 1963. His other son, Archibald, became a distinguished physician serving as the head of General Hospital in Louisville for many years before retiring to his childhood home. N.A. McFadyen's store is gone but his substantial house still stands. He was a dealer in saddles and harnesses as well as general stock. Moses Britton was a man of diversified interests, being involved in the hotel, general store, turpentine, cotton gin, and farming trades. An 1879 receipt from his store, in the possession of Isabel Thomas, lists him as a "Dealer in Dry Goods, Groceries, Hardware, Millinery, Boots, Shoes, Hats, Caps, Clothing, et." Unfortunately neither his store nor his Halcyon Hotel survive although there are documentary photographs. Dr. K.M. Ferguson came to Cameron during its boom period and served as mayor for several terms before removing to Southern Pines where he also served as mayor. His house still stands. Of these early Cameron entrepreneurs, Dr. Hector Turner is particularly noteworthy. A prominent Moore County physician, he was a member of the Secession Convention of 1861, served as a surgeon with the 27th North Carolina during the Civil War, and later represented Moore County in the State Legislature. After the war he married Kate Ferguson Leach and is believed to have built the Turner-McPherson House for her. Turner's house was substantially remodelled in the early twentieth century by his step-son-in-law, H.P. McPherson, who also operated a general store and prospered in the dewberry industry.
The greatest economic boost, aside from the railroad, was the introduction of the dewberry industry in the area. The advent of the railroad made the shipping of truck crops convenient and profitable. The Lucretia Dewberry, which is a cultivated blackberry, was introduced into Moore County in 1892. By the early twentieth century the industry was successful enough to warrant the formation of the Moore County Fruit Growers Association. Cameron was proclaimed the largest dewberry market in the world.
In the 1910s and 1920s, when the market was booming, between 60,000 and 90,000 crates of dewberries were shipped in a season. The farmers consigned their fruit to one of three dealers in Cameron — the McKeithens, H.P. McPherson, or J.A. Phillips. The berries were packed and shipped to eighteen markets. The market declined in the 1930s and in 1951 the auctions were halted.
While the population of Cameron fluctuated over the years, reaching a high of 311 in 1940, the greatest ten-year population growth occurred between 1880 and 1890 when the number of residents rose from 117 to 218. The boom town era of Cameron essentially died with the dewberries. No longer a center of commercial activity, Cameron now presents a view of a typical small North Carolina railroad town whose heyday has past. Yet the quality of the buildings and the surrounding environment attest to the affluence of the Scots descendants who built them and the pride in heritage that has maintained them.
Branson, Levi. Branson's North Carolina Business Directory. Raleigh: various publishers, 1877, 1884, 1890, 1896, 1897.
Census of the United States. Moore County Agricultural Schedule, 1850, 1860, 1870.
Census of the United States. Moore County Population Schedules, 1850-1980.
Clark, Walter. History of the Raleigh and Augusta Railroad. Raleigh: Raleigh News Steam Job Print, 1877.
Cyclopedia of Eminent and Representative Men of the Carolinas of the Nineteenth Century. Madison, Wis.: Brant and Fuller, 1892.
North Carolina Biography, VI. Chicago and New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1919.
Wellman, Manly Wade. The County of Moore 1847-1947. Southern Pines: Moore County Historical Association, 1962.
Wellman, Manly Wade. The Story of Moore County. Southern Pines: Moore County Historical Association, 1974.
† Jo Ann Williford, Survey Specialist, North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Cameron Historic District, Moore County, North Carolina, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.