Friday, December 12, 2014

Santa Makes J. P. Gibson His Cabarrus Christmas Agent

"Christmas Post," by Thomas Nast. Engraving originally
published in Harper's Weekly, January 1879.
In the December 11, 1890 edition of The Standard, a weekly Concord newspaper, local drug store owner and operator J. P. Gibson ran an eye-catching Christmas advertisement. This ad featured a letter from Santa Claus, disputing rumors that Christmas would be postponed because 1890 cotton prices were low. St. Nick also advised Cabarrus County children to write their letters to him in care of Gibson, whom he appointed his sole agent for the county.

Dr. John Phifer Gibson was born in 1839 in Cabarrus County, son of Edmund L. Gibson and Elizabeth Phifer Gibson. He attended Davidson College and graduated from UNC in 1858 and was enlisted as a physician in Company B, North Carolina 20th Infantry, during the Civil War. Dr. Gibson was married to Martha "Mattie"Kirkpatrick. After the war, he continued to practice medicine and then opened a drug store. His first store was called Caton's Corner; later the store became known as Gibson's Drug Store, located on the Square in downtown Concord.

Dr. Gibson's unusual and elaborate newspaper ad is reproduced here. Biographical information on John Phifer Gibson can be found in Early Medicine in Cabarrus, edited by Jane Harris Nierenberg, located in the Concord Library's Lore Local History Room.

FRIGID ZONE
December --, 1890
MY DEAR CHILDREN:

Some enemy of mine (I didn't know before that I had an enemy in the word) has been circulating the report that owing to the low price of cotton, Christmas had been postponed till next year. Now, little folks, listen to no such silly palaver! Hang up your stockings and put your trust in a kind Providence and your old friend, Kris Kringle. The desire of my heart is to make you all happy, and many a night, during the past year, when you were curled up in bed, sleeping like so many little turtles on their logs on a summer day, the peep of dawn has seen me hard at work, making playthings for my beloved children.

Up in this bleak, snow-clad country the Northern Light shines all night, and by its beautiful, soft light I do most of my work. Those shootings stars that you see at night, flashing here and there across the heavens, are only the sparks that were struck out of glowing, red-hot metals by my five hundred-pound sledgehammer while I am forging and fashioning all sorts of useful and pretty things for your entertainment and enjoyment. Whenever then you see a meteor shoot across the sky at night, let it remind you that your old friend is at work for you. Postpone Christmas indeed! How I would like to feed that scamp on snow-balls just for one week of his miserable life! Last year I found a good many chimneys down your way that needed a good burning out. I don't mean to find fault, as it was only carelessness on your part, but I hope the mere mention of it will suffice to bring about an improvement in this respect. I found in my mail this morning a letter from a Cabarrus boy. Here it is:

"DEAR SANTY, -- We are going to have a wedding in our family next weak. Mam says it will be the  soshul event of the seezon. I found a nickel under my plate this morning at tee, and I want to spend the hole of it for a bridle prezzent. How will a harp do? Or wood a dog nife be better? Your five ear old friend till deth,
BILLIE BATTLE."

"Denslow's Night Before
Christmas" By Clement C.
Moore, illustrated by W. W.
Denslow, New York, 1902.
I also had a letter from your old friend and admirer, "The Man in the Moon," a day or two ago, in which he tells me that he has just sent to headquarters a petition to be allowed to shine every night of the year till twelve o'clock and then to have the rest of the night to himself. As it is now, he is on duty, some nights, only part of the night, some, all night, and some, not at all. I think it is a capital idea, and hope his petition will be granted. Write your letters in the care of Dr. GIBSON, my sole agent for your county, keep your toes warm and your heads cool and don't forget your best friend, SANTA CLAUS.

To All Whom It May Concern:
Having been delegated by Santa Claus as his sole agent for this county, as the trout said to the fly as he took him in out of the wet, "I always rise to the occasion," and hereby accept said appointment with thanks. My stock of Christmas Goods, comprising hundreds of beautiful things in china and glass, thousands of dolls, a large and varied assortment of toys, musical instruments, pictures, frames, baskets, plush and leather toilet sets for ladies and gentlemen, writing desks, writing tablets, albums, walking canes, etc., etc., is so great that I am running two stores this season - one at Gibson's drug store and the other in the room adjacent, on the south side. My business has developed so much, thanks to the kind patronage of a generous public, that I will in the future occupy two rooms, instead of one, as heretofore. After the 1st of January next I will "hold forth" in the Caton building, occupying both rooms. In the meantime if you will call at the Phifer building I honestly believe you will find there everything you may want in the way of Christmas Goods.
J. P. GIBSON

This image was shot from the square in Concord, looking south down Union Street, sometime after the 1965 renaming and renumbering of Concord streets. The Gibson Drug Store (far left) was still in business on the corner of Union Street and Cabarrus Ave. (current location of Chocolatier Barrucand). Photo courtesy of Jim Ramseur/Independent Tribune.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore History Room

Thursday, December 4, 2014


The First Automobiles in Cabarrus County

This undated postcard photo identifies the driver as "J. P. Brown and his 1917
horseless carriage, with the old Kannapolis jail in the background." Photo courtesy
of George Patterson/Independent Tribune.
City directories are a valuable resource when researching the businesses your ancestors may have owned or frequented. They also are helpful in creating a timeline for understanding when new innovations in business and industry entered the community. Such is the case for the automobile. As the home of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Cabarrus County has a strong tradition of automobile racing and its related industries. However, as the directories show, Cabarrus was not always an "auto driven" county.

The birth of the automobile industry is recognized as beginning about 1885 when the first successful gasoline engines were built in Europe. The first U.S. gasoline powered car appeared in 1893. Utilizing mass production by 1901, the U.S. auto industry quickly became dominant, and it was Henry Ford's assembly line production, begun in 1913, that had the greatest impact on this rapidly growing industry.

This advertisement for the Cabarrus Motor Company appeared
in the 1913-1914 Concord City Directory.
The 1908-1909 Concord City Directory listed two hardware companies in town, Ritchie Hardware and Yorke & Wadsworth, which sold "vehicles," most likely wagons and buggies. There were eight livery stables, including M. L. Brown & Brother, Corl-Wadsworth, Henry & Cline, and Penninger Brothers. In the 1913-1914 directory, Concord boasted only one automobile dealership, Cabarrus Motor Company. There were still listings for six livery stables and numerous other buggy and wagon related businesses, like blacksmiths E. C. Turner and J. F. Dorton and wagon repairer W. D. Harris.

