Incorporated February 1870, Robersonville – located directly on the railroad’s route between Tarboro and Williamston – is the first town in the county dependent on the railroad, rather than the Roanoke River, as its chief commercial and communication link with the world beyond Martin County.
Although the Seaboard and Raleigh Railway Company would not be incorporated until late 1873, town founders envisioned it as a prominent trading center and market for western Martin County. Growing slowly during its first decade, the town quickly fulfilled its destined fate after the railroad’s completion in October 1882 and boasted having eleven general stores, two physicians, and a number of industries by 1884. The town’s population had increased in 12 years to 400 residents with farm families and ambitious young men moving there because of its various entrepreneurial, educational, and social opportunities.
As site of the county’s first tobacco market in August 1900, Robersonville embarked on a second, more expansive era of prosperity, civic progress, and development with a population that surged up to 1200 during the early 1900s. The growth of new industries brought new residential areas which opened to provide homes for the town’s increased population – most notably “New Town,” a residential neighborhood that would become one of eastern North Carolina’s most cohesive and civic-minded early 20th century African-American communities.
The newly acquired prosperity, improved educational opportunities, and modern municipal services fostered a lively cultural and social life in town where entertaining diversions and several cultural, civic, and social groups flourished. Even during the Great Depression economic expansion slowed drastically in Robersonville, but its citizens benefited from state and federal relief programs. Inexpensive sports and popular social pastimes, such as baseball and bridge, also eased the hardships for many during those rough years.
Though the railroad has been replaced by the new US 64 Bypass as the town’s main link to the outside world, Robersonville continues to thrive providing needed services, industry and entertainment to local and out-of-town residents alike. It is the home of St. James Place Museum, a restored 1910 Primitive Baptist Church, and East Carolina Motor Speedway.
Info from Martin Architectural Heritage: The Historic Structures of Rural North Carolina County, edited by Thomas R. Butchko.