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,
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 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

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Steam Powers the Cabarrus Odell Cotton Mill

A 1905 engraving of John Milton Odell. Courtesy:
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. .
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