Historical Markers in
Lee County, North Carolina

In the 1960s, North Carolina was a center of the civil rights movement, with Greensboro being the site of the first sit-in protests in the country.
Lee County, NC, located in the central part of the state, has a rich and diverse history that spans several centuries. The area was originally inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Saponi and Occaneechi. European settlers arrived in the 18th century, with the formation of the county taking place in 1907.

In the early years, Lee County was largely a rural agricultural area, with farming and small-scale industries being the main source of employment. The county was named after General Robert E. Lee, the famed Confederate Army commander, reflecting the post-Civil War era and the influence of the Civil War on Southern culture.

The arrival of the railroad in the late 19th century brought new opportunities for economic growth and development. The town of Sanford, the county seat, became a major transportation hub, connecting the county to other parts of the state and facilitating the movement of goods and people. This led to the establishment of textile mills and other industries that fueled the local economy.

Throughout the 20th century, Lee County experienced ups and downs in its economic trajectory. The decline of the textile industry in the latter half of the century caused job losses and economic challenges for the region. However, efforts to diversify the economy have been successful, with the county attracting new businesses in diverse sectors such as automotive manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and logistics.

Today, Lee County continues to evolve and adapt, balancing its agricultural heritage with modern developments to create a vibrant and dynamic community. It remains a place where history meets progress, offering a mix of natural beauty, cultural attractions, and economic opportunities.

This timeline provides a glimpse into the major events and milestones that have shaped the history of Lee County, North Carolina.

  • 1747 - Lee County was established as part of the colonial province of North Carolina.
  • 1907 - The Atlantic Railroad was completed, connecting Sanford and Western Lee County to the rest of the state.
  • 1909 - Sanford was officially incorporated as a town.
  • 1921 - The town of Sanford became the county seat of Lee County.
  • 1958 - The Sanford Dam was built, creating the 1,290-acre Lake Sanford.
  • 1971 - The city of Sanford was chartered.
  • 1985 - The Lee County Courthouse, designed by local architect William Roy Wallace, was completed.
  • 2000 - Central Carolina Community College's Health Sciences Building was opened, providing educational opportunities in the healthcare field.
  • 2019 - Lee County celebrated its 272nd anniversary since being established.