Archaeological excavations now being performed throughout Robeson County reveal a long and rich history of widespread and consistent occupation, especially near the Lumbee, or Lumber River since the end of the last Ice Age. The Lumbee, or Lumber River winds its way through Pembroke. Indeed, precursor settlements to what is now Pembroke sprung up alongside the river’s banks, and artifacts found there have been dated to the early Woodland period. This suggests that Native American settlements along the river were part of an extensive trade network with other regions of what is now the Southeast of the United States. After colonial contact, European-made items, such as kaolin tobacco pipes, were traded by the Spanish, French, and the English to Native American peoples of the coast, and found their way within Pembroke’s reach long before Europeans established their settlements.
Swamps, streams, and artesian wells provided an excellent supply of water for Native peoples. Fish was plentiful, and the regions lush vegetation included numerous food crops. “Carolina bays,” creeks, swamps, pocosins, and longleaf pines continue to mark the distinctive wetland landscape of Pembroke.
In 1725, colonial English surveyors for the Wineau factory mapped a village of Waccamaw Siouan Indians on the Lumber River, a few miles west of present-day Pembroke. In 1754, North Carolina Governor Arthur Dobbs received a report from his agent, Col. Rutherford, the head of a Bladen County militia, that a settlement of 50 Indian families were living along Drowning Creek and in the same vicinity of the Siouan Waccamaw settlement. These are the first written accounts of the Native Americans from whom the Lumbee tribe descend.