By December 1, 1924, the 1925 North Carolina Yearbook showed that Cabarrus County had 4,236 registered automobiles. With a 1920 population of 33,730 people, that averaged one car per every 7.9 persons. Yet those 4,236 cars were beginning to have an impact on the county. The 1924-1925 Concord City Directory listed two columns of automobile related businesses, including Auto Supply & Repair Company, Forest Hill Service Station, McDonal Filling Station and Southern Motor Service. Those and other Concord businesses supplied local drivers with battery service, gasoline and tires. There were eight garages, and Howard's Filling Station on East Depot Street (now Cabarrus Ave.) at Church Street, even advertised "washing and polishing." None of the 1914 livery stables remained, although some former livery owners appear to have moved with the times and gone into auto-related businesses.

Although Charlotte Motor Speedway and race-related businesses were still yet to come, Cabarrus County was on the automobile track with the rest of the country. City directories and yearbooks are available at the Concord Library, Lore Local History Room.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore Local History Room


Friday, November 21, 2014

The 1805 Cabarrus Divorce of Mary Eisenhauer 
and Her Misanthropic Husband

In 1805, in order to get a divorce, one had to apply to the North Carolina State Legislature. Because of communication difficulties of the period, petitions were sent to the General Assembly with local representatives. The following petition (including spelling and grammar), was written by Mary Eisenhauer and submitted to the state legislature.

To the Honourable the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina! Gentlemen!
With grief and reluctance I am necessitated to represent to Your honourable body, that my rude, lazy and misantropic husband, NICHOLAS EISENHAUER, has droven me off from my own home about 20 years ago without the least subsistence after he had made away with all we had, and ever since hath abandoned me for good and all; save one time he returned and tried to persuade or force from me to the sale of a tract 200 acres of land, which my father, MICHAEL MEYERS, bestowed to me and entailed for the sole benefit of me and my children; and as I neither would nor would consent to it, he left me again under hundreds of bitter and cruel curses, and I truly have suffered since many times, although by the help of my children and God's blessings I acquired a little again, which I am in constant fear my said husband might take from me and waste it also. To give you a full idea of his nasty character, I will only address here a single passage that happened with him since he abandoned me. 
He got in an intimate understanding with a licentious widow, some neighbors mistrusting them watched and catched them in fornication; took him out of the house, tarred and feathered him and exposed him in that figure to the public execration. 
In this my sad situation I take my refuge to your protection and implore your gracious assistance to grant and secure to myself all such small acquisitions I have saved since my husband left me and what perhaps hereafter I may acquire yet, which I forever will acknowledge with the sincerest thanks and remain with the highest respect. 
The honourable the General Assembly's most humble and submissive
Mary Eisenhauer
Cabarrus County, November the 12th 1805
German immigrant, John (Johan) "Nicholas" Eisenhauer (1749-c.1805), was the son of Peter Eisenhauer and Elizabeth Graff. He came with other members of the family to North Carolina in the late 1760s and early 1770s. In 1773, Nicholas married Mary Myers, the daughter of Rowan County Revolutionalry War soldier, Michael Myers.

Historic Daniel Isenhour house in Gold Hill. Source: North Carolina 
State Historic Preservation Office.
Nicholas and Mary settled on a 200-acre tract on little Dutch Buffalo Creek inherited from Mary's father, in the community surrounding Grace Lower Stone Reformed Church. The property was later inherited by their grandson, cabinetmaker Daniel Isenhour. Daniel Isenhour's 1843 house and farm, located on Mt. Olive Road in Gold Hill, were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 and are considered important in the social history of Cabarrus County for exemplifying the traditional lifeway of the rural craftsman who practiced his skilled trade while also farming.

Nicholas disappeared about 1802. It is thought he may have been killed by Indians. Mary Eisenhauer's petition to the legislature for divorce on the grounds of cruelty, abandonment and adultery, was approved in December 1805. Mary lived on the family property until her death on 9 August 1832 and was buried in the family cemetery in Mount Pleasant. Family lore says that she had a tree planted in the plot next to hers so Nicholas would never be buried by her.

Courtesy of the Eastern Cabarrus Historical Society, The National Register of Historic Places and Findagrave.com

Friday, November 7, 2014

C. A. Sherwood Leaves as Overseer of Cabarrus Poor House 

"Cabarrus County Home Near Concord, N.C." in Durwood Barbour
Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection
According to the November 7, 1890 Concord Times newspaper, the Cabarrus County Commissioners, at their October 1890 meeting, elected a new superintendent of the county poor house. John William Cook, of No. 5 Township, was elected to replace C. A. Sherwood as poor house overseer. Cook was slated to assume the job on January 1, 1891. Of the change, The Times said:
 Mr. Sherwood has made a most capable and faithful officer, and has the poor house and farm in a first-class condition...Mr. Cook will doubtless make a good overseer, but this much is certain - he will never make a better on than Mr. Sherwood did. It would be hard to get a man who would do that.
On August 22, 1890, The Concord Standard wrote about the poor house:
About the year 1855, the county authorities purchased of Mr. R. W. Allison, a plantation of 156 acres lying just four miles north of Concord. This place was set apart for the entertainment and support of the poor, the blind and the halt [physically disabled] who were unable to care for themselves or had no one to protect them from starvation or cold. Such is the duty of every county...
Mr. Sherwood, an honest, humane and earnest young man with an empty sleeve, and his kind, careful wife, superintend the house. The floors are clean, the walls almost spotless, the beds perfectly clean, the yard in tip top order, the clothing of the inmates neat and clean and perfect order exists... 
There are 18 inmates; 12 are white and 6 are colored; The ages of the whites run from 8 to 79 years; the blacks from 4 to 50. There is an old sailor there; he has a bright face, looks stout and has rings in his ears. There are 22 rooms in the several buildings. 
60 acres of fine corn is maturing for the county. After feeding 30 persons twice a day for one year, there were 42 bushels of wheat left from the crop raised on the county's farm last year. There is a large vegetable garden near the house. Mr. Sherwood raises most of his own supplies.
From 1855 to 1886 Cabarrus County contracted the keeping of the poor and use of the plantation to the lowest bidder. However, it was found that conditions of this system were not in the best interest of the residents, or "inmates" as they were referred to, and did not reflect well on the county. The former plantation owner, Robert W. Allison (see Cabarrus Genealogy Blog entry for April 22, 2014) who also was chairman of the County Commissioners, implemented a policy change in which a superintendent would be employed by the county, rather than a contract to the lowest bidder.

