Four Oaks was established in 1887 and chartered in 1889. Its population then was around 60 people; today it is home to more than 2000. Four Oaks was named by Colonel R. R. Bridgers in 1886 for an unusual sight that graced the land upon which he found himself. In 1850, 37 years before there was a town of Four Oaks, Aaron Wallace went hunting. He “treed a possum” and as was the protocol of the day, he “felled the tree” to secure the possum.
Years later Kinchen Barbour purchased that land and built a home nestled in a beautiful grove of oaks. None of the oaks was more appreciated or admired than the one closest to the house. This oak was actually four huge trees which had grown from the stump left by Wallace the possum hunter. It was the same oak so strongly admired by Col. Bridgers that he named his town in its honor.
Col. Bridgers had come to the area as the President of Wilmington and Weldon Railroad. The site, the size, and even the name of the town were determined by the railroad. In completing the track from Benson, NC to Smithfield, NC the company set up a worksite on high ground between the two towns. The worksite brought an increase in activity to the area. Col. Bridgers purchased the right of way for the immediate site. He then added additional acres with a purchase from Isaac Evans Blackwell, a Tuscarora Indian man whose family had been free since the 1700s. His final plot was 40 acres. Thirteen blocks were to be the town. Seven blocks would be developed on the south side of the tracks, and six would be developed on the north side. The railroad and its accompanying depot split the town down the center. Today, the business center of town remains housed in these 13 blocks.
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