Extending over 30,000 acres in its heyday, the Overhills estate of the 20th century had previously been the site of a vast turpentine plantation. Located primarily in Harnett County in North Carolina's Sandhills, this tract lost appeal by 1900 as the area's timber and naval stores industries declined. By 1906 the land had been transformed into a hunting preserve with the prospect of becoming a premier southern hunt club. Over the next few years the enterprise changed names and hands several times. Percy Avery Rockefeller was one of several wealthy investors whose interest grew as the property took on resort amenities, including a clubhouse, golf course, passenger train service, riding stable ... (more below)
Extending over 30,000 acres in its heyday, the Overhills estate of the 20th century had previously been the site of a vast turpentine plantation. Located primarily in Harnett County in North Carolina's Sandhills, this tract lost appeal by 1900 as the area's timber and naval stores industries declined. By 1906 the land had been transformed into a hunting preserve with the prospect of becoming a premier southern hunt club. Over the next few years the enterprise changed names and hands several times. Percy Avery Rockefeller was one of several wealthy investors whose interest grew as the property took on resort amenities, including a clubhouse, golf course, passenger train service, riding stables, and dog kennels for the fox hounds. After 1919 Rockefeller, by then a primary investor, fostered development of vacation residences in "The Hill" area and sought to make the estate self-reliant through forestry and agricultural development. The estate's name in 1922 was formalized as the Overhills Land Company and in 1938 as Overhills, Inc. and Overhills Farms, Inc. By 1938, The Hill had become a retreat primarily for the Rockefeller family, while the hunting preserve was transformed into tenant farms. Over the next few decades various agricultural businesses emerged within the tenant farm system that sustained the estate. During the early 1970s sharecropping was replaced by large-scale corporate agriculture. In 1980 the property was reduced to around 10,000 acres and the agricultural businesses merged into Overhills, Inc. The family sold the property in 1997 to the U.S. Army for use as training lands adjacent to Fort Bragg Military Reservation.
The papers consist primarily of business information utilized or created by the various property managers of the Overhills estate and span the years 1886 to 1985, with a few maps dated a few years beyond. Materials represented are original property deeds and business records including contracts/licenses, product informaton; financial records such as loose bank statements, deposit slips, bills paid, returned checks, receipts, and information contained in ledgers (not a complete set), such as cash books, cash disbursements, time books, accounts ledgers, and employees' wage information; employee and tax information; business correspondence; maps; some drawings, and miscellaneous oversized materials. Within the Overhills papers there are some materials relating to the predecessor business, the Kent-Jordan Company hunting retreat, dating from 1911 to the early 1920s.
For current information on the location ofthese materials, please consult the Public Services Branch, North Carolina State Archives.
State Archives of North Carolina
As received. To more closely match database submitted with the collection, the papers has been divided into the following three series:
Available for research.
Copyright is retained by the authors of these materials, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law (Title 17 US Code). Individual researchers are responsible for using these materials in conformance with copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials.
Processed by Fort Bragg Cultural Resources Management Program, 2001-2008; finding aid prepared by Fran Tracy-Walls.
Encoded by Fran Tracy-Walls, July, 2009
During the 19th century, the McDiarmid family consolidated land holdings in Cumberland County (later Harnett) to create a large turpentine plantation. Toward the end of the century, the property was auctioned and subsequently acquired by the Consolidated Lumber Company, also engaged in large-scale harvesting of pine gum. Eventually the over-exploitation of trees in the region and the decline of the pine gum and turpentine industry in the region led to the sale of the property in 1901. The land was then converted into a private hunting preserve and by 1906 the property was incorporated into the Croatan Club of Manchester, owned by several wealthy investors and sportsmen. Hunts attracted wealthy Northerners, and were often led by James Francis Jordan, a businessman and sheriff (1900-1906) of Guilford County, N.C.
In 1910, the Croatan Club and the adjacent property were sold to Jordan and another entrepreneur, Congressman William Kent from California. They hoped to expand the existing hunting lodge into a premier resort, of about 20,000 acres. Named the Overhills Country Club, the property under the Jordan-Kent partnership made strides toward becoming a premier southern hunt club, offering guest accommodations and amenities such as a clubhouse, servants' quarters, train station, lake, riding stables, and a golf course designed by Donald Ross.