Care of the poor, infirm, aged, mentally or physically handicapped, and other unfortunates was the responsibility of county Wardens or Overseers of the Poor from 1777 until 1917. From 1777 to 1868 each county had Wardens of the Poor, elected by the voters until 1846, and appointed by the County Courts thereafter. After 1917 they were run by Boards of Public Welfare. Inmates of poor houses were expected to make themselves useful if possible, although persons eligible to reside in such institutions were probably in a very bad way, and their labor could be let out to the lowest bidder or commanded by the keeper of the house. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

1892 Cabarrus Elections: Populists Chase Democrats

Source: Poster used to help farmers organize. Gift for the grangers / J. Hale Powers & Co. Fraternity & Fine Art Publishers, 1873, www.learnnc.org




On this election day, we look back to the election of 1892. It fell on Tuesday, November 8, but it was not until one week later that Cabarrus county people saw how they had voted. The November 15 Daily Standard published the official Cabarrus results, showing that 2924 of 3400 registered voters cast their ballots.

The 1892 elections presented many political choices. National and state ballots featured four candidates. In addition to Democratic and Republican candidates, there were also Populist and Prohibitionist tickets for President, Congress and North Carolina Governor.

The following totals are from Cabarrus County ballots:

Presidential Electors: Grover Cleveland (Democrat) 1419, Benjamin Harrison (Republican) 679, James B. Weaver (Populist) 819, John Bidwell (Prohibitionist) 41.

Two local men that ran on the
Populist ticket were John H. Moose
(above) and John A. Sims (below).
Governor: Elias Carr (Democrat) 1442, David M. Furches (Republican) 620, Wyatt P. Exum (Populist) 825, James M. Templeton (Prohibitionist) 37.

State Senate: William B. Means (Democrat) 1710, Ambrose F. Hileman (Populist) 1077.

Although the Democrats claimed all six county offices in 1892, the Populists ran well. The results of county elections include the following:

Sheriff: L. McKee Morrison (Democrat) 1821, Frank P. Boger (Populist) 981;
Registrar of Deeds: John K. Patterson (Democrat) 1710, John H. Moose (Populist) 1089;
Treasurer: John A. Cline (Democrat) 1644, John A. Sims (Populist) 1162.

The Populist Party, an offshoot of the Democrat Party which existed from 1891 to 1908, was most active from 1892-96. Its supporters were mostly farmers in the South and Midwest who felt the Democratic and Republican Parties were ignoring their interests and difficulties. Low cotton prices combined with resentment against railroads and banks led farmers to organize in North Carolina. They adopted national Populism's Omaha Platform, which endorsed government ownership of railroads and a federally controlled money supply. On state matters, the party demanded a 6 percent limit on contract interest rates, full taxation of railroad property, and encouragement to education, agriculture, and manufacturing.

Courtesy of Concord Library, Lore History Room

Friday, October 31, 2014

Cabarrus Citizens Spooked by Halloween Meteor

Image source: Wellcome Library no. 43243i.
Eighty-nine years before H. G. Wells' Halloween radio broadcast "War of the Worlds" panicked the nation, Cabarrus County experienced its own startling extraterrestrial visit. On Wednesday afternoon, October 31, 1849, a meteor fell through the Cabarrus sky, landing on Hiram Bost's land in Township 10, near what is now Midland. Because there are no surviving Cabarrus county newspapers from 1849, the Charlotte Journal provides the story.

The first Journal article appeared on Friday, November 2, reporting that Charlotteans "heard a report like a clap of thunder and then a rolling like its distant reverberations." A November 9 article confirmed that a meteorite, weighing about 19 pounds, struck in Cabarrus County.

The most detailed account of the event finally appeared in the Charlotte Journal on Friday, December 14. The newspaper described the meteorite as "a large mass of dark, bluish, gritty, metallic rock, weighing 19-1/2 lbs." The meteorite was seen and heard as far away as 250 miles north and south of the Cabarrus area, and it landed in a wooded area about 300 yards from the spot where Hiram Bost stood talking with a neighbor in Midland.

The Journal reported that the two men:
"heard a whizzing noise directly overhead, and a sound like that which might be produced by a large anvil passing over them, while a quantity of small bodies were cutting the air, with a rattling like platoon firing. They could not see the falling body, but sighted the sound of the heavy mass by a tall pine tree, in a direction nearly East, where it was heard to fall with a dull jar of the ground...[T]he next morning, they discovered...a pine log lying upon the ground freshly splintered and wounded upon one side. By the side of a pointed stick, they felt the rock, which had buried itself just beneath the surface of the earth - from which it was taken with care - leaving the impression of its outlines very distinctly in a white clay sub soil...The explosions and noise of the fall caused much alarm to women and men, dogs and horses. Some persons at a distance, saw a fiery elongated body, flaming like iron at a white heat, following a denser and darker ball of fire, passing from West to East."
According to the practice of the day, the meteorite was named after a nearby town. For some reason, the town chosen was not Concord, but Monroe (Midland was not yet a town). Thus, the meteorite that landed on Hiram Bost's Cabarrus County farm became known as the Monroe Meteorite. Also, according to common practice, the meteorite was broken up into smaller pieces, most of which became additions to several meteor and meteorite collections in other parts of the country and internationally.

On February 8, 2011, Midland Mayor Kathy Kitts made a presentation to the Town Council. She said the Town had received a wonderful gift from Mr. Richard Bennett in that he had provided them a piece of the Monroe Meteor for display. The following is from the town council meeting minutes:
"From the census listing in 1849, Mr. Bost was listed as a 32 year old farmer owning 543 acres of land. He also inherited land from his father on Jim Sossoman Road and Anderson Creek. When the meteorite fell, it alerted everyone from Davidson, Monroe and all other surrounding towns. Pieces of the meteorite are in the Vatican, Museum of Natural History in Paris, France and the Smithsonian. 
Town Planning Administrator, Richard Flowe took the known coordinates of where it landed and found it was cater-cornered to the present Midland Town Hall. The CCHS [Cabarrus County High School] woodshop will build a shadow box so the Town can display it for all to see."
Mayor Kitts said this was an important part of Town history because only a small number of meteorites, about 700 of them, have fallen in North Carolina.

For more information about the Monroe Meteor, articles may be found at the Concord Library, Lore Local History Room and at the Midland Town Hall.

Courtesy of Concord Library, Lore Local History Room and Midland Town Hall

Monday, October 27, 2014

Using City Directories: Concord's Motion Picture Theaters

Mentioned in the book "Stroke of Fortune" by William C. Cline, the Paramount Theatre in Concord, N.C. was the place to see action serials of the day. It is the current location of the Main Street Mall (Gifts & Garden by Angela and the new Mekong Thai Restaurant). Tex Ritter, the singing cowboy, was a regular visitor, dropping by to say "howdy" to his Concord friends at the Paramount Theatre anytime he was booked nearby. Concord saw a large selection of traveling actors of the 1940’s from the Kemp Circuit out of Charlotte. Photo c. 1938, Mike Rogers, cinematreasures.org.
City directories are a useful resource for understanding what leisure entertainment your Cabarrus ancestors may have enjoyed. The 1920 Concord City Directory lists three businesses as "Theaters and Places of Amusement:" The New Piedmont Theatre, located at 10 South Union Street; the Pastime Theatre, located at 22 South Union Street; and the Star Theatre, located at 3 North Union Street.

