St. Pauls dates back to 1799 when the St. Pauls Presbyterian Church was built on land donated by William Davis. During the early 1800's only four buildings comprised the town: the church, the post office, a livery stable, and Davis' home. The first community and businesses grew up around the sixteen-mile post on the stage road from Fayetteville to Lumberton, where coaches changed horses at Davis' livery stable.
The town's growth resulted in the establishment of an academy, Robeson Institute, in 1845. A 1925 paper reports that "It was a mixed school (gender), but was taught by competent teachers." In 1885 the academy burned and was never rebuilt. A new school, combined with the Masonic Lodge, was built in 1886.
The textile industry flourished during the early part of this century with the building of three cotton mills by 1920. The worldwide depression of the 30's helped contribute to the selling of the mills in 1943 to Burlington Mills Corporation. While the textile industry has been in decline, other industries such as Mueller Steam, Smithfield Packing, and Prestage Farms have located and prospered in this area.
The railroad industry contributed much to the history of St. Pauls. The Virginia and Carolina Railroad, connecting St. Pauls with Lumberton and Elizabethtown and branching with the Atlantic Coast Line at Hope Mills, was built between 1907 and 1910 by the Atlantic Improvement Company. This influenced the surveying and sale of home lots and establishment of the business section next to the railway station. The town was incorporated in 1909, the same year of the town's first telephone line. An electric light line came to St. Pauls in 1912. Both of these local companies were bought in the 1920's by companies offering statewide service.
In 1923 St. Pauls was described as a "rosebud of nature's beauty "with its three cotton mills, flour mill, bank newspaper, lumber company, ice company, three doctors, and three lawyers and "nice wide streets with plans to pave."