Friday, May 30, 2014

Early Life in Cabarrus County: Indigo and Cotton

The indigo plant became a cash crop in the Carolinas in
 the 18th century. Although the flower of the indigo plant is 
light purple, the dye produced from the leaves is a rich, 
dark blue color. Courtesy of www.learnnc.org
The April 9, 2014 blog discussed early grain crops in Cabarrus County as gleaned from the "Essay of Agriculture," by William Shakespeare Harris (1815-1875). The 12-page, handwritten essay, composed between 1850 and 1875, discusses such topics as farming and building techniques, crops, clothing and lifestyle. Here, we turn our attention to other crops - indigo and cotton,

Despite the difficulties of indigo cultivation and manufacture, it was profitable until around 1790-1795. However, by the time Cabarrus was carved from the northeastern corner of Mecklenburg County in December 1792, indigo as a staple trade crop had begun to decline.

Harris reports that indigo required "exhausting labour - was filthy in the handling vats - was deemed to be very unhealthy," but was easy to transport by pack horse to markets as far away as Philadelphia. Cabarrus indigo growers, however, were reluctant to abandon this profitable crop before a suitable replacement was discovered. It was cotton which, slowly but surely, began to supplant indigo as a money-making crop.

In its earliest days, before there were any cotton gins in the area, cotton was a small crop. Harris tells us the young ladies spent long winter evenings separating the cotton fibers from seed by hand. A young woman, "no matter how many beaus she might have waiting on her favor or her frown - was to pick out a shoe full of cotton seed before bedtime." Fortunately for Cabarrus women, Harris remarks, "the gallant fellows learned to pick seed so adroitly that the task of the ladies was always comparatively light and easy."

 By 1806, Colonel James Pickens had built a water-powered gin that became "both an astonishment and a convenience." Improved machinery, a greater number of cotton gins being built and high cotton prices, made the crop extremely profitable by 1816. After the institution of Federal tariffs on cotton around 1816 to 1824, profits fluctuated; by then however, the South's agricultural economy, including that of Cabarrus County, was firmly tied to cotton production. Harris does note that, in light of the evils of slavery and the devastation of the Civil War, "it would have [been] better if the South had surrendered its [cotton] culture" before becoming dependent on it.

In concluding his "Essay on Agriculture," William Shakespeare Harris offers suggestions for improved agricultural production of both cotton and corn, the primary cash crops of his day, and comments regarding the eventual success or failure of the rural, agricultural economy of the South and Cabarrus County. An interesting counterpoint to our modern-day Cabarrus economy, the essay is available to researchers in the Concord Library Local History Room.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore History Room

Postcard of the Concord, NC Cotton platform (1912) where farmers would bring their crop to be weighed, bought, and prepared for shipment. Courtesy of Julie Hampton Ganis.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What's In a Name: Cabarrus County Waterways

1870s map of the Reed Gold Mine area showing the Yellow Branch
off of Little Meadow Creek. Adapted from The First Gold Rush:
A Master Plan for Reed Gold Mine
National Park Service.
How many Cabarrus people know where to find Johnston's River, Red Creek and Beaver Dam Creek? According to various deeds and other Local History sources, these are earlier names for watercourses more familiar to us today as Rocky River, Clear Creek and Caldwell Creek. Other Cabarrus County streams with name variations include Cattail Creek or Cattail Swamp on Dutch Buffalo Creek; Frog or Flag Run on Footy Creek; and Plum Run or Plum Branch flowing into Hamby's Branch and Rocky River.

Records of the late Miss Adelaide Lore list several other interesting names that may or may not be familiar to local folks. Butcher's Branch is in Township 8 (Mount Pleasant area); both Captain's Branch and Purgatory Branch are in Township 2 in western Cabarrus (Poplar Tent area). How about Wet Foot Branch and Yellow Branch, both in Township 9 (Reed Gold Mine area). In fact, Yellow Branch is located on the old Reed Mine tract. Perhaps there were traces of yellow gold to be seen there two hundred years ago. Does anyone know the locations of Biery Creek, Loop Run or Turtle Creek?

Some, but not all, of these streams are named on the Hydrographic Map of Cabarrus County. Additional information comes from Cabarrus County deeds, William S. Powell's North Carolina Gazetteer and other Local History sources available in the Concord Library, Lore History Room.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore History Room

Friday, May 23, 2014

30 May 1868: First Official Memorial Day Observance

As we celebrate this Memorial Day weekend, the Cabarrus Genealogy Society would like to respectfully acknowledge the service of our veterans, as well as active military members, who since Revolutionary times have defended the rights and freedoms of their fellow citizens. Thank you.