The Star advertisement, featured along the bottom pages of the directory, lures customers to "Visit the STAR Theatre, Concord's Newest Theatre, Headquarters for High Class Motion Pictures, Opposite the St. Cloud Hotel" (now Hotel Concord).

Charles M. Isenhour managed the new Piedmont; W. E. Stewart was proprietor of the Pastime; and B. L. Means and L. L. Wallace oversaw the running of the Star.

By 1930, there is a new theatre listed in the city directory, the Concord Theatre, located at 11 North Union, and the New Piedmont has disappeared from the listings.

The 1940 directory shows four Concord theatres. The Cabarrus Theatre, located at 22 North Union Street, is the newest addition to Concord. Operating at 11 North Union Street is the Paramount Theatre and at 3 North union Street is the State Theatre. The Pastime Theatre is still on South Union Street, although the street address has been changed from 22 to 26.

William C. Cline in 1945.
Concord native William C. Cline took over as assistant manager of the Cabarrus Theatre in the late 1940s. His book, "Stroke of Fortune: the Adventures of a Motion Picture Showman," published in 1995, recounts his early years in Concord and a lifelong love of motion pictures. Cline worked in the theatre business all his life, and his autobiography includes photographs of many actors and motion picture marquees taken from Concord's earlier theatre days.

A terrific website to see photos and get information about theaters old and new is cinematreasures.org. Just put in the name of the city and a listing will appear. William Cline's books are available through the Cabarrus County Library system and the City Directories are available at the Concord Library, Lore History Room.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore History Room and cinematreasures.org



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cabarrus Connections: Clingman's Dome

The tower atop the sloping ramp at Clingmans Dome affords an
unobstructed view of the Great Smoky Mountains. Photo: Britannica Online.
At first glance, Clingman's Dome, a mountain on the North Carolina-Tennessee state line has nothing to do with Cabarrus County genealogy. At 6,642 feet, Clingman's Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is named for Thomas Lanier Clingman, a member of the first expedition to measure the mountain in 1858. In addition to his interests in mountain climbing and geology, Clingman was a North Carolina congressman and senator. The last southern senator to leave the U.S. Congress in 1861, Clingman served as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army.

An interesting debate involving Congressman Clingman about North Carolina’s highest mountain developed in the 1850s. Clingman debated his former professor, Elisha Mitchell, on the location of the highest point in the North Carolina Black Mountains. Clingman believed Mitchell was wrong in his calculations, but in 1857, Professor Mitchell died after falling from what became known as Mount Mitchell. After Mitchell’s death, the debate faded away.

Thomas Lanier Clingman, 1859.
Photo: Library of Congress.
Although he lived most of his adult life in Asheville, Thomas Clingman had a Cabarrus background. His parents were Jacob Clingman of Rowan and Jane Poindexter of Yadkin (then Surry) County. His grandparents were Alexander Clingman, who arrived in Rowan from Germany, by way of Pennsylvania, and Elizabeth Kiser, who was the oldest daughter of Peter Kiser from what is now Cabarrus County. Peter Kiser operated a mill on a branch of Rocky River near Little Meadow Creek. Thomas Clingman, who never married, died in Morganton. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Asheville.

Additional information on Thomas L. Clingman and his family may be found in the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, North Carolina Troops, North Carolinaa Gazateer, and the Will of Peter Kiser.

Courtesy of Cabarrus Library, Lore History Room and NCpedia.org

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Steam Powers the Cabarrus Odell Cotton Mill

A 1905 engraving of John Milton Odell. Courtesy: Archive.org
On Tuesday, October 16, 1899, at 2:30 p.m., Odell Manufacturing Company turned on the new 175-horsepower steam engine, capable of running 500 looms, at its newest addition, Mill No. 5. One hundred new looms were already in place in Mill No. 5, with 200 more ready for installation. Odell manufacturing planned to use the new looms to make colored cloth goods called turenne seer-sucker.

Odell Manufacturing Company was begun 21 years before in 1878, with Captain John Milton Odell's initial purchase of the McDonald Mill. By 1888 it was the largest plaid mill in the South. By the end of the century, Odell Manufacturing Company, located at the end of North Union Street on Buffalo Ave (in buildings including what is now known as Locke Mill Plaza) comprised five mills, housing 30,000 spindles and 1,850 looms.

According to the October 18, 1899 Concord Times, Concord was indebted to Captain Odell for his contributions to the textile industry, including many which directly affected the prosperity of the Carolina textile mills, seven of which were in Concord. In all, those 13 North Carolina textile mills employed over 2,500 operators working 100,000 spindles and 4,000 looms.

John Milton Odell was born in Randolph County, the son of James, a farmer, and Anna Trogden Odell. After attending Middleton Academy, he taught school for several years and served for a year in the Confederate army (Company M, Twenty-second North Carolina Infantry). Accomplished in a variety of business interests, he settled permanently in Concord in 1880. His first wife, whom he married on 9 Mar. 1859, was Rebecca Kirkman, the daughter of Robert Kirkman of Randolph County. They had three children: William R., James T., and Ollie Makepeace Durham. Mrs. Odell died on 13 June 1889. Odell's second wife, whom he married on 4 Aug. 1891, was Mrs. Addie A. White, the daughter of R. W. and Sarah Anne Phifer Allison. Odell died in 1910 and is buried in the Odell mausoleum in Concord's Oakwood Cemetery.

The history and development of Odell Manufacturing Company and its contributions to Concord and Cabarrus County are documented in several sources. The Minutes of Odell Manufacturing Company Stockholders Meetings, January 10, 1879-January 16. 1902, as well as two dissertations by Dr. Gary R. Freeze of Catawba College, Salisbury: Master Mill Man: John Milton Odell and Industrial Development in Concord, North Carolina, 1877-1907, and Model Mill Men of the New South: Paternalism and Methodism in the Odell Cotton Mills of North Carolina, 1877-1908, are available at the Concord Library.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore History Room

Friday, October 10, 2014

NC "Grandfather Clause" Created Useful Cabarrus Records

Editorial cartoon criticizing the usage of literacy tests 
for African Americans as a qualification to vote. 
Illustration: Harper's Weekly, v. 23 (1879 Jan. 18). 
Courtesy of Library of Congress.
Today, October 10, 2014, is the last day to register for the November 4 general election. The criteria defining free elections have changed many times in our nation's political past. Unfortunately, the tradition of free elections, which have always been held up as a cornerstone of the American political system, have not always been open to everyone.

