Moore County, named after Alfred Moore (an officer in the American Revolutionary War and associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States), is home of Southern Pines and part of the Sandhills region of North Carolina, and a border county between the Piedmont and the Atlantic Coastal Plain. This area is packed with pine tree forests on just about every road you travel. And still hours from the beach, the soil has a high sand content; hence the name. In the days of early settlement, North Carolina’s greatest trade commodity was the longleaf pine, which provided pine wood, pitch, and tar. This is why NC is nicknamed the Tarheel State.
Indigenous peoples occupied this area, with varying cultures over thousands of years. In the historic period that included European encounter, tribes included Algonquian speakers in the coastal area, with Siouan-speaking tribes in the border and Piedmont, and the Iroquoian-speaking Cherokee in the western mountains. This area was eventually settled by Highland Scots and descendants, who had migrated through the backcountry of Pennsylvania and Virginia. The county was formed in 1785, shortly after the American Revolutionary War, from part of Cumberland County. In 1907, parts of Moore and Chatham counties were combined to form Lee County.
Throughout the southern section of Moore County, you’ll find numerous golf courses and resorts in the Southern Pines/Pinehurst area as well as throughout Whispering Pines and Seven Lakes areas. The region hosted the 1996, 2001, 2007, and 2014 Women’s U.S. Opens as well as the 1999, 2005, and 2014 Men’s U.S. Opens. 2014 was the first time in U.S. Open history that a single region consecutively hosted both the Women’s and Men’s Opens in the same year.
Celebrities who frequent or have private homes in the area include athletes Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Jack Nicklaus, and British actor Sean Connery. Past residents of the area have included Annie Oakley, Harvey Firestone, General George C. Marshall, and John D. Rockefeller.
High Falls, NC
Starting in the northwest corner of the county, you’ll find the town of High Falls, originally known as The Great Falls or The Big Falls in homage to a 15-foot waterfall in the Deep River at the site. In 1780, William England established a grist mill at the location. In 1904, Thomas Woody built a spinning mill, a cotton mill, and a grist mill, incorporating them as the High Falls Manufacturing Company. In the late 19th century, a small, single-room school was built for the community, which was later replaced by a larger structure. Later in the 19th century, the High Falls Dam on the Deep River was also constructed and modified in the 1920s to generate hydroelectricity for Hydrodyne Industries. Here you’ll find the darling High Falls Post Office (1368 NC-22).
Just a short drive from High Falls, you’ll find Glendon, originally known as Fair Haven. Residents of the community changed its name to Glendon in honor of the Glenn family, which owned a significant amount of land in the area. Since the 2015, the community has hosted a biannual music festival called Glendonfest, held twice yearly and gathering of musicians and music lovers at a rural and rustic 21-acre farm deep in the heart of Moore County. Hosted on a historical property once owned by a multi-generational family of country doctors, the grounds contain a fully preserved doctor’s office (built circa 1820 and filled with trinkets and tools), a beautiful landscape, a charming farmhouse, a remodeled horse barn, and a fishing pond.
House in the Horseshoe
In Glendon, you can also visit House in the Horseshoe (324 Alston House Rd.), named for the nearby horseshoe bend in the river which surrounds the 400+ acres of now mostly farmland and woodland. The closest point in the river is about 3/4 mile away. The house was built in 1772 as part of a cotton farm and still bears the scars and bullet holes from a July 29, 1781 four-hour Revolutionary War militia skirmish on the property at dawn, in which Mrs. Alston surrendered the house. It was said that she hid under the bed with her six-month old while she placed a bench or small table for the other children to stand on inside the chimney as protection from the bullets. Three musket holes are evident over the bed still today. The house is open for free tours Tuesdays-Fridays, though a donation is appreciated. Enjoy period furnishings as well as the property surrounded by fields of winter wheat and corn, depending on the season.
The one-square mile town of Cameron was incorporated in 1876, and was located at the end of the Raleigh-August Railroad, making it the perfect place for entrepreneurs to establish a business. The Town of Cameron was once known as the “Dewberry Capital of the World” because of the large-scale cultivation of dewberries in this farming community. Today Cameron is the antiques capital of the Sandhills with a variety of antique stores along the main road through town, Carthage Street. The antiques experience here has been featured in Southern Living magazine and voted “Best Antique Shopping” by the readers of Our State magazine.