The following is taken from the blog for www.fold3.com. Fold3 is the top website for researching military records. They have unique partnerships with the National Archives and others, making available over 436 million original documents covering all periods of American military history. You may also honor a veteran from any U.S. conflict on their Honor Wall. Although full access for private use requires membership, they are offering free access to WWII records through May 31, and a library version is available to anyone in the Lore History Room at the Concord Library.

A Decoration Day crowd in front of the Cabarrus County Courthouse in the 1930s.
I
n Cabarrus County it was celebrated on May 10, the anniversary of Stonewall
Jackson's death. 
Courtesy of Julie Hampton Ganis.
In the years immediately following the Civil War, one way Americans sought to remember the multitudes of war dead was by holding “decoration days”—days on which they would gather to decorate the graves of those who died in the conflict. Although many local groups and communities had their own decoration days, including well-known ones in Waterloo (New York) and Charleston (South Carolina), the first official observance of what would eventually become Memorial Day took place on May 30, 1868.

This Decoration Day (it wouldn't officially be called Memorial Day until 1967) was coordinated by John A. Logan, a former Union general and at the time commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Union veteran’s association. In his General Order Number 11, dated May 5, 1868, he designated May 30 “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” In addition to the decoration of graves, Decoration Day was also to be observed with “fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit,” according to Logan.

Veterans and their loved ones, as well as widows, orphans, and other bereaved, responded to Logan’s call with alacrity. That year, 183 cemeteries in 27 states celebrated Decoration Day, and observance only grew in the years that followed. By 1890, all the northern states had made it an official state holiday.

The South didn't celebrate Logan’s Decoration Day until after World Instead, Southerners memorialized the Confederate dead locally on days throughout spring and early summer, often on important dates such as Joseph Johnston’s surrender, Stonewall Jackson’s death [as was in Cabarrus County on May 10], or Jefferson Davis’ birthday.

Memorial Day, in the form we know it today, came about in 1967, when Decoration Day was renamed Memorial Day to better reflect contemporary usage. Then, the following year, it was permanently moved from May 30 to the last Monday in May to create a three-day weekend.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Where Cabarrus County Worked in 1931

There is no doubt that the textile industry has long been one of the most influential businesses in Cabarrus County. By the 1930s, most families had someone working in the textile industry; in towns, whole families often worked together in the same mill. The North Carolina Year Book, 1931, published by the Raleigh News and Observer, lists 11 textile mills in Cabarrus County. Cannon Mills Company, with five plants in Concord and two in Kannapolis, produced sheeting, towels, ginghams, madras, novelty dress goods and yarns. Other Concord companies included Brown Manufacturing Company, which made flannels; Hartsell Mills Company, which produced cotton tapestry, rayon draperies, cotton bedspreads and carded yarns; and Locke Cotton Mills Company, which turned out chambray, shirting, dress ginghams and yarns. Several Concord mills produced hosiery and/or hosiery yarn; they were Hoover Hosiery Company, Roberta Manufacturing Company, White-Parks Mills Company and Willis Hosiery Mills. Two Mount Pleasant companies, Kindley Cotton Mills and Tuscarora Cotton Mills, made knitting yarns.

General merchandise stores, such as the grocery opened by H. G. Blackwelder on 
McGill Avenue at the mouth of Kerr Street in Concord, were in Cabarrus in the 1930s. 
Blackwelder's Grocery stayed in business until the 1970s. From left is H. G. Blackwelder 
and his butcher, J. Brite Thompson. From "Images of America: Concord," by Michael 
Eury/Independent Tribune.
There were a few other businesses listed in Cabarrus in the 1931 Year Book. Concord had one furniture factory, Linker Furniture and Chair Company. The town also supported two newspapers, the Concord Daily Tribune and the weekly Concord Observer. The Uplift was also a weekly, produced by the printing shop students of Stonewall Jackson Training School. There were a number of general merchandise and specialty shops in town and people still needed wagon and livery repairs. The railroad brought traveling salesmen who needed hotels and boarding houses to stay in. There were also several banks in the county. Cabarrus Bank and Trust Company had offices in both Kannapolis and Concord. Other Concord banks were Concord National Bank, Citizens Bank and Trust Company and a local branch of Charlotte's Industrial Loan and Investment Bank.