In 1900, the North Carolina General Assembly proposed an amendment to the state constitution requiring that any voter registration applicant must have paid his poll tax and be able to read and write any section of the Constitution. This literacy test was designed to legally restrict the African-American voteThe large number of poor illiterate black males ensured that the literacy test and the poll tax would be used to reduce the electorate. In order not to disenfranchise illiterate white voters, a "Grandfather Clause" provided that any person who was entitled to vote on or before January 1, 1867, or his lineal descendant, who registered before December 1, 1908, could vote even if he did not meet the educational requirement. The amendment was approved in a state election, August 1900. Modeled after a Louisiana statute, the 1867 date was important because it preceded any federal prohibition of racial discrimination; therefore very few blacks were eligible to vote. 

Not one of the more ethical pieces of North Carolina legislation, the "Grandfather Clause" did create another record of use to genealogists. The resulting voter registration lists name each voter, giving his age, the name of an ancestor who voted before 1867, the state where that ancestor voted and the registration date. This information can help bridge the gap created by the destroyed 1890 census, and for older voters, can provide another one or two generations.

Those registering in Concord, Wards 1 and 3, on October 11, 1902, include:
W. D. Anthony, age 62, ancestor J. B. Anthony;
Jacob Barnhardt, age 23, ancestor J. W. Barnhardt;
Levi Sides, age 25, ancestor Monroe Sides;
James B. Thompson, age 57, ancestor Robert Thompson - voted in South Carolina in 1867;
N. M. Weir, age 31, ancestor S. B. Weir - voted in Georgia in 1867;

Registered in October, 1906:
James L. Brown and Archey W. Brown, both 22, ancestor A. M, Brown;

Registered in October, 1908:
J. A. Barnhardt, age 23, and Charles L. Barnhardt, age 21, ancestor Jake Goodman

The Cabarrus County Voter Registration Lists, 1902-1908, are alphabetical by township and are available at the Concord Library, Lore Local History Room.

Courtesy of Concord Library, Lore Local History Room

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Cabarrus Sealmasters Check Weights and Measures

A collection of weights and measures held at the Orange County Museum In 
Hillsborough, NC. Photo by Jerry Cotten. www.ncpedia.org .
Among the responsibilities of the Church of England parishes in colonial North Carolina was the purchase and maintenance of a set of sealed weights and measures as the standard for each county.

In 1741, an Act of the North Carolina Assembly changed the law so that the weights and measures would be provided by the justices of each county. The justices were to established standards for weights and measures, levy a tax to pay for them and appoint a Standard Keeper, or Sealmaster, to take charge of them. Each county had to buy a set of weights and measures made to specifications. The weights included hundreds, half, quarter, and eighth-hundreds, and seven, four, two, one and one-half pounds. Measures were gallon, quart, pint, one-half bushel, peck, yard and ell (a cloth measure equaling 45 inches). All weights and measures used in business had to be checked for accuracy against the county set. It was considered an important protection for consumers from unscrupulous merchants. Merchants who cheated buyers could be punished. 

Compliance with these standards was one of the tasks facing the new Cabarrus County government in 1793. However, not until 1799 do court minutes record the appointment of Cunningham Harris as
Sealmaster. It was the Sealmaster's duty to officially stamp or seal the weights and measures. In 1805, newly appointed Sealmaster John K. Carson was given 50 dollars (approximately $765 in 2014) to purchase a set of weights and measures. Carson received an additional 25 dollars in 1806, and presented further expenses to the court in 1807. Obtaining such weights and measures obviously was an expensive process. Unfortunately, the Cabarrus County weights and measures no longer exist because they were destroyed in a courthouse fire in 1876. The similar set shown above can be seen in the Orange County Museum in Hillsborough, NC.

Additional information on weights and measures may be found in Cabarrus County Court Minutes, the North Carolina Colonial Records, Carolina Cradle by Ramsey and North Carolina Research by Leary and Stirewalt.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore Local History Room

Friday, September 26, 2014

Rare Cabarrus Newspaper Advertises Real Estate in 1879

Although Editor Edwin H. McLaughlin published The People's Paper in Concord for at least seven years (ca. 1872-1879), only one issue, September 27, 1879, survives. The newspaper masthead notes that the 1879 paper was volume VII (indicating at least seven years of publication), that the paper was published every Saturday morning, and that an annual subscription cost $1.50.

Newspapers of the day were extremely political, usually the voice of a particular political party or viewpoint. An editor depended on state, national and international news to fill his pages; generally, local news comprised one or two pages devoted exclusively to personal and church items, social events, and legal and commercial advertisements. The progressive The People's Paper followed the same formula.

Among the advertisements in the September 2, 1879 issue are these two real estate notices. Note in both advertisements that a good well and good water supply are key selling points, as are the existence of barns and other out buildings. Without city or county water systems, a well was a necessity, even in town. Any house that did not include a good barn for the family horse and wagon was not a very good buy.
House and Lot For Sale! I offer for sale my house and lot in Concord. It is a large two-story house, with basement. There is a splendid well of water in the yard, a barn and other conveniences. Price, $1,600. I will also sell the vacant lot, adjoining the above, for $100. Apply to T. C. Stricker, Concord, N. C.  - Sept. 13
Historic marker which stands on Mooresville Road in Cabarrus County.
Photo courtesy of www.waymarking.com.
For Sale. VALUABLE PLANTATION FOR SALE -- Containing three hundred and fifty acres, with good Dwelling and all necessary outhouses, good water, and in a good neighborhood. It is one of the most valuable plantations [in] the county of Cabarrus. Terms to suit the purchaser. For particulars apply to:
J. A. Rankin
Mill Hill, N. C.
Sept. 8th, 1879 
Mill Hill plantation home c. 1935. Photo courtesy of the University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill, Photograhic Archives.
Mill Hill Plantation, located in what is now Kannapolis off of Mooresville Road, is a historic house built by master craftsman Jacob Stirewalt in 1821. It was placed on a high spot overlooking a stream where Stirewalt eventually built a series of mills. One of the earliest and most architecturally important Greek Revival homes of the South, Mill Hill features both Federal and Greek Revival styles. The home's most impressive feature is a full porch with fluted Doric columns and stylized entablature. An interesting original furnishing of the home was a pipe organ featuring ninety-three hand made pipes painted in bright colors. It was one of the first to be installed in a private home.

