Cameron, North Carolina

The railroad brought boom times to Cameron. Or maybe it was the Goodman brothers who should be credited with sowing the seeds that grew into Cameron. It was no accident that the railroad made its way through Moore County via Cameron. Three brothers named Goodman owned most of the land surrounding present-day Cameron. These brothers knew the value that the railroad could add to their land. In pursuit of this “additional value,” they made an agreement with a Major John Scott that if he could get the Raleigh and Augusta Railroad to lay its tracks through their land, the brothers would reward Major Scott with every other lot for a mile on either side of the track. 

The railroad did come to Cameron in 1857, and for a long time Cameron was the place where the Raleigh and Augusta Railroad line ended. Just as the Goodman brothers hoped, with the railroad came a variety of merchants and residents, and a community was established. The town of Cameron was incorporated by an act of the General Assembly in 1876 and named for Paul Cameron, an official of the railroad. The railroad’s influence was obvious when the town limits were set in a square one mile wide with the center of the square positioned at the depot lot of the Raleigh and Augusta Airline Railroad.

Cameron grew into a bustling commercial center with many mercantile stores, a carriage works, millstone company, and six turpentine distilleries. By the early 1900’s, a winery and hosiery mill were added. Within twenty years, Cameron was home to two hotels, three saloons, ten general stores, and one drugstore. From 1880 to 1890 the population grew from 117 to 218. During this period, Muse Brothers Store in Cameron was recognized as the largest department store between Richmond, Va., and Augusta, Ga.

Early settlers had worried no crop would grow in the sandy regions now known as Sandhills. It took the Highland Scots in the late 18th century to see the potential in the pines for the lumber and turpentine the forest would yield. Cameron was about to discover a new industry to be produced in the sandy soil. This new industry would put the name of Cameron on the map. In 1892, the Lucretia Dewberry was introduced to Moore County. This cultivated blackberry was grown on farms all around Cameron. In fact, Cameron became the dewberry capital of the world attracting buyers from as far away as Florida. In the ten years from 1910 to 1920, between 60,000 and 90,000 crates of dewberries were shipped each season in refrigerated boxcars from Cameron to such destinations as Richmond, Washington, and New York.

The dewberry patch is a one-crop situation. The bushes soon aged, and no new ones were planted. It was under this scenario that the dewberry industry suffered a double blow. A rust struck the already weakened dewberry plants, and tobacco emerged as the major cash crop. The dewberry industry had died out completely by the early 1950s. As a matter of fact, both the dewberry and turpentine industries had disappeared. Even the trains that had once made daily stops in Cameron now just passed through.

Cameron may have lost its commercial status, but not its charm. Today, Cameron has cleverly taken advantage of its charming past. The mercantile stores which once sold groceries and dry goods now sell a “new” kind of treasure –antiques. Although Cameron is no longer the dewberry capital, it has put itself on another map as the antique capital of the Sandhills. The town is now a reflection of its past. Cameron’s historic homes hold a variety of antique shops and tearooms, and the area has become a Mecca for antique lovers far and wide. Two fairs, one held each spring and fall, attracts vendors and shoppers from as far way as Maryland and Georgia.

The town that exploded from 117 residents in 1880 to 218 resident in 1890 has seen its population creep up to a current 300. For its visitors, Cameron is a pleasant place to spend a day enjoying the antique shops; for its residents, Cameron is a pleasant place to spend a lifetime with its tree-lined streets and neatly manicured homes.