The unbeaten path: Indian life once centered on the Burnt Swamp community.

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Travis, Scott. “The unbeaten path: Indian life once centered on the Burnt Swamp community.” Fayetteville Observer-Times (Fayetteville, N.C.) 25 August 1996.


Early in the 1900s, thousands of Lumbee people lived the Burnt Swamp community; but Pembroke eventually won out as the Lumbee population center.  The name “Burnt Swamp” derived from the Lumbee practice of setting fire to swamp areas as a way of clearing out brush and undergrowth.  Important features of the Burnt Swamp community (whose population is now around 1,600) include: 

  • the Union Chapel Holiness Methodist Church (established around 1860, although the current building was erected in 1924), the oldest Indian Methodist congregation in Robeson County.
  • Union Chapel School, one of the county's oldest schools; its original name was Laurel Institute, and it provided instruction at elementary through high school levels.
  • Oxendine Cemetery, which includes the graves of Dr. Herbert Oxendine, the first Lumbee to receive a doctorate in education, and Mary Catherine Oxendine Moore, the first female Indian school teacher in the county.

Burnt Swamp was under consideration as the home of the college now known as the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.  Calvin Lowry advocated moving the Indian Normal School from Pates to Burnt Swamp.  Oscar Sampson, a Board of Trustees member who owned property in Pembroke, won out.  The school, and the focus of Indian activity, shifted to Pembroke.

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