Early investors in the Overhills Country Club included prominent businessmen such as Percy Avery Rockefeller (1878-1934), a nephew of John D. Rockefeller, and William Averill Harriman (1891-1986), of New York, an expert polo player who had inherited his father's fortune in railroads. The two men had first visited Overhills around 1916 and encouraged recreational development of fox hunting and polo at the club. After James F. Jordan died in 1919, Percy Rockefeller became a partner with Kent and purchased additional land around the holdings of the Kent-Jordan Company. Soon Rockefeller held the central role at Overhills and formed Overhills Land Company in 1921 to manage the day-to-day operations. By 1928, Percy Rockefeller had consolidated his holdings in the Overhills Land Company, buying out William Kent and expanding the property to over 30,000 acres. The Overhills Land Company property was in Harnett County but included parts of Cumberland and Hoke Counties.
During the early 1930s, fox and bird hunting and other recreational pursuits had declined as one of the economic side-effects of the Great Depression. Also, during that period Harriman began to pursue sports other than polo and turned from business to a political career (becoming a diplomat and eventually a governor of New York). He left Rockefeller as principal owner and director of the Overhills Land Company. Around 1932, Rockefeller began to transform Overhills into a large agricultural business, leasing half of the property to local tenant farmers. Holdings were divided by two companies, Jumping Run Club, Inc. and Overhills Land Co.
The principle shares of Jumping Run Club, Inc. were held by Percy's wife, Isabel Stillman Rockefeller. Administrative tasks however, were performed by the property manager of Overhills Land Co. Jumping Run Club, Inc. was responsible for the nursery business (Lindley Nursery), later known as Hope Farm Nursery, and a few tenant farms located in the Anderson Creek Township. Additionally, Isabel Rockefeller founded the Hope Farm Preventorium as a philanthropic venture to help local children at risk for or suffering from tuberculosis. The Preventorium operated from 1934 to 1936 and provided medical attention to the children of employee's and tuberculosis patients residing at McCain Hospital. After Isabel Rockefeller's death in 1936, the Preventorium was converted into tenant farms.
With the death of the primary holders, Overhills underwent significant changes. The fertile land of the hunting preserve was divided into multiple tenant farms. The most prominent area was known as The Hill. Dating back to around 1918, this was a compound including almost six thousand acres of landscaped houses and cottages, lake, riding stables, the passenger train station, and the Donald Ross-designed golf course. By 1938, the Hill had become the family winter retreat. During this period, the five Rockefeller children who inherited the bulk of the property created Overhills Farms, Inc. as a managerial company for the agricultural holdings. One of the sons, Avery Rockefeller, assumed the primary managerial role, and Overhills became a thriving tobacco and cotton business.
During the next 50 years the property was divided and sold in small parcels to keep down overhead and to provide agricultural revenue for The Hill. By 1980 the property had been reduced to around 10,000 acres and the agricultural businesses were merged into one company called Overhills, Inc. Farms were also consolidated to accommodate corporate, rather than tenant, farming operations. During the consolidation The Hill also underwent changes as the original clubhouse and Percy Rockefeller's personal residence (The Covert) were demolished. However during a period of two decades, new family residences were built.
Avery Rockefeller died in 1986 at Overhills. Other members of Rockefeller family, however, continued to use Overhills as a retreat until the early 1990s when they decided to sell the property. The sale was completed in 1997, with the U.S. Army paying approximately $29 million. The tract, totaling 10,546 acres is now part of Fort Bragg.
The will of James Stillman Rockefeller, who died in 10 August 2004, provided for the donation of the Long Valley Farm, adjacent to Overhills, to the N.C. Nature Conservancy. About three years later, the conservancy transferred the estate to the N.C. Division of State Parks and Recreation, effective toward the end of 2008. See Fayetteville Observer, April 12, 2007, "Long Valley Farm to join state park," by Nomee Landis. See additional sources in note at the end of the Chronology of the Overhills Land Tract Development.
Biographical Note on the Rockefeller Family
Percy Avery Rockefeller (1878-1934) was the son of William Rockefeller and his wife, Almira Geraldine Goodsell. (William was a younger brother of John D. Rockeller and a co-founder of Standard Oil.) Percy attended Yale University from 1897 to 1900 and married Isabel Goodrich Stillman, daughter of First National City Bank president James Stillman on April 23, 1901. Another of Stillman's daughter, Sarah Elizabeth (Elsie), married Percy Rockefeller's brother, William G. Rockefeller.
Percy Rockefeller was founder and Vice President of Owenoke Corporation and was a board director of Air Reduction Company, American International Corporation, Atlantic Fruit Company, Anaconda Copper Mining Company, Bethlehem Steel Corporation, and a host of other corporations, including mining and public utility corporations.