After leaving the newspaper, The People's Paper editor, Edwin H. McLaughlin, moved with his family near Knoxville, Tennessee, where he was a minister. Sadly, he died in 1905 at the age of 49 from pneumonia. He left behind his wife, Ida, and eight children.

The September 27, 1879 issue of The People's Paper is available at the North Carolina Archives.

Courtesy Concord Library, Lore History Room and StoppingPoint.com

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cabarrus Connections: Immanuel Lutheran College

Photo Courtesy of the Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill
Immannuel Lutheran College, founded in 1903 by the Missouri Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of North Carolina, was first established in Concord, NC. Starting with only five students, for nearly three years it occupied rooms in the parochial school building of Grace Lutheran Church. The first president was N. J. Bakke, who served as president from 1903 to 1910. The institution offered high school and two-year college curriculum to African American men who intended to enter the ministry or engage in missionary work. Shortly thereafter, women were also admitted to the college.

Immanuel Lutheran College, 1945, photo courtesy of
Greensboro, NC Historical Museum.
In the fall of 1905, Immanuel Lutheran College moved to Greensboro, where for two years it occupied temporary lodgings, and then moved to a thirteen acre property donated to the school on East Market Street. It had its first graduates in 1907. The creation of a school to train black ministers was a boon to the Lutheran Church in North Carolina since black leadership led to the creation of new congregations and revival of older ones. The permanent building (shown above) was described in the 1909 school catalog as, "The building (two stories with a roomy attic and basement), is built of Mt. Airy granite with cement trimmings. It is a massive, imposing structure, noble and pleasing in architecture and beautifully situated on an elevation overlooking the city to the southwest." Additions in 1927 and extensive repairs and remodeling in 1932 drastically changed its unusual, German-style architecture.

The subsequent history of the school, until its demise in 1961, shows no other obvious ties to Cabarrus County. When the school closed, a result of changing attitudes about segregated education, North Carolina A & T State University bought the property; none of the buildings stand today.

Courtesy of Concord Library - Lore History Room, and the University of NC-Greensboro

Friday, September 12, 2014

Early Cabarrus Obituary: Archibald Neely Departs This Life

Early obituaries are rare; the earliest known Cabarrus newspaper is the Weekly Gazette (extant copies 1855-1857), and only a few issues survive. Cabarrus researchers often use early Salisbury and Charlotte newspapers, beginning with Salisbury's Western Carolinian in 1820, to fill in the blanks. However, lack of early papers is not the only reason obituaries are hard to find; later newspapers like the Tribune and the Daily Independent did not begin printing obituaries extensively until the 1930s. That is why this Charlotte Journal obituary is invaluable, even though it does not name family members of the deceased. The following is reproduced exactly as printed on September 12, 1845:

Rocky River Presbyterian Church, 1912.
OBITUARY: Departed this life, on the 29th ult., at the house of John B. Moss. Mr. Archibald Neely, a graduate of Davidson College, in the 25th year of his age. Mr. Neely was born and raised in Rocky River congregation and from his earliest years was remarkable for a benign and pleasant disposition. He received his academic course of studies at Rocky River academy under the instruction of Mr. Robert J. McDowell and early developed a rare talent for close application and deep study. In all his studies he stood at the head of his calass both in his Academic and Collegiate course. At an early period of his life he made a profession of religion and joined the church at Rocky River under the pastoral care of the Rev. D. Lindly. At an early period of his life, the writer of this had a good opportunity of witnessing with what industry he applied himself in searching scriptures. There were few students in the writer's Sabbath School class that understood the scriptures better (of which class there are some four or five now Ministers of the Gospel.) Mr. Neely had intended on leaving College to enter on his studies for the Ministry, but on his return to his father's, he found his father's mind so impaired as to make him incapable of managing his affairs - and about the same time he lost his only brother who could have attended to his father's affairs. Having settled his father's business and placed it in such a way that he was released in a measure from that business, he had taken a school in the vicinity of Poplar Tent church, with a fair prospect of raising funds to enable him to pursue his studies in Divinity in some Theological Seminary; but alas, death had marked him for his victim, and in less than ten days from his attack, he was in his cold and icy arms - his disease was typhus fever. Mr. Neely was a young man of genuine piety, was plain and unassuming in his demeanor and in his last sickness his prayers were continually ascending to his Savior. He was truly lovely in his life - there were few who knew him but loved him; but he has gone to his reward in Heaven.
August, 30 1845

Photo courtesy of Connie Cunningham,
findagrave.com.
The October 1842 Cabarrus Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions granted special administration for Alexander N. Neely to Archibald Neely, but not until January 1843 did the Court indicate Alexander was deceased. Alexander may be either Archibald's "only brother" or his "impaired" father. The Rocky River Presbyterian Church Register also shows John Neely, removed by death, October 17, 1868. Archibald himself was dismissed June 4, 1837, "to help form church at Davidson, NC." The inscription on Archibald Neely's stone is: Archibald Neely, A. B., b. December 17, 1815, d. July 29, 1845. The letters "A. B." in the inscription surely stand for Archibald's Davidson College degree (Latin “artium baccalaureus,” Bachelor of Arts), an unusual accomplishment for the period.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore History Room

Friday, September 5, 2014



Cabarrus County Fairs Have Been a Tradition 
Since the 1870s

Today marks the opening of the Cabarrus County Fair, which runs through next Saturday, September 13. Generations of Cabarrus residents have enjoyed the fair, which has its roots in the early county agricultural fairs of the 1870s. The fairs were a way to exhibit agricultural products and teach people about new farming methods. One was held near Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church in Concord and another was held at St. John's Lutheran Church near Mount Pleasant. 

In the late 1880s, the two fairs combined to form the Agricultural and Mechanical Fair Association, which constructed fairgrounds near downtown Concord in an area bordered by Union Street, Spring Street, Blume Avenue and Tribune Avenue. That fair closed in the 1890s and wasn't reorganized until 1923, when the fair moved near the intersection of U. S.  29 and Cabarrus Avenue in Concord. While there, horse races drew huge crowds. The fair closed again after the 1934 season, suffering from a lack of funding brought on by the Great Depression.

It wasn't until 1953 that the County Fair resumed. Planned and financed by an independent fair board, it has since been an annual event. In 2002, the fair became a county operation. That same year, the fair moved to its current location at the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center.

