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

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