Lillington is the county seat and being located in the central portion is referred to as the “Heart” of Harnett County. Lillington is approximately 4 square miles and located between Raleigh, the state’s capitol, and Fayetteville, home of Fort Bragg and Pope AFB. The population was 2,915 at the 2000 census.
About 250 years ago, immigrants from the western areas of Scotland landed on the coast of the Carolina where the Cape Fear River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Seeking a hilly countryside similar to that from which they had departed, these early immigrants became the first to settle in what is known today as Lillington. The honor of the very first settler is given to Archibald Buie from the Isle of Jura. The Town of Lillington was established when the Harnett County Commissioners purchased 100 acres of land at $5.00 an acre near the ferry crossing on the south side of the Cape Fear River. This land was designated the Town of Lillington. Within four years of the county’s creation in 1855, the North Carolina General Assembly authorized a referendum to make Lillington the county seat, and by 1867, the first wooden courthouse was built and the county seat was established.
The town itself was named after a Revolutionary War hero, Colonel John Alexander Lillington, who played a key role in skirmishes against the British, including the Battle of Moore’s Creek. The Town of Lillington was officially chartered by the State of North Carolina on March 4, 1903. By 1935 a Town Hall was built on Main Street. The first home was built between 1830 and 1840 but has now been torn down. The oldest house now standing is the McLaughlin residence on Second Street, a part of which was moved here from Summerville in about 1860.
The Cape Fear River, so vital to the establishment of the town in its early years, served as a major source for irrigation and a conduit for exporting farm goods. Today, however, the river, which runs through the heart of Lillington, bisects the county from northwest to southeast, and serves more for recreation and is the source for much of the area’s water needs. Residents enjoy the quiet solitude of the river, which offers opportunities for fishing and boating, and serves as a focal point for the state’s 2,800 acre Raven Rock Park where families enjoy picnicking, camping, and nature hikes.