Fayetteville: Read it & Love it

Good Reads

By Diane Parfitt, June 2022 Issue

When my husband and I moved to Fayetteville in 1982, we fell in love with the city and the people. I’ve always said the place you live is only as good as you make it, and over the years, many people in Fayetteville have strived to make it a better place for all to live. Thanks to their efforts, we now have a revitalized downtown with dozens of new businesses, including restaurants, museums, gift shops, coffee shops and apartments. What a difference the years can make.

One way to appreciate Fayetteville and its downtown even more is to read about the city’s history or to read books by authors who have lived here. The more you know about your hometown, the more you will treasure our shared history.

    There may be no more detailed book on the history of Fayetteville than this one by the late John Oates, originally published in 1950. The last reprinting was in 1981, and the book is still in demand, although there are few copies available. If you are lucky enough to find one at an estate or yard sale, grab it up. They are selling for quite a nice price online, especially the ones with a tartan cover.

    2. “CUMBERLAND COUNTY: A Brief History” by Roy Parker Jr.
    Written for the North Carolina Division of Archives and History as part of a series of short histories of the state’s counties, this book proved popular with teachers, schoolchildren and tourists. Most of Cumberland County’s history is the history of Fayetteville. It has been the county seat for 250 years and, for 200 of those years, the footprint of Fayetteville was the footprint of what we now call downtown. The late Roy Parker Jr. was a well-respected historian and newspaperman, recognized on the state and national level for the quality of his research. This is probably the most accurate review of our local history from Colonial times to the late 20th century. It makes a great gift for visitors and friends.

    3. “WHO WAS BABE RUTH?” by Joan Holub
    Most everyone knows the Babe as one of the greatest baseball players of all time, playing for the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees from 1914 to 1935. Some know that he hit his first home run as a pro on March 7, 1914, in Fayetteville. A highway marker about the historic hit stands on Gillespie Street downtown and was dedicated in 1951. Fayetteville is also where George Herman Ruth gained his “Babe” nickname. But did you know that it was while in reform school that Babe discovered his talent for baseball? When he was 7, Ruth was sent to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys and taught by a caring but strict disciplinarian and baseball coach. By the time he was 19, he was on his way to becoming the baseball player we all revere. With his big heart and even bigger swing, the Babe can be an inspiration for kids who can learn all about him in this biography just for them.

    4. “DRUMS OF AUTUMN: OUTLANDER 4” by Diana Gabaldon
    This is the fourth novel in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. It is set in the colony of North Carolina from 1767 to 1770, much of it in Fayetteville, which was known as Cross Creek at the time. These books have a huge fan following; a group of them recently included a visit to Fayetteville as they toured the sites where Jamie and Claire were sharing adventures.

    5. “WAR DAYS IN FAYETTEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA: Reminiscences of 1861 to 1865” by the United Daughters of the Confederacy
    Put together in 1910, this is a collection of contemporaneous descriptions of the Union Army’s occupation of Fayetteville from the perspective of gentlewomen here during the Civil War. Other than complaining about the unwelcome visitors from the North, their musings are more a telling of the times than a political essay. These women were remarkably fair-minded and often praised individual Union soldiers for their kindness. The U.S. Arsenal, the pride of antebellum Fayetteville, is described in some detail as are some Haymount houses and the people who lived there.
    To learn more about Fayetteville’s literary connections, visit the Fayetteville History Museum and see its current exhibition, Literary Fayetteville: Pages in Our Past. The museum, at 325 Franklin St., is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.