Vibrant communities pay special attention to cultural and civic affairs, Whiteville is no exception. Under the umbrella of the Columbus County Arts Council, many diverse groups receive funding or cultural guidance. These include the Columbus County Theatre Association, the Oratorio society, the Visual Arts Guild and many others. Dozens of community, school and church groups provide a broad spectrum of cultural and artistic opportunities for Whiteville residents. The Southeastern Community College Performing Arts Series brings acclaimed performers in music, dance and theatre to the community such as The Count Basie Orchestra, The Kingston Trio and Broadway hits like “Camelot”. Monthly art exhibits featuring outstanding area artists are always well received.
Whiteville also enjoys the efforts of many national civic organizations such as: Optimist, Civitan, Lions, Rotary, General Federation of Women’s Clubs and Kiwanis Clubs, just to mention a few. These clubs contribute much to the quality of life we enjoy in Whiteville. For addresses of specific organizations, please contact the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and Tourism.
Whiteville’s beginnings date back to 1733 land grants. James B White, for whom Whiteville is named, owned over 2000 acres of land which included a plantation, Marsh Castle. It was originally part of an 640 acre tract of land inherited by John Burgin and his wife, Margaret. John Burgin, an attorney, served as secretary to Governor Arthur Dobbs in 1754 and was treasurer of the colony in 1766.
In the years following the Revolutionary War, the area became more populous. For the convenience of these settlers, a new county, Columbus, was established from Bladen and Brunswick Counties. The site of Columbus County Courthouse was chosen and given to Columbus County by James B. White, who became the county’s first state senator. Today’s Courthouse Square can be seen on the original plan of Whiteville.
Later, the railroad depot was located south of Whiteville at Vineland, which existed as a separate town until 1926 when it became part of Whiteville. The Vineland section is still referred to as “downtown” and old Whiteville as “uptown”.
Soldiers from Whiteville and Columbus County participated in the major battles of the Civil War from Manasses to Appomatox. Residents of Whiteville reported hearing the guns fired at Fort Fisher. Tales of looting and destruction, by marauders from Sherman’s army, have been handed down for years.
As the South slowly rebuilt after the Civil War, so did Columbus County and Whiteville. Better roads and communications in the early decades of the 20th century changed Whiteville from an agricultural community to a growing town. Population increased over 30% from 1920 to 1930.