If you love antiquing, National Register historic Cameron is a must-stop. Discover The Old Hardware Antiques, the Antique Shops of Cameron (consisting of 6 antique shops) just down the street filled with country furniture and vintage accessories and treasures. Amble through the wood and brick cobble floors of The Old Hardware Antiques, then follow the smell of breakfast cooking all the way downstairs in the local eatery. The area holds an Antique Street Fair the first Friday and Saturday in May and October each year, attracting antique dealers and lovers alike.
Oh, and just around the corner be sure to stop for a gaze at the local water tower (247 Carter St.).
Aloha Safari Zoo
The Aloha Safari Zoo in Cameron is a family-run zoo featuring a wide array of animals, most of which have been rescued. The zoo’s mission is to create a loving home for unwanted, mistreated, and injured animals. One of their animals’ favorite enrichment activities is painting – using non-toxic, water-based tempera paint, of course. You can see and feed Titus the giraffe and animals such as bison, zebra, ostriches, antelope, donkeys, llamas, water buffalo, camels — and even some animals you’ve never heard of!
Originally named Bynum and later Winder, the town of Vass was established in 1892 and incorporated in 1907, honoring Major William Worrell Vass, who was at that time paymaster for the Seaboard Railroad. Vass originated as a stop on the Seaboard Railway as a station called Bynum.
Restored Merchantile Building in Vass
Located on Main Street in Vass, this 1900s-era building was expanded several times and housed many businesses through the decades, with 7,000 square feet of street-level retail area and 4,000 square feet of apartment space on the second floor. Enchanted with the building’s history, Beth Dent and husband Daniel jumped at the chance to purchase the property.
More than a renovation, the Dents wanted to honor the building’s historical character. Punched tin was installed over new fire safety ceilings, and exposed brick was left in place, where possible. The centerpiece of their project is Main Street Commons, a 2,600-square-foot social venue space for weddings, rehearsals, and other special events. Built in the former mercantile, the room is rustic and elegant, with Victorian chandeliers alongside industrial accents and reclaimed wood furniture. The main room has an area for a DJ or live band, with a seated dinner capacity for 120 people.
The space has now attracted several local, eclectic businesses: Buggy Town Coffee, Main Street Sweets, ARTWorks Vass, Make It Happy. Visit ARTWorks Vass to shop the art of numerous local and other NC artists. You may even be able to spy on one of their artists working in the studio in back.
Balloons Over America – Hot Air Balloon Rides
If you want an adventure of a different kind, stop in at Balloons Over America for a hot air balloon ride or a tethered balloon ride. They get booked pretty quickly on the weekends, so book your ride well in advance.
Dunrovin Country Store
Just down the road in Vass, you’ll find a country store like none other. Enter through the side and peruse through room after room after room of local country goods, seasonal decor, outdoor decor, treats, and even shoes–and more. The store seems to go on and on forever. But after you exit the store, you’re not done yet. Meander to the backside of the building and you’ll find yourself in an entirely different world. Are you at a country store? A zoo? What is this place? I don’t want to say too much here. You just have to go and see it for yourself. Suffice it to say, that as of our visit, they had at least 172 various rescue birds and a myriad of other animals to discover.
Southern Pines, NC
Founded as a winter health resort for Northerners, Southern Pines is now a large golfing community with a quaint downtown shopping district. The town owes much of its prosperity to the activities of the Boyd family, who resided in the town since the beginning of the 20th century. In fact, the younger James Boyd began his life in Southern Pines by building what would become known as the Weymouth House. In his new home, James wrote his first and most well-known novel, Drums (1925). During his time there, the Weymouth House became a social center for other great writers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, and Paul Green, beginning a literary tradition in Southern Pines that remains a core aspect of the town’s heritage today.
Spend the day or spend a few hours perusing through unique array of boutique shops, bookstores, coffee shops, and more–including the flagship location of R.Riverter (as seen on CNBC’s Shark Tank). Be sure to stop in the Christian Bookstore to see the Taxidermy Museum in back.
Among the areas historic homes are The James Boyd House and Shaw House. You’ll even find a home built by P.T. Barnum himself at 285 N. Bethesda Road, though it is very much a private residence now. Other areas of interest include The Campbell House, Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities, and the downtown train station.
