The town of Richlands derives its name from the Averitt plantation known as the Rich Lands of the New River, which encompassed nearly 25,000 acres just south of the present town. The town began to form in the early to mid 1800s and was incorporated in 1880. An important agricultural market, especially for lumber and tobacco, Richlands became the first town in Onslow County to build a school which attracted many wealthy citizens to send their children for education. The Goldsboro Lumber Company completed the Dover and South Bound rail line to Richlands in 1906, which brought increased prosperity to the town. Today the Richlands historic district is home to mahy turn of the buildings and houses.