On March 15, 1940, a group of citizens from Robeson, Hoke, Scotland and Cumberland counties met at the courthouse in Raeford, and unanimously voted to form their own electric cooperative. Its purpose was to provide electric service to rural areas considered unprofitable by large power suppliers. About two weeks later, on April 4, 1940, D.J. Dalton was employed as coordinator and worked from a temporary office in Raeford.
Four months after the first organizational meeting on June 27, Lumbee River EMC received its charter from the State of North Carolina. The first substation was located one mile west of Red Springs near Highway 71, and it was energized on April 5, 1941, bringing electricity to the cooperatives’ initial 409 members.
At Lumbee River EMC’s first annual meeting, held Nov. 5, 1941, it was reported the co-op had 469 miles of line, serving less than one member per mile of line. The average member used 36 kilowatt hours per month.
Bringing electric power to the rural areas not only improved the living conditions for people already in the area but also opened the area for growth the and development. New homes, stores and businesses began to pop up across the four counties as families moved out of the cities into more rural settings.
Until the mid 1960s, the cooperative concentrated primarily on residential and small commercial accounts. Homes, small stores, churches and farms made up 99 percent of the membership; but as the area grew, the availability and lower cost of land in rural areas began attracting larger commercial and industrial development.
By 1990, the co-op was providing electricity to more than 27,000 members along 3,300 miles of line, costing more than $20,000 per mile to construct. The average member’s monthly use of electricity had increased to 1,200 kilowatt hours per month. The co-op was then serving some of the largest residential developments in the area, as well as hotels, schools and shopping centers. Larger industrial customers, such as Elkay Southern Corporation, Rocco Turkey and the Mueller Steam Plant located in St. Pauls, had also begun to move into the area.
At this time, the cooperative is providing electricity to more than 56,700 members along its 5,612 miles of line. This growth rate has brought Lumbee River EMC from one member per mile of line to just short of 10 members per mile. An individual member’s use of electricity continues to increase to an average of 1,350 kilowatt hours per month.