RICHMOND COUNTY – Acres of submarginal land, and what some called wasteland in the early 20th century, is being “hidden” today in Richmond County.
To look at it now through a different lens, you would not recognize it as being submarginal.
In the early part of the 20th century, much farmland in Richmond County was cleared for cultivation without regard to the fragility of the soil, and long leaf pine trees were stripped for naval stores use. It was the exploitation of a fragile ecological system.
At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, wealthy men, many from Northern states, bought acres of cheap land in Richmond County for their private hunting preserves.
During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the federal government established the Works Progress Administration, which saw the need for a large conservation and game preserve project in Richmond County that would create jobs.
Some 150 families living on submarginal (barely productive land) were relocated, or resettled on more productive land near Blue’s Bridge over Drowning Creek.
In 1935 as the project began, sources reported that, “The game preserve to be created on part of this government-bought land will become one of the finest in the Nation.
“And on this game preserve will be laid out a 25-mile hunt course for National (dog) ‘field trials’ that will bring Richmond County into nationwide prominence and attract hundreds of wealthy sportsmen. The overflow in time will make the rest of Richmond County a hunter’s paradise.”
Seven lakes covering a total of 154 acres were created elsewhere on the preserve.
To be developed was the 4-H Club Camp at “The Rocks” in the Beaver Dam community for 200 campers on Millstone Creek with a 28-acre pond.
When the project land was acquired, re-forestation began. The largest single planting of slash pine ever to be undertaken in North Carolina, “has just come to a successful conclusion on the Sandhills Land Utilization Project,” the source later said.
By the end of the project, many people thought the wasteland had been transformed into a natural paradise, or as said in an idiom, the “sow’s ear was made into a silk purse.”
The Sandhills Game Land remains a paradise for wild game and a variety of other animals, birds and plants; as well as for dog trials, hunting and fishing.
It is known today as one of the best examples of the long leaf pine habitat in the United States.
What was once marginal and wasteland is now “hidden” beneath new growth on the 60,000-plus acres of the vibrant Sandhills Game Land.
No longer can the land be considered a “sow’s ear.”