The five children of Percy and Isabel Rockefeller included Avery, Isabel, Winifred, Faith, and Gladys. Avery (1903-1986) as an adult was the most involved of the Rockefeller children in the operation of Overhills estate. In 1923 he married Anna Griffith Mark (1906-1996), and they were parents of several children. Avery was a co-founder and a chairman of the board of Schroder, Rockefeller, and Co. Avery's double-first cousin, James Stillman Rockefeller (1902-2004)(son of Elsie Stillman and William G. Rockefeller), was also involved in the Overhills estate's operation. He became owner of the Long Valley Farms, one of various separate businesses that related to the farming activiites on the Overhills estate. A banker by profession, he was president (1952-1959) and later chairman (1959-1967) of the of the First National City Bank, subsequently, Citicorp, Citibank, and Citibank, Inc.
Sources include Who Was Who in America, Volumes I and VII. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, ca. 1942 and 1981; New York Times Index, Obituaries. 1986; The Nature Conservancy in North Carolina Page. "Long Valley Farm", 2009, in http://www..nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/northcarolina/preserves/art14284.html.
Biographical Note on an Overhills Estate Manager: William Bryan Bruce and his wife, Thelma Puckett Bruce
William Bryan Bruce (October 6, 1896-September 8, 1972) moved to Overhills as a young man and became a stable hand during the early 1920s. He quickly advanced to higher positions and was the manager of the Overhills estate for many years. Mr. Bruce worked with both Percy Rockefeller and with Avery Rockefeller who took over after his father passed away in 1934. The Bruces had a good relationship with the Rockefeller family and were invited to their summer home each summer for a two-week vacation.
Bruce married Thelma Puckett (ca. 1907-February 20, 2000) from the Johnsonville Community in Harnett County. They adopted two nieces, Virginia [Strauch, married name] and Dorothy [Pagter, married name], both of whom they raised and educated. Additionally, they helped educate several other children whose parents were unable to provide them with an education. They were members of The Church of the Covenant (Manchester Presbyterian)in nearby Spring Lake and he was an elder in the church for many years. It was said that Mr. Bruce did much for people who lived on the plantation and were unable to help themselves. As Overhills began to reduce its acreage, Bruce encouraged the selling part the land to local families or to local businesses such as the N.C. Pulp Company.
A tribute in the Fayetteville Observer, March 04, 2000, by Verna Owen, said that Mrs. Bruce helped keep Overhills going for more than 50 years. Her jobs included buying groceries, training the people who worked in the guest houses, supplying fresh flowers for every room and other tasks. When Mr. Bruce took guests hunting, she went along and began plucking feathers from the quail as they walked. In the early days, she and Mrs. Rockefeller often travelled on Saturday to Fayetteville's farmers market to buy baked goods and on the way back to Overhills gave the goodies to farm families they passed.
Sources include N.C. Death Records and biograpical sketch online via the Harnett County Public Library, Local History Room at http://www.harnett.org/library/Biographies/harnettbiostoc.htm. Under Notable Harnett County Residents, see sketch of William B. Bruce submitted by Imogene Holmes.
Biographical Note on an Overhills Farm Superintentdent: Archie C. Cameron
Archie C. Cameron was born in Harnett County, N.C., October 1, 1889 to Kattie Buie and Neil Beaver Cameron and died November 18, 1975. At the time of his death, he was living at Overhills with his wife of many years, Annie McKay Cameron. A grandson, Wayne Aaron provided additional details in an interview that was included Fayetteville Observer article, "Diamond in the Rough" by Charles Broadwell, August 21, 2005. The primary subject was the Donald Ross golf course at Overhills Estate, but Aaron reminisced fondly about the Overhills estate where he was born and learned to play golf and other lessons. He noted that his grandfather had worked there for 50 years and earned the respect and generosity of the Rockefellers. When retired, Mr. Cameron was given a home on the Overhills estate, and when he died his wife, Annie, was able to live there as long as she desired.
