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Lee County

Lee County



FORMED: 1907
FORMED FROM: Moore, Chatham

LAND AREA: 254.96 square miles

White: 74.7%
Black/African American: 20.0%
American Indian: 1.3%    
Asian: 1.4%    
Pacific Islander: 0.2%
Two or more races: 2.4%
Hispanic/Latino: 19.6% (of any race)

From State & County QuickFacts, US Census Bureau, 2020.


Lee County

Piedmont region


REGION: Piedmont though some parts are technically in the Coastal Plain
RIVER BASIN: Cape Fear, Map
NEIGHBORING COUNTIES: Chatham, Harnett, Moore

Lee County, NC

See also: North Carolina Counties (to access links to NCpedia articles for all 100 counties)

by Robert Blair Vocci, 2006

See also: Brick Making.

Lee County, located in North Carolina's Piedmont region, was formed from Moore and Chatham Counties in 1907 and took its name from Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Sanford (incorporated in 1874) became the county seat; other Lee County communities include Broadway, Northview, Cumnock, Tramway, Lemon Springs, Swann, and Colon.

Although it was one of the last of North Carolina's counties to be established, the area that became Lee County had long since demonstrated its importance to the state's economy and well-being. During the American Revolution, the Wilcox Iron Works supplied iron goods for North Carolina's war effort. In 1855 the first commercial coal mine in the state, Egypt Mine, was opened in the county; it too served the state's needs in time of conflict, supplying coal to blockade-runners during the Civil War. Lee County's most important manufactured products, today as well as historically, are bricks. Sanford has traditionally been regarded as the nation's "brick making capital," having produced more bricks than any other city in the United States. In 2002 the city also hosted the first Sanford Pottery Festival to celebrate the state's pottery-making heritage. While the Seagrove Pottery Festival in neighboring Randolph County is older, the Sanford festival quickly established itself as the largest pottery festival in the state. In 2004 Lee County's estimated population was slightly more than 50,000.

Annotated history of Lee County's formation:

For an annotated history of the county's formation, with the laws affecting the county, boundary lines and changes, and other origin information, visit these references in The Formation of the North Carolina Counties (Corbitt, 2000), available online at North Carolina Digital Collections (note, there may be additional items of interest for the county not listed here):

County formation history:

Index entry for the county:


J. Daniel Pezzoni, The History and Architecture of Lee County, North Carolina (1995).

Additional resources:

Corbitt, David Leroy. 2000. The formation of the North Carolina counties, 1663-1943 (accessed June 20, 2017).

Lee County Government:

Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce:

DigitalNC, Lee County:

North Carolina Digital Collections (explore by place, time period, format):

Image credits:

Rudersdorf, Amy. 2010. "NC County Maps." Government & Heritage Library, State Library of North Carolina.

Origin - location: 


Is Lee county the smallest in the state? How does it compare in population?


If you are looking at land area, I don't believe so. Looking at a map, Clay and Polk look smaller. On this page, on the right hand side gives land area (square miles) and population. I looked at NCpedia pages for 5 of the smalles counties. Here is what I found:

  • Chowan County 172.57 square miles, population 14,029
  • New Hanover County 191.53 square miles, population 232,274
  • Clay County 214.75 square miles, population 11,139
  • Polk County 237.79 square miles, population 20,611
  • Lee County 254.96 square miles, population 61,452

This doesn't mean these are the smallest counties, just showing how I figured out Lee is not the smallest. 

Hope that helps!

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

What are the 3 inch cones that you find in this area? Are they trailed to the brick making business?

I dont Know

i want you to add more sites to ncpedia

When did Lee County become a "WET COUNTY" for ABC permits?

Hi JJ,

Thanks for visiting NCpedia and sharing this question. I'm unable to find an answer to this readily.  My understanding is that most counties in NC trace their decision for or against back to 1933 when prohibition ended.  A few have changed since.  But I am unable to find anything out about Lee.

Here are a few resources you may want to consult:

Lee County Government -- the county may be able to answer that question very easily since counties themselves determine whether or not to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages:

Reference and local history librarians in Lee County may have that bit of history at their fingertips as well.  Here is a link to the library's website:

The N.C. ABC Commission is another good place to check. Here is a link to their page on Lee County and you'll find a link to their contact information at the bottom of the page:

I hope this helps!

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

thanks you help me so much on my nc abc notebook in schoolfor a science project

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