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
"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 Barringer (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 

Friday, August 8, 2014

H. T. J. Ludwig and the Cabarrus School Tax Struggle

Henry Thomas Jefferson Ludwig. Undated photo: 
Courtesy of the Eastern Cabarrus Historical Society
In August we think about students preparing for a new school year. Providing quality education has always been a concern for educators, legislators and taxpayers. The question of funding education has not been limited to the school bond referendums of recent years. Professor Henry Thomas Jefferson Ludwig wrote an article in the July 29, 1897 issue of Concord Times, urging Cabarrus voters to support the local school tax measure in the election scheduled for August 10, 1897:
"Better schools with longer terms will add in many ways to the general prosperity of the people. They will make the county a more desirable live in. Better school facilities in the county will tend to promote greater interest in farm life. Better schools in the county will render it unnecessary for farmers to move to town in order to educate their children. There ought to be a good school in the easy reach of every boy and girl in the county."
H. T. J. Ludwig, the eldest child of Jacob Ludwig and Sophia House, was born January 17, 1843, and lived in Mount Pleasant. He was a college student in Cabarrus when he interrupted his studies to enlist, at age 18, in Company H, 8th North Carolina Regiment, on August 6, 1861. Ludwig served as a private and drummer in the company known as the Cabarrus Phalanx. After the Civil War ended, Ludwig completed his education and became a mathematics professor at North Carolina College in Mt. Pleasant. Known as Professor Tom, Ludwig was a staunch supporter of education. He died July 28, 1900 and is buried at St. John's Lutheran Church Cemetery.

Ludwig viewed the question of local taxation and local support of schools as a matter of great importance. His arguments, however, did not sway his fellow voters. The August 12, 1897 Concord Times reports that the tax was 'overwhelmingly defeated all over the state." None of the 11 voting Cabarrus townships (Township 12 did not vote because Concord already supported town schools with a local tax) passed the measure, and the total vote was 286 votes for, 534 votes against.

H. T. J. Ludwig's article and the school tax election results are available in the Concord Times. Surviving issues, from 1885 to 1905, are on microfilm in the Concord Library's Lore Local History Room.

Courtesy of Concord Library's Lore Local History Room

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

100 Years Ago: Cabarrus Life at the Outbreak of WWI

Family and church activities remained at the center of Cabarrus life in August of 1914.
Photo courtesy of Digital NC.
Europe entered into WWI on July 28, 1914. In the first weeks of August 1914, leaders in Raleigh were concerned with the "demoralization of our foreign trade" with Europe and the effect on cotton and wheat prices. On a local level, Cabarrus County continued to focus on family and religious life. Most would not feel the consequences of war on a personal level until the U. S. entered the conflict in April of 1917. The following items came from The Concord Daily Tribune, August 4, 1914.

Rocky River
"Hot, dry weather prevails here. Crops are cut one-third off on account of drought and chinch bugs are doing considerable damage to the corn crop in this section.

Mr. Henry Furr and Miss Bessie Furr, both of Harrisburg, were united in holy bonds of matrimony on last Tuesday, the young couple being joined together at Harrisburg by Squire Oglesby. The bride is the daughter of Mr. A. L. Furr and the groom is the son of Mr. Martin Furr. We wish them a long and happy life."

"The people are ready for the big meetings and picnics now. Some of our people are going to attend the meeting at Love's Grove Church, near Garmond's Mill and we hope to have a good meeting. The meeting will start on the second Sunday in August and everyone is invited to attend."

Cook's Crossing (now part of Kannapolis)
"The Winecoff Reunion, held at Centre Grove Church last Friday, was well attended. Much valuable information was learned about the family as it first started in America. Two dishes were shown which were brought over by Mr. Michael Winecoff. They now belong to Miss Mary Winecoff.

The Missionary Society of Mount Olivet Church will give a lawn party on the Winecoff school grounds next Saturday afternoon and night. There will be a ball game and other entertainment free of charge. After the game there will be a box supper to which all are invited. A contest will be held for the prettiest girl and the most popular boy of the occasion.Votes are given with refreshments."

Glass (Kannapolis)
"Mr. Luther C. Overcash died last Wednesday morning at 2 o'clock after a brief illness of Bright's disease [kidney disease]. Mr. Overcash was a prosperous farmer and well thought of by all who knew him. He was a lifelong member of Enochville Lutheran Church, where his remains were laid to rest, the funeral being preached by his pastor, Rev. O. B. Shearouse. He leaves a wife and nine children to mourn his loss, who have our sympathy in their bereavement."

Friday, August 1, 2014

1826 Pastimes in Olde Concord: 
Church, Lafayette Ball and the Giant Squirrel Hunt

Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Social life in early Concord and Cabarrus County usually centered around the church and the county courthouse. For many hard-working people, weekly church services were a welcome chance to put aside household chores and farming tasks for a few hours to worship and visit with neighbors. Court sessions held four times a year provided opportunities to see old friends and transact business county-wide. There were other entertainments to be found, however; politics, civic organizations and various social clubs also provided focal points for persons of like interest to gather and socialize.

One interesting entertainment was the LaFayette Ball. Although a year had passed since the visit of the Marquis de LaFayette to North Carolina (see Cabarrus Genealogy Society blog posting from May 16, 2014), the popular Frenchman and his travels through the country were still a topic of conversation. For $5.00 ($101.41 today), anyone could attend the event held at George Squires' Inn on North Union Street in Concord, where the current Cannon Library now stands.

However, one of the most unusual event has to be the giant squirrel hunt. With a growing squirrel population causing much damage to local corn crops, Captain John Scott's militia company organized the hunt. In August of that year, Scott's militia company divided into two groups, with a small wager between them, to hunt down as may of the culprits as possible. The winning side totaled 4,239 squirrels, according to the Western Carolinian newspaper, and the losers totaled 3,322.

One-of-a-kind social events like these are just a few of the many topics discussed in An Historical Sketch of Olde Concord, 1796-1860, by Judge Clarence E. Horton, Jr. Other subjects include business and industry, churches and schools, law and government. The book is available at the Concord Library, Lore History Room.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore history room.