Place:Columbus, North Carolina, United States

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Columbus County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 58,098. Its county seat is Whiteville.



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The county was formed in 1808 in the early federal period from parts of Bladen and Brunswick counties. It was named for Christopher Columbus.

Waccamaw Siouan Indian tribe

The Waccamaw Siouan Indians are one of eight state-recognized tribes. Their homeland territory is at the edge of Green Swamp in present-day Columbus County. Historically, the "eastern Siouans" had territories extending through the area of Columbus County prior to any European exploration or settlement in the 16th century.

English colonial settlement in what was known as Carolina did not increase until the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Following epidemics of infectious disease, the indigenous peoples also suffered disruption and fatalities during the colonial Tuscarora and Yamasee wars. Afterward most of the Tuscarora people migrated north, joining other Iroquoian-speaking peoples of the Iroquois Confederacy in New York State by 1722, when they declared their migration ended and official tribe relocated to that area.

The Waccamaw Siouan ancestors retreated for safety to an area of Green Swamp near Lake Waccamaw. Throughout the 19th century, the Waccamaw Siouan were seldom mentioned in the historical record. Toward the end of the century, the U.S. Census recorded common Waccamaw surnames among individuals in the small isolated communities of this area.

In 1910, the earliest-known governmental body of the Waccamaw Indians was officially created, named the Council of Wide Awake Indians. At a time of racial segregation in North Carolina schools, the council sought to gain public funding for Indian schools, as the Lumbee (then known as Croatan Indians) had achieved in the late 19th century. They also hoped to gain federal recognition as a tribe, but it was rare for landless Indians and was associated with the tribes that had official treaties with the United States, typically those on reservations. The Council opened its first publicly funded school in 1933, founding others soon after. They continued to have difficulty in getting state funding for schools, as minorities had been disenfranchised in North Carolina since passage of a suffrage amendment in 1900 that created barriers to voter registration. The Council campaigned for federal recognition in 1940 during the President Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, which had passed the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, encouraging tribes to re-establish self-government.[1]

The name Waccamaw Siouan was first officially used in US government documents in 1949, when a bill intended to grant the tribe federal recognition was introduced in Congress by the representative of this district.[1] The bill was defeated in committee the following year. But changes in federal policy following Native American activism in the 1960s and 1970s enabled the Waccamaw Indians to obtain more public funding and economic assistance even without federal recognition.[1]

The Waccamaw Siouan have been recognized by the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs since 1971, as one of eight state-recognized tribes. The tribe organized as the Waccamaw Siouan Development Association (WSDA), a nonprofit group founded in 1972. The group is headed by a nine-member board of directors, elected by secret ballot in elections open to all enrolled tribal members over the age of 18; in addition, the board includes a chief, whose role is largely symbolic.[1]


From January 1979 through December 1982, State and Federal Investigators conducted Operation NC Gateway, an investigation into the activities of several elected officials in Brunswick and Columbus counties. Law enforcement seized 37 million dollars of illegal drugs, and arrested several leading citizens in the area. The scandal was labeled "COLCOR" in the press, shorthand for Columbus Corruption. The federal investigation culminated in federal convictions of former sheriff Herman Strong and former Shallotte Police Chief Hoyal Varnum Jr. among other government officials. The 1983 street value of the narcotics in Strong and his co-conspirators’ criminal enterprise was $180 million.

COLCOR's success was largely due to the deep undercover work by FBI Special Agent Robert Drdak who's testimony to the Grand Jury led to the arrest of a long list of prominent Brunswick and Columbus County citizens. In addition, former U.S. Attorney, Samuel Currin, was the force behind operations ColCor and Operation Gateway. The special investigative grand jury in Brunswick County handed down 22 indictments .,[2] and 35 indictments in Columbus County.[3] Among those indicted were,:[3]

  • Brunswick County Sheriff Herman Strong (numerous charges of conspiring to smuggle drugs, providing protection to drug smugglers, accepting bribes and 2 incidents of drug smuggling marijuana and methaqualone tablets) Strong was released June 17, 1987, after serving less than four years [2]
  • Shallotte Police Chief Hoyal "Red" Varnum (conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 1,100 to 1,400 pounds of marijuana)
  • Hoyal's brother Steve Varnum (a past Chairman of the Brunswick County Commissioners),
  • Lake Waccamaw Police Chief L. Harold Lowery, (racketeering in connection with taking $1,650 in bribes for protection money)
  • Former Columbus County Commissioner Edward Walton Williamson (who gave the undercover agent money to deal with Star News reporter Judith Tillman and send her back to Alabama)
  • District Court Judge J. Wilton Hunt (racketeering and interstate gambling) A federal judge sentenced Hunt to 14 years in prison and a $10,000 for his role in the corruption ring.[2]
  • State Rep. G. Ronald Taylor, (burning three warehouses belonging to another state senator who was Taylor's competition in the farm-implement business)
  • Lt. Governor James C. Green (charged with taking a $2,000 bribe and conspiring to take $10,000 in bribes a month) [4][5] The jury found insufficient evidence for the charges and acquitted Green.
  • NC State Senator R C Soles was indicted on federal charges of aiding and abetting a former Columbus County commissioner in obtaining bribes from undercover FBI agents, conspiracy, vote-buying and perjury, but these charges were later dismissed.


Date Event Source
1802 Land records recorded Source:Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources
1808 County formed Source:Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources
1808 Probate records recorded Source:Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources
1810 First census Source:Population of States and Counties of the United States: 1790-1990
1817 Court records recorded Source:Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources
1867 Marriage records recorded Source:Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources
1880 No significant boundary changes after this year Source:Population of States and Counties of the United States: 1790-1990
1913 Birth records recorded Source:Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources

Population History

source: Source:Population of States and Counties of the United States: 1790-1990
Census Year Population
1810 3,022
1820 3,912
1830 4,141
1840 3,941
1850 5,909
1860 8,597
1870 8,474
1880 14,439
1890 17,856
1900 21,274
1910 28,020
1920 30,124
1930 37,720
1940 45,663
1950 50,621
1960 48,973
1970 46,937
1980 51,037
1990 49,587

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