Sources include N.C. Death Records, and Fayetteville Observer article quoted above, available online in the archives of the newspaper at http://www.fayobserver.com.1800s Lands of Daniel McDiarmid, a successful planter originally in Cumberland County (Harnett County formed from Cumberland in 1855), included a vast turpentine plantation. 1890 ca. Purchase of McDiarmid family lands by Consolidated Lumber Company (CLC), consolidating turpentine and timber industries. 1901, ca. CLC sold property to a wealthy Englishman with interest in developing the land as a game preserve and resort. A crude hunting camp was established. 1906 The property was consolidated into the Croatan Club of Manchester, Inc. 1908 A log-cabin lodge replaced original hunt club buildings. But the club and development never reached earlier expectations. 1910 Tract acquired by avid sportsmen and businessmen, James Francis Jordan of Greensboro and Leonard Tufts of Pinehurst. 1910 Began construction of railroad spur onto property. 1911 Tufts sold his interest to Congressman William Kent of California (served fromMarch 4, 1911, to March 3, 1917). The Kent-Jordan partnership began to acquire adjacent farms and land, eventually amassing more than 35,000 acres. 1912 Nursery farm complex established. 1913 Jordan-Kent partnership opened the Overhills Country Club, which began to emerge as a premier hunt club with various amenities. Early investors included wealthy businessmen such as Percy Avery Rockefeller and William Averill Harriman. 1913 Began construction of a formal clubhouse/lodge. Also, construction begun on a nine-hole golf course designed by famed architect, Donald J. Ross. 1916 Completion of railway along with passenger and freight station houses. 1918 Donald Ross added nine holes to the golf course. 1919 Jordan's death and Kent's withdrawal from the investment enabled Percy Avery Rockefeller (nephew of John D. Rockefeller) and W. Averell Harriman to assume the bulk of the investment. They began construction of private vacation residences. 1920s Rockefeller sought to make the estate self-reliant through forestry and agricultural development. Established Long Valley Farm. Exanded the original nursery farm complex. 1921-1922 Rockefeller and Harriman, established the Overhills Land Company (OLC) and continued extensive development. Rockefeller assumed the central role and used the OLC to manage day to day operations. 1920s Long Valley Farm was originally established as part of the Overhills estate by Percy Rockefeller. It eventually came under the ownership of his nephew, James Stillman Rockefeller. Other farms included Chinaberry Farm, Hope Farm, and others. 1928 Death of William Kent. 1930s, early W. Averell Marriman's interest in polo waned, and his interest turned to other sports, including skiing. He established the Sun Valley Resort in Idaho. At the beginning of the Roosevelt administration, his interests turned to politics. 1932 With the progression of the Great Depression, interest in hunting declined. Rockefeller transformed Overhills into a large agricultural business, with half the property leased to local tenant farmers. Holdings of OLC divided by OLC and Jumping Run Club, Inc., owned by Rockefeller's wife, Isabel Stillman Rockefeller. Adminstration of the latter conducted by the property manager of OLC. 1934 Death of Percy Avery Rockefeller. 1934-1936 Isabel Rockefeller opened the Hope Farm Preventorium, which provided medical attention of children of employee's and tuberculosis patients residing at McCain Hopital. 1936 With death of Isabel Rockefeller, the Preventorium was convered into tenant farms. Five Rockefeller children inherited the property and it was transformed into a family winter retreat as well as an agricultural business. During this time the locale occupied by the Rockefeller family was known as The Hill, a compound of landscaped houses and cottages that also included the Donald Ross-designed golf course. 1938, ca. Overhills Land Company had sold off seventy-five percent of its land holdings to reduce taxes and to raise money for reinvestment. Overhills, Inc. formed and registered with N.C. Secretary of State on November 12, 1938. Overhill Farms, Inc., also registered on November 12, 1938, became the new managerial company for the property's agricultural holdings, with son, Avery Rockefeller (b. 1903) in the managerial position. 1938, post - 1970s, early The focus of Overhills Farms, Inc. shifted to sharecropping with cash crops of tobacco, cotton, timber and cattle. This system remained in effect through the early 1970s. 1940s, early During World War II, Overhills Farms added production of turpentine. 1962 Completion of Bird Song house. Used as a Roosevelt family residence, it had more than 20 rooms - including 14 bedrooms and 14 baths. Nearby was a mansion named Croatan, that was probably used as a guest house. Both had indoor swimming pools. 1970s, early Sharecropping was replaced by large-scale corporate agriculture. Corn, pigs, and soybeans were added to the agricultural mix of the farming operation. 1980 Property reduced to around 10,000 acres and the agricultural businesses merged into the single Overhills, Inc. 1986, May 22 Death of Avery Rockefeller at Overhills, Harnett County. 1990s, early Descendents of Percy and Isabel Rockefeller sought the sale of Overhills. 1993 Congress appropriated $15 million for the Army to buy 11,000 acres of Overhills and 102 acres east of Simmons Army Airfield. 1994 Long View Farm, originally a part of Overhills and owned for many years by James Stillman Rockefeller, placed on the National Register of Historical Places. 1997 U.S. Army purchased Overhills for use as training lands, adjacent to Fort Bragg, located primarily in the adjacent Cumberland County. The architectural, archaeoloigcal and historical remains of Overhills were assigned to the Fort Bragg Cultural Resources Management Program. 2004 Death of James Stillman Rockefeller (1902-2004). He bequeathed the Long Valley Farm, an 1,380-acre estate, adjacent to Overhills, to the North Carolina Nature Conservancy. 2007-2008 The conservancy conveyed Long Valley Farm estate to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, as permitted by the will of J. Stillman Rockefeller. Plans have been to make the estate part of a new park located in adjoining Cumberland County, the Carvers Creek Sandhills State Park. 1997-2009 The extant papers of Overhills were processed by various staff members. 2009, June 17 Overhills Papers delivered to the North Carolina State Archives.
