The name Bear Grass, a type of
yucca prolific in the area, has been in use at least since 1761 when it
was given to the area's major swamp in a land grant. The early settlers
were farmers, with many engaged in the production of turpentine, tar and
shingles from the area's abundant forests.
Though the congregation of the Bear Grass Primitive Baptist Church
organized in 1828, the Bear Grass community did not emerge until after
the Civil War. A public school started by the late 1860s, and Reuben H.
Rogerson opened a general mercantile store in 1880. The community's
development was hindered by it not being located along a navigable
stream or on either of the railroad lines traversing Martin County. A
post office was established in 1885, although it was closed less than
two years later.
Records are limited, complicated by the fact that Bear Grass businesses
were listed in directories with Williamston addresses because that was
the nearest post office. But by the turn of the century, the community
consisted of several legal distilleries, cotton gins, sawmills, grist
mills and blacksmith shops. Reuben H. Rogerson's two story steam-powered
sawmill and cotton gin was one of the area's largest before being
destroyed by fire in November 1908.
The first decade of the 20th Century witnessed considerable growth in
the community. The town was officially incorporated on Feb. 16, 1909.
An unusual physical feature of the town is that, when incorporated, the
boundary was a circle with a radius of 500 yards from a white oak "near
a well at the stores of Rogers Brothers and Cowing [sic] Brothers."
These limits remain today, making Bear Grass one of the few towns in the
state laid out in this manner.
Because residents had more pressing concerns during the Great
Depression, town government became dormant in 1934 and was not
reactivated until June 21, 1961.
Today, you can still see the circa 1925 Bear Grass School, the
1830s-1840s Bear Grass Primitive Baptist Church, the circa 1935 Yucca
House (former Bear Grass Teacherage) which sits across the road from the
school, the Bear Grass Presbyterian Church. Three frame stores built
between 1895 and 1915 comprise Bear Grass's small but historic