The early county agricultural fairs were especially important to Cabarrus residents when leisure time and recreational travel were hard to come by. The 1891 Fair gave people from all over Cabarrus an opportunity to enjoy exhibits, compete for blue ribbons and meet their neighbors. In an article on September 3, 1891, the Concord Standard editor urged his readers to participate, saying, "We have one of the best counties...let everybody do a little, and you will see as good a Fair as any in the State." From all over Cabarrus, men, women and children helped out. Twelve ladies formed a committee to arrange the floral and dairy exhibits; members included Laura Tucker, Ida Burleyson, Kate Robinson and Mollie Fetzer. Men who served as Marshals included Elam Cruse, Henry J. Ritchie, W. F. Moose and D. D. Barrier. Sixteen boys served as Boy Marshals, including Paul Parks, Shakespeare Harris, Jr., Watt Rankin and Stanhope Caldwell.

Special delegations from Mecklenburg and Stanly Counties attended and all the railroads in the Carolinas advertised special rates good for Fair Week. Round-trip fare from Charlotte or Salisbury was 65¢ (about $16.60 today); from Greensboro, $1.50 ($38.31); Durham, $2.60 ($66.41); and Raleigh, $3.20 ($81.73).

The sixteen-member Third Regimental Band of the North Carolina State Guard performed in full-dress regulation uniform. Another big attraction was a race between George Murr, "the finest runner in the country," and M. J. Corl's "race horse"; Murr ran a quarter mile to the mule's half-mile. Unfortunately, the Standard does not say who won!

No fair is complete without its list of blue-ribbon winners; in 1891 G. H. Barnhardt had the best bushel of May wheat and R. A. Brown had the best and largest exhibit of cattle. Mrs. G. E. Ritchie had the best butter, G. W. Petrea the best peaches and J. M. Fisher the best apple cider. Mrs. P. B. Fetzer won best silk embroidery, Miss Elina Cole the best specimen of lace, and Miss T. M. Dunn best and second best oil paintings. In the words of the Standard, the 1891 Cabarrus County Fair was a "great and powerful success!"

Today's Cabarrus County fair continues to be a big success. Go and enjoy the fun, food and rides and become part of the tradition!

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore Local History Room


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Year Book Provides Annual Snapshot
of 
Cabarrus County Education 

The North Carolina Year Book is a terrific reference
for providing an annual snapshot of early 20th century
Cabarrus County. Image from Archive.org
Now that Labor Day weekend has past, it is time for Cabarrus County students to settle into the new school year. Here we take a look at a brief overview of Cabarrus schools in the early 20th century.

The "North Carolina Year Book and Business Directory, 1904," published by the News and Observer of Raleigh, listed 71 teachers in Cabarrus County for the year. It appears the many of the students attending school lived in Concord since 29 of the 71 teachers taught in Concord. Schools in the county included Mt. Pleasant, Bost's Mill, Enochville, Gold Hill, Carriker, Glass, Georgeville, Clear Creek, Coddle and Flows.

Among the county school teachers were Miss Mabel Barrier, Miss Maggie McAllister, Robert L. Hartsell, Miss Anis Eudy, Miss Emma Lipe, Miss Ada Lentz, H. C. Cook, Miss Bessie Newell, Miss Maggie May Rogers, Miss Carrie Presson, Mrs. M. V. Pethel, Misses Cora and Ada Isenhour and W. T. Albright. Notice that all of the female teachers except one were single ladies. Teaching was not an occupation for married women, most of whom did not work away from home in those days.

The Year Book also listed several schools and academies by name: Rocky River High School, Georgeville High School, Sunderland Hall for Girls, Concord High School, Mrs. Erwin's School for Children, Scotia Seminary, North Carolina College and Mont Amoena Seminary. As County Superintendent of Schools, C. E. Boger oversaw the operation of the county schools; the City Public Schools Superintendent for Concord was Walter Thompson.

"The North Carolina Year Books" contain many interesting facts about the state and its counties. They include lists of physicians and attorneys, ministers and churches, mills and markets, hotels and boarding houses. Copies are available at the Concord Library, Lore Local History Room and digital listings are at http://ncgenweb.us/nc/bookshelf/directories/ and Archive.org .

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore Local History Room

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cabarrus County's Poplar Tent Community

Dr. John Robinson was pastor and teacher of
Poplar Tent Presbyterian's classical school.
Portrait ca. 1800. Courtesy of Archive.org.
"Clustered around the name of Poplar Tent are woven some of the most sacred emotions, and no spot in the world has a richer heritage from the pioneers of the years long gone than this place. In intelligence, in patriotism, in all the high graces that endowed a proud and noble manhood and womanhood of the old school of the seventies the people of this section were richly endowed."

So G. E. Kestler begins his reflections upon the history and contributions of the Poplar Tent Community to Cabarrus County, and to the United States. Kestler's letter to the editor appears on the front pages of the August 29 and August 30 editions of the Concord Evening Tribune in 1906.

G. Ed Kestler was secretary-treasurer of H. L. Parks and Company, a Concord store which sold dry goods, shoes, clothing and groceries. Born in 1869, he was the son of V. W. and Jennie R. Kestler. In Kestler's day, it was not unusual for a businessman to write such an article or for a newspaper to print it.

Among notable Poplar Tent residents, Kestler includes Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church members Rev. Hezekia J. Balch, Benjamin Patton, Robert Harris, Zacheus Wilson, John Phifer and David Reese, all signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. He notes that Poplar Tent is the birthplace of such men as Charles Wilson Harris (1771-1803), first president of the University of north Carolina; and Israel Pickens (1780-1827), Alabama senator and governor.

Poplar Tent was home to one of the best classical schools in North Carolina, taught by Dr. John Robinson before 1800. Prominent Robinson students include N. C. governor John Owen (1787-1841); Alabama governors Pickens and John Murphy (1785-1841); N. C. congressmen Charles Fisher (1778-1849), Daniel Munroe Forney (1784-1847). Henry William Connor (1793-1866), and Daniel Moreau Barromger (1806-1873), also a U. S. Minister to Spain

Another important Poplar Tent school was Dr. Charles Harris' medical school. Harris (1762-1825) is believed to have started the first such school in North Carolina, ca. 1795-1800, and he educated over 90 students, training many future Cabarrus and North Carolina doctors. Kestler concludes:
"The history of this township should be an inspiration to the young men of No. 2 [congressional district], for the descendants of such illustrious forefathers should never lower the standard that they have raised aloft."
G. Ed Kestler died in 1939 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Concord. More information about the Poplar Tent community, Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church, Charles Harris' medical school and others in this article, may be found at the Concord Library Lore History Room. G. E. Kestler's article in the Concord Evening Tribune also is available on microfilm.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore History Room 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cabarrus Responds to Women's Suffrage

Students petitioning for women's suffrage in 1919. University Archives Photograph
Collection, University Archives and Manuscripts, The University of North Carolina
at Greensboro
.
On August 26, 1920, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits any citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex. By guaranteeing women the right to vote, the face of the American electorate was forever changed. On this anniversary of women's suffrage, we look back at the response of some Cabarrus County residents.