Note on Historical Sources
Historial notes and chronology written by Fran Tracy-Walls, using a variety of sources, including previously cited sources; the Overhill's papers themselves; U.S. census records and N.C. death records; the Social Security Death Index; the N.C. Secretary of State's corporations' database; biographical sources, including Who Was Who in America, Volumes I and VII, published by Marquis Who's Who; New York Times Index, Obituaries Section, 1986, American National Biography, published by Oxford University Press, and the "Overhills Collection Report" by Kelly Higelmire, edited by Dr. Linda F. Carnes-McNaughton, of the Fort Bragg Cultural Resources Management Program and included with the papers during the transfer to the N.C. State Archives.
[Identification of item], PC. 1983, Overhills Papers, 1886-1985, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, NC, USA.
Transfer to N.C. State Archives custody from Fort Bragg Cultural Resources Management Program, June 17, 2009.
Additional information on topics found in this collection may be found in the Manuscript and Archives Reference System (MARS) at http://www.ncarchives.dcr.state.nc.us
The papers consist primarily of business information utilized or created by the various property managers of the Overhills estate and span the years 1886 to 1985, with a few maps dated in the early 1990s. Materials represented are original property deeds and business records including contracts/licenses, product informaton; financial records such as loose bank statements, deposit slips, bills paid, returned checks, receipts, and information contained in ledgers (not a complete set), such as cash books, cash disbursements, time books, accounts ledgers, and employees' wage information; employee and tax information; business correspondence; maps; some drawings, and miscellaneous oversized materials. Within the Overhills papers there are some materials relating to the predecessor business, the Kent-Jordan Company hunting retreat, dating from 1911 to the early 1920s.
As received. To more closely match database submitted with the collection, the papers has been divided into the following three series:
The Overhills Business Ledgers series, 1924-1984 (Series 1) contains information utilized or created by the various property managers of the Overhills estate in the form of ledgers (not a complete set), such as cash books, cash disbursements, time books, accounts ledgers, and employees' wage information.
The Overhills Business Documents series, 1886-1985 (Series 2) contains information utilized or created by the various property managers of the Overhills estate and span the years 1886 to 1985, with a few non-oversize maps extending into the 1990s. Materials represented are original property deeds and business records including contracts/licenses, product informaton; financial records such as loose bank statements, deposit slips, bills paid, returned checks, receipts, employees' wage information; employee and tax information; and business correspondence. Within the Overhills papers there are some materials relating to the predecessor business, the Kent-Jordan Company hunting retreat, dating from 1911 to the early 1920s.
The Overhills Oversized Materials series, 1913-1976 and undated, (Series 3) contains maps, blueprints and other material. The documents are stored in seven oversized envelopes. The majority of the maps were generated by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (ACLRR). In addition to showing the property owned by the Overhills company, some maps indicate property lines on both sides of the railway track and the surnames of private owners.
Note: At least part of the railroad near and through the Overhills tract was laid by the Western Railroad of North Carolina before the Civil War to connect the coal fields of Chatham County with the Cape Fear River at Fayetteville. The ACLRR operated between 1898 and 1967, when it merged with the Seaboard Air Line Railroad to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. The line through the Overhills tract was abandoned around 1967.
Two maps include details on the Overhills property such as an additional railroad station and club house.
Contains two maps of the Overhills area, including a right of way track map of the ACLRR. Indicates a track direction from Yadkin Junction to Sanford, N.C.
Contains two maps of the Overhills area, including map showing ACLRR track.
Map of Overhills tract (partial) and various privately owned lots in the direction towards Manchester, NC (Cumberland County).
Blueprint of Overhills Sewage Disposal District.
Map indicating property owned by individuals near Overhills and ACLRR track.
Front and back page of the newspaper of the North Carolina Cotton Growers Association, Raleigh, N.C.