The Weymouth Center is also the gateway to the Boyd Round Timber Tract and its extensive trails which are located just beyond the house and gardens. The trails are part of the Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve. Of note, in the Boyd Tract (off of E. Connecticut Ave.) of land in Weymouth Woods, which has largely never been timbered, you will find the oldest living longleaf pine in NC, at 473 years old, which dates back to 1548! Hike just a bit further and you will see the states largest longleaf pine tree as well. All said, it is about a 1-mile circular hike to see both trees. (Note: The trees are not marked, so you may want to stop in at the visitor center [N. Fort Bragg Rd.] to get specific directions to find both trees.)
West End, NC
West End was once prosperous when Stanley Furniture employed hundreds in the area. By the mid-2000s, it had left the area, leaving a big real estate hole. In West End, you can stop in the Sand Hills Winery (1057 Seven Lakes Dr.) and the Log Cabin Country Store (4993 NC 211 Hwy) for plants, produce, and garden statuary.
Not much to tell here, but stop in at Scrollicious (211 Central Park Ave. Suite G) for some scrolled ice cream. It’s an amazing and labor-intensive process to watch. Each person’s ice cream is made individually, on the spot, and from scratch.
Pinehurst is the home of the historic golf resort, Pinehurst Resort, and was originally established with the vision of building a “health resort for people of modest means.” It was also named one of the 2020 Safest Cities in NC.
While in Pinehurst, stop by the Native Pollinator Gardens and the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens (3395 Airport Road…free)–absolutely beautiful. Plan on spending at least an hour here as you stroll through the paved paths that travel deeper and deeper into the property. Discover English gardens, a desert garden, various flowering plants and trees, and bronze sculptures throughout the gardens.
Carthage was the home of the Tyson & Jones Buggy Company, a predominant cart and buggy manufacturer in the late 1800s. The town has an annual event in spring called the Buggy Festival, usually the second Saturday in May. This event is used to showcase the history of the town and feature music, hot rods, old tractors, old buggies made by the Tyson Buggy Company, and crafts from potteries in the surrounding areas. This event is held in the town square around the Old Court House, recognized as an historic landmark.
In the downtown area, you’ll find several wall murals commemorating the history of the city, including the Tyson and Hones Buggy Company and James Rogers McConnell . I’m including this part because it is interesting history for the period… Tyson & Jones buggy factory partner, William T. Jones was born the son of a slave and her white owner in 1833. By the time of his death in 1910, William T. Jones was one of the prominent business owners in Carthage. He rubbed elbows with the elite, white, upper class in Moore County during the 1880s, dined with them, threw elaborate holiday parties where most of the guests were white, and even attended church with them. Both of his wives, Sophia Isabella McLean and Florence Dockery were white. Dockery was the daughter of a well-to-do Apex family.
James Rogers McConnell, a resident of Carthage (14 March 1887 – 19 March 1917) flew as an aviator during World War I in the Lafayette Escadrille and authored Flying for France. He was the first of sixty-four University of Virginia students to die in battle during that War. McConnell was flying in the area of St. Quentin when two German planes shot him down on March 19, 1917. He was the last American pilot of the squadron to die under French colors before America entered the war in April 1917. Both the plane and his body were found by the French, and he was buried at the site of his death at the edge of the village of Jussy, and was later reinterred at the Lafayette Escadrille memorial near Paris upon his father’s wishes. McConnell was commemorated with a plaque by the French Government and a statue by Gutzon Borglum at the University of Virginia, as well as an obelisk on the court square of his home town of Carthage.
Black Rock Vineyards
While in Carthage, stop by Black Rock Vineyards (6652 US Highway 15-501). Watch closely, as it is up on a hill beside the road and comes up fast.
Misty Morning Ranch
Before leaving the county, you’ll want to hit this one last stop… Misty Morning Ranch ostrich farm (2812 Plank Rd.), a 60-acre, family-owned operation in Robbins. The Ostrich meat produced on the ranch is a red meat that is low in fat and can be used in any traditional red meat recipes to produce great tasting dishes. Even though Ostrich meat tastes like beef, the Ostrich does not have fat marbling in the meat like beef. The ranch also produces Ostrich leather goods like wallets and belts, along with cosmetics and raw pet food.
Next stop… Orange County!