North Carolina Year Books for 1902, 1904, 1914, 1916, 1922, 1925 and 1931 are available in the Lore Room at the Concord Library.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore History Room 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cabarrus Citizens Escort General Lafayette

The Marquis de Lafayette in his later years. Courtesy of
the trustees of the British Museum.
The May 17, 1889 issue of the Concord Times reported the death of Charles Jay Harris on May 13. The son of Dr. Charles Harris who built "Favoni" (the 1791 Harris home in Concord listed in the National Register) and established the first medical school in North Carolina. Charles Jay Harris was a member of the Poplar Tent community and of Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church. He was also the last Cabarrus survivor of the escort to the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) during his 1825 visit to the United States.

An invited guest of the United States, Lafayette traveled through the new nation, honored with grand dinners and balls hosted by prominent families and surviving soldiers of the American Revolution. Lafayette, the French nobleman who outfitted and trained American soldiers during the War for Independence at his own expense, was a general and a hero in America. He called himself "an old American soldier and adopted son of the United States - two titles dearer to my heart than all the treasures of the world."

The Salisbury Western Carolinian reported the General's progress through the nation, counting down his arrival in North Carolina. He was expected in Raleigh in early March, by way of Norfolk, Virginia. When Lafayette arrived in Murfreesboro, Hertford County, the volunteer cavalry troop from Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties set out to meet him. Meeting the General's party south of the state capital, they formed an escort to Fayetteville. The town named in honor of Lafayette treated him to a "La Fayette Ball" and invited all former Revolutionary participants, including the Mecklenburg-Cabarrus squadron, to stay in Fayetteville during the General's visit.

Concord merchant and Cabarrus historian Robert Washington Allison (1809-1898) recalled a few of the men who formed the General's escort. In "A History of Cabarrus County and Concord," Allison named James A. Means, Daniel Coleman, Francis Ross, Peter Boger, Charles W. Alexander, Ibzan Cannon, Dr. Cy A. Alexander, William Gardner and Charles A. Harris among the group. Harris was one of the youngest, just barely 19.

From Fayetteville, Lafayette traveled into South Carolina and Georgia. The grand receptions and balls in North Carolina were over, but Tarheels continued to track the French hero's travels. The Western Carolinian reported the events held in other states to honor Lafayette. Perhaps young Charles Jay Harris read the papers and remembered the honor of escorting the Marquis de Lafayette through North Carolina.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore History Room

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Using Education Records for Genealogy Research: 
1900 N. C. College Alumni List

Originally built in 1855, this site was once home to North Carolina

 College, a Lutheran College for men that closed in 1902 and later 
became Mt. Pleasant Collegiate Institute. Courtesy of the 
Graduation season is upon us. Here we look at how school catalogs can be a valuable resource.

North Carolina College, Mount Pleasant, grew out of Western Carolina Male Academy, founded by the Lutheran North Carolina Synod in March 1855. By January 1859, the Academy had expanded and become North Carolina College. First year enrollment in the new college totaled
62 students.

Like may Southern schools, the college closed during the Civil War, reopening around 1867.
By 1873, enrollment had climbed, but so had the operating deficit. By 1875, North Carolina College had begun a long, slow decline. In 1903, it became Mount Pleasant Collegiate Institute (MPCI)
and began operation as a secondary school and junior college. By 1933, MPCI ceased operation.
Two of its buildings have been preserved as a museum and genealogy repository by the Eastern Cabarrus Historical Society and are open limited hours for tours.

College catalogs are a gold mine for researchers interested in educational curricula of the period.
These catalogs list course offerings and texts, current students and faculty and provide a list of graduates. The 1899-1900 catalog lists 63 alumni (nine of whom were deceased) and includes:

Reverend R. L Bame, 1891 of Floyd, VA
Dr. Charles H. Barnhardt, 1892, of Mt. Pleasant, NC
James P. Cook, 1885, of Concord, NC
Rev. J. L. Deaton, 1888, of China Grove, NC
Edward Fulenwider, 1899, of Mt. Pleasant, NC
Charles A. Misenheimer, 1879, of Charlotte, NC
Pleasant E. Monroe, 1898, of Chicago, IL
Dr. J. W. Moose, 1877, of Agnes, TX
Victor C. Ridenhour, 1899, of Mt. Pleasant, NC
Professor L. H. Rothrock, 1884, of Gold Hill, NC
Rev. C. W. Sifferd, 1874, of Newark, OH
Rev. H. E. H. Sloop, 1891, of Trenton, MS
Rev. R. A. Yoder, 1877, of Hickory, NC
Rev. A. L. Yount, 1876, of Greensburg, PA