The 19th Amendment brought dismay to most in the North Carolina General Assembly, but was publicly supported by at least two Cabarrus County men. In an article printed August 19, 1920, Concord Times Publisher/Editor J. B. Sherrill and Associate Editor W. W. Sherrill expressed disappointment only that Tennessee, and not North Carolina, would become the necessary 36th state to ratify the Susan B. Anthony Amendment: "We believed that the women should have the vote, and because we believed that they were going to get their rights, we wanted North Carolina to have her share in the glory...We have never seen why [women] should not be allowed to vote."

Despite the urging of Governor Thomas W. Bickett to "accept the inevitable and ratify the amendment," the North Carolina House defeated the 19th Amendment 71 to 41 in a special session. Besides challenging conventional moral and social roles of women, many saw it as an issue which interfered with state sovereignty. Personally, Bickett opposed women's suffrage, saying, "It has never occurred to me that women would hurt politics, but I have been profoundly disturbed about what politics would do to women."

Businesses, such as Concord's Citizens Band and Trust Company,
saw new marketing opportunities in the promotion of women's
independence. The Concord Daily Tribune, August 5, 1914.
By publicly stating their opposition to "official" North Carolina opinion, the two Sherrill men and others like them, made a difference in achieving the lengthy and difficult milestone allowing women's right to vote and what many considered a radical change to the Constitution.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore History Room

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"Golden" Opportunities in Cabarrus County

Courtesy State Archives of North Carolina.
Most Cabarrus County people are familiar with Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site, location of the first documented gold discovery in the United States in 1799. But there were other mines in the area which helped to make the region the leading gold-producing area until the 1848 California Gold Rush.

The early gold mining industry brought new people into Cabarrus County and provided new jobs for native Cabarrus folk. One newcomer was Dr. Otto Dieffenbach, a German chemist, geologist and mining engineer. Dr. Dieffenbach worked at the Phoenix Mine (currently the site of Green Oaks Golf Course) from 1854 to 1857. One of his letters written to family in Germany mentions his work near Concord, then details his travels in the eastern U. S. A discovery of deep gold veins required new mining techniques, including a chlorination process used and perfected by the Phoenix Mining Company around 1879-1880.

The 1870 Cabarrus census shows others who worked in the mining industry. Miners who lived in Township 9 included August Hinze of Prussia and William Gadd of England, along with Cabarrus men like Julius Vanderburg, Darlin Furr and Mathias Klutts. English native W. H. Richard was a mine agent in Cabarrus, and mine engineer W. O. Crosby was from Ohio.

Mining in Cabarrus County eventually declined; however, as late as 1912, small deposits at Garmon, Saunders and McMakin mines were still productive. In his 1914 report, North Carolina State Geologist Joseph Pratt wrote that he expected the development of Pioneer Mills Gold Mine in Cabarrus County.

Of course, with the exception of visitor panning at Reed Gold Mine and recreational mining on private property, gold mining is not a modern-day industry in Cabarrus County.

Courtesy of Concord Library, Lore Local History Room

Friday, August 15, 2014

Heritage of Cabarrus County Churches

Postcard photo circa 1910. Courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.
Throughout Cabarrus County history, few institutions have served as a stronger focus of community life than it's churches. Long before the beginning of the county itself, most people in the area defined their business and social lives according to their church communities.

The earliest days of settlement, most people's lives centered around the church. The church building and regularly scheduled worship services provided a place to meet neighbors and exchange news. The first schools in Cabarrus were church schools and the first ministers in the county were strongly influential and highly educated men in their communities.

The earliest settlers brought their denominations with them; the Scot-Irish brought Presbyterianism and the Germans brought the Lutheran and Reformed faiths. Early congregations include Rocky River and Poplar Tent Presbyterian (both 1751), and Dutch Buffalo Creek (ca. 1745), which evolved into St. Johns Lutheran and New Gilead Reformed. Other early churches include Coldwater Baptist (1790) and Bethel Methodist (1780).

Other churches have had interesting beginnings. Both Zion Hill (ca. 1850s) and Price Memorial AME Zion (1885) congregations benefited from the support of businessman Warren C. Coleman, founder of the nation's first black-owned and operated textile factory. St. James Catholic (1842) began with the conversion of one man and his family. Forest Hill Methodist (1881) was closely tied to the growth and development of the Odell Cotton Mills.

Obviously, each congregation, no matter how large or how small, plays an important part in the history of the county.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore Local History Room

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cabarrus Walkways: First Sidewalks in Downtown Concord

Ladies with parasols strolled the sidewalks and horse-and-buggy rigs plied the unpaved street in this postcart looking south on Union Street in Concord about 1908. Courtesy Julie Hanson Ganis.
The first reference to sidewalks in downtown Concord are found in the 1876 Town Council Minutes. By the late 19th-century, sidewalks not only provided a safe path for people to walk that was separated from the road, but they were also associated with urban sophistication. On August 13, Council received a petition calling for the widening and paving of East Depot Street (now Cabarrus Avenue) with sidewalk construction. On September 26, Council ordered two-foot-wide sidewalks to be laid out on each side of the street. Because may pages of the Concord Board of Commissioners/Town Council Minutes are lost, it is likely that the order to pave Union Street (also called Main Street) is not extant. Earlier record in 1838-1839 order street repairs, but the word "pavement" first appears in 1850.

In 1892-1893, in several columns, the Concord Daily Standard urged repairs and new sidewalk construction. The Town of Concord advertised for bids from January 17 to February 15 and accepted R. A. Brown's bid, with a provision that he pay the town $25.00 (about $640 today) rent on the rock crusher used for brick sidewalks: "The cost will be but little if any greater than by the method proposed, and will be cleaner, nicer and decidedly more beautiful." One week later, the Daily Standard reported, "The sidewalk from Kimmon's Store to the corner of Depot and Union Streets is being paved with brick."

By 1901, the new sidewalks were cement. Council Minutes for November 12, record the motion that "cement pavement would be put down between Corbin Street and Depot Street on Union Street." Progress was not cheap, however; Council charged each property owner along the new sidewalk half he cost and required each owner to put in the curbing at his own expense.

Sources include the Town of Concord Board of Commissioners and Town Council Minutes, the Concord Daily Standard newspaper, and Progress Magazine published by the Concord Telephone Company. All are available at he Concord Library Lore Local History Room.

Courtesy of the Concord Library Lore Local History Room