Burnt Swamp Association, Set Up in 1881 to Serve American Indians

Burnt Swamp Association Historical Marker

On January 21, 1881, the elders of three churches met at Burnt Swamp Baptist Church in Robeson County to form what became the Burnt Swamp Association.

The formation of the group solidified what had been a strong, informal relationship. Burnt Swamp Baptist was founded in 1877 by 20 Lumbee Indians. They received encouragement from two local white churches, Raft Swamp and Clyburn Baptist. Prior to Burnt Swamp’s organization, impromptu religious meetings and revivals had been held for two decades, but no organized religion was available to the community.

At their 1885 meeting, members resolved to adopt Burnt Swamp Indian Association of the Croatan Indians as their official name, the first in a series of name changes over the years. After years of struggling to gain acceptance, the Association was admitted to the Baptist State Convention in 1929.

The Association was instrumental in the effort to develop schools for Indians in Robeson and surrounding counties. In 1887, members helped organize Croatan Normal School, the forerunner of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Today the Association includes Indian churches in nine counties in North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as in Baltimore. The Association now consists of 69 churches and a mission. The tribal groups represented include the Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Pee Dee, Coharie, Waccamaw-Siouan and Tuscarora.

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