Four North Carolina catalogs (1894-1895, 1895-1896, 1897-1898 and 1899-1900) are available in the Lore Room Local History collection at the Concord Library and others, as well as additional information about North Carolina College, may be found by contacting the Eastern Cabarrus Historical Society . The Lore History Room also has the publications: All One Body: The Story of North Carolina Lutheran Synod (Bost and Norris, 1994); and History of the Lutheran Church in North Carolina, Supplement (North Carolina, Synod, 1965).

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore History Room

Friday, May 9, 2014

Elizabeth Phifer Blackwelder:
A Maternal Heroine of the Revolution


Headstone of Betsey Phifer Blackwelder, 
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church 
Cemetery, Mount Pleasant, NC. 
Courtesy of Denise F., www.findagrave.com.
This Sunday we celebrate Mother's Day. Throughout history, mothers have played important roles in support of, and in defense of, their homes, families and communities during times of strife. Many of these mostly unsung women have shown remarkable strength, perseverance and devotion in the face of hardship and danger. One such woman was Elizabeth Phifer Blackwelder.

Elizabeth (Betsey) Phifer was born on 4 April 1724 in Basel, Switzerland. She grew up to marry Gottlieb Schwarzwalder and traveled with him to America. Upon arrival, her husband and his family Anglicized their name and he became Caleb Blackwelder. They settled in eastern Cabarrus County (then part of Anson) in 1761.

The Blackwelders became very active during the American Revolution. Caleb, in his fifties, was thought to be too old to fight, so offered his services gathering supplies such as horses, food and ammunition for the troops. He was captured, perhaps by a band of Tories who roamed the area around Mount Pleasant, and taken to a British prison in Camden, South Carolina. John Blackwelder, the son of Betsey and Caleb, as well as their son-in-law, John Paul Barringer, were Patriots fighting for the American side and also ended up as prisoners-of-war in Camden. Brave Betsey, also in her fifties at the time, got into her wagon and rode to Camden in an attempt to free her three family members.

When Betsey arrived, the camp was full of smallpox victims. She began nursing British and Americans alike. While there, it is thought that she may have worked alongside the mother of Andrew Jackson, who was nursing her older son at the same time. Betsey's son John perished from the dreadful disease. When her husband and son-in-law were released, she was able to bring them back to the Mount Pleasant area as a reward for her nursing duties.

Betsey was a well-connected lady. Her nephews John and Martin Phifer were both quite prominent during the Revolution. They were the sons of Martin Phifer and Margaret Blackwelder, brother and sister to Caleb and Betsey. John was a signer of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and Martin served under George Washington. Washington even stayed with Martin at his Red Hill Inn, off of Poplar Tent Road, as he was traveling north from Charleston in his presidential duties.

Betsey's son-in-law, John Paul Barringer, was part of a group that rode to Raleigh to address the North Carolina Assembly to seek the formation of a county separate from Mecklenburg. Stephen Cabarrus, popular Speaker of the House of Representatives was to cast the tie breaking vote. Legend has it that when Cabarrus called for a recess, Barringer whispered to him that if he voted for the split, the new county would be named Cabarrus. He did and it was so named!

Betsey is listed by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) as a Revolutionary Patriot. Her grave at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church is inscribed with the words, "A HEROINE OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION".

Courtesy of Vicki Bost Isenhour, Eastern Cabarrus Historical Society

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Concord City Government: History of the Mayor's Office

Concord's second Magistrate of Police, 
Hezekiah "Kiah" P. Harris. Photo courtesy 
of Jerry Buzan. Date unknown.
In honor of today's local elections, here we will take a look back at the beginnings of local city government.

The North Carolina Legislature of 1826 passed an amended charter providing for the election of 5 freeholders and a Magistrate of Police (title of mayor from 1826-1850). All free white men of Concord met at the county courthouse the first Monday of March for annual elections. Cabarrus historian Judge Clarance Horton has compiled available information from Charlotte and Salisbury newspapers for 1826-1837, but there are no surviving record of the earliest period of Concord city government.

Written records of Concord city government begin with Council Minutes of March 13. 1837. Magistrate of Police J. L. Beard took the oath of office and then administered the oath to Commissioners William J. Blume, Thomas S. Henderson, R. C. Carson and Samuel Kesier. Commissioner Dr. E. R. Gibson was absent.

One interesting Concord official was Intendant of Police (title of Mayor from 1850-1871) Dr. Lucius S. Bingham. Dr. Bingham served from January 1853 to January 1855 and again from July 1865 to January 1866. His second term is notable because he was not elected by the people of Concord; rather, he was appointed by North Carolina Provisional Governor W. W. Holden following the end of the civil war. Bingham had enlisted in the 20th North Carolina Regiment but was released from Civil War service at the request of Concord citizens worried about a shortage of doctors.

The first man to hold the title of Mayor of Concord was J. S. Fisher, May 1871 to May 1873. Fisher served a second term from December 29, 1882 to June 9, 1883. Concord's second Magistrate of Police, Kiah P. Harris is tied with Mayor W. G. Means for the most terms served from 1837 to 1913. Each served 4 terms: Harris served 1838-1841, 1855-1857, 1860-1861 and 1866; Means served 1880-1882, 1884-1888, 1891-1892 and 1899-1901. Means wins for most years of service, totaling about 9-1/2. Intendant of Police C. R. Cook surely has the shortest term of office; he resigned on May 1, 1858, the same day he was elected!

It's thanks to the research of Judge Clarence Horton that many of these details have been compiled. Judge Horton's manuscript "An Historical Sketch of Olde Concord," and extant details of Concord city government Council Minutes, beginning in 1837 through 1967, are available in the Lore History Room.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore History Room

Friday, May 2, 2014

Early Cabarrus Medical Practices: Treating Rabies

This 1885 image depicts one of Louis Pasteur's early 
rabies treatments. Harper's Weekly, v.29 (Dec) 1885. 
Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.
Many medical treatments which are commonplace now have been discovered since 1900 and deadly diseases of the 19th century are controllable or curable in this century. One fatal illness which is now preventable (although still incurable) is rabies, a virus which attacks the nervous system of warm-blooded animals and is caused by the bite of an infected animal. Even today, prevention through vaccination is the only sure treatment of this disease. Once rabies is contracted, survival is extremely rare. However, take a look at these two 19th century Cabarrus County cures and consider the chances of surviving either the illness ore the treatment!

The 1855 recipe book of Stanly County druggist Charles T. Ridenhouer (who also served many eastern Cabarrus residents) suggests this cure:
Wash the wound immediately with warm vinegar and tepid water, dry it and then apply a few drops of muriatic acid, which will destroy the poison of the saliva or neutralize it.
Overzealous use of muriatic acid could be hazardous. How much of the patient or the person treating the patient could be destroyed along with the virus!

How about the use of madstone, a small porous stone which was supposed to absorb the infection from the bite, preventing or curing rabies? According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, madstones are found in the stomach or intestines of cud-chewing animals, such as a cow or deer. Applied to the wound, a madstone would adhere to the skin until all the poison was absorbed and the wound began to heal. Madstones were not to be bought or sold as such interaction may negate their healing powers. Naturally, the effectiveness of madstones has long been in dispute.

The May 10, 1889 Concord Times reports two potential rabies cases. In south Rowan County, Levi Deal's son and one of his pigs were both bitten by a rabid dog on the same day. When the pig went mad and died 29 days later, Deal immediately took his son to a Mr. Butler in Charlotte to try Butler's madstone. The Times says, "The stone adhered for about an hour to the spot where the boy was bitten. So if there is any virtue in the mad stone [sic], he will not have hydrophobia [rabies]." Also reported that day, J. M. Alexander's son Johnny was bitten by a strange dog near the Alexander's Concord home. Alexander was unable to locate a madstone to treat the wound but felt his son was not infected since there had been no reports of rabid animals in town. Available cemetery records for Rowan and Cabarrus do not list any Deal or Alexander deaths in 1889, although the incubation period of the disease varies from a few days to years. Hopefully, both boys escaped the disease.

Neither of these treatments are recommended these days. It is easier to inoculate pets and avoid strange or wild animals which could carry the disease. Microfilm copies of the Times and Ridenhour's Family and Druggists Recipe Book are in the Lore Room at the Concord Library.

Courtesy of the Concord Library