Monday, April 27, 2015

Cabarrus Coal and Ice Man A. B. Pounds
Concord coal and ice distributor A. B. Pounds.
On October 26, 1933, well known businessman A. B. Pounds, age 53, was found shot three times in the office of his former ice plant in downtown Concord. One of Concord's outstanding businessmen for more than twenty years, his name was synonymous with coal and ice distribution.

Arthur Bundy (A. B.) Pounds was born in Cabarrus County in 1879 to John Taylor Pounds and Laura Katherine Dove and had lived most of his life in Concord. He was married on Christmas eve 1901 to Annie Misenheimer and had two sons, Frank and Carl, and a daughter Emily. One of his earliest business successes was as an oil distributor, and then later as a coal and wood dealer. For many years Pounds served on the directorate of Cabarrus Bank & Trust Company and was also affiliated with the Imperial Cotton Mills of Edenton, Georgia. He and his family lived on West Corbin, but also had a stock raising farm near Salisbury called Edgewood. 

As an economically minded businessman, Pounds had diversified his coal and wood fuel distribution business to include ice. Ice was widely sold to consumers for food preservation before the age of in-home electric refrigeration. Home iceboxes date back to the days of ice harvesting, which had hit an industrial high that ran from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1930s. Ice was harvested in winter from snow-packed areas or frozen lakes, stored in ice houses and delivered domestically as iceboxes become more common. As early mechanical refrigerators became available, they were installed in large industrial plants producing ice for home delivery. The ability to produce clean, sanitary ice year-round gradually replaced ice harvested from ponds and lakes. Icemen, such as those working for Pounds, would make daily rounds delivering ice from a wagon, cart, or later a truck.

Home ice delivery, c. 1930
Pounds' ice business grew. By October of 1913, Refrigerating World Magazine reported that Pounds was having plans prepared for an ice plant to be erected on West Corbin Street in the heart of downtown Concord, allowing production to increase from 10 tons daily to 22 tons. 

In April of 1915, Pounds advertised the recent enlargement of his ice plant. He said that with the hot weather coming, ice made in Concord was better than buying ice shipped from outside the city. He could guarantee prompt service and better prices than any of the larger towns in the state. Besides, during the summer months, he would work 35 to 40 local men and boys - and more pay rolls is what Concord needed. If the money was all spent locally, it would support the city. Pounds further exclaimed, "It is the duty of all merchants and business men to boost the manufacturing plants of the city and I hope to receive the hearty support of all who live here." During WWI, Pounds was told that his coal supply would be redirected in support of the war. He turned to the further expansion of the ice operation. In August of 1922 it was announced that he would install a 25-ton electric drive ice plant. About 1928, he sold his ice business to the American Service Company, where his son Frank was appointed business manager.

On that fateful day in October of 1933, A. B. Pounds telephoned his son Frank at his office at American Service Company and said he was coming to see him. Pounds had recently been in ill health and was known to have a history of domestic problems and business differences with Frank. For an undisclosed reason, A. B. attacked Frank and bludgeoned him with a stick. After receiving head wounds, Frank shot him in self defense. Sadly, A. B. did not survive. Frank was released after a hospital stay and short time in jail. A. B. Pounds and Annie Misenheimer Pounds Caswell are buried in Concord's Oakwood Cemetery. Frank later worked in real estate and went on to be a veteran of WWII.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Harris Documents Early Farm Life in Cabarrus County

"American Farm Yard - Evening," Currier and Ives, 1857. Library of Congress.
Previous blog articles have discussed William Shakespeare Harris' twelve-page, hand written essay titled "Essay on Agriculture" (9 Apr 2014 and 30 May 2014). The essay details early life in Cabarrus County, including crops, farming and building techniques, clothing and lifestyle. Presumably, Harris learned much through his own experiences and those of elder Harris family members. Unfortunately, the date and circumstances of the essay are unknown. However, William Shakespeare Harris seems to have written the essay in response to a request from another party, most likely between 1850 and 1875 after Harris had farmed for a number of years.

After the passing of his first wife Elizabeth Torrence Powe in 1849, William Shakespeare Harris married Jane Witherspoon Ervin about 1851. They had at least four children, listed in the 1870 census as E. Ervin, age 13; Charles J., age 11; Brevard E., age 8; and Jane E., age 6. William Shakespeare Harris (1815-1875), Elizabeth Powe Harris (1824-1849) and Jane Ervin Harris (1825-1890) are buried at Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Concord, where Harris served as Church Elder for 26 years.

"Favoni," the home of Dr. Charles Harris, and later son William Shakespeare Harris,
was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. It is located near
Poplar Tent, in Concord. The two-story log section was built about 1791, with a two-story
frame addition forming an "L" shaped dwelling, about 1840.
The Agricultural Census schedules of 1850-1870 show Harris' successes in farming. In 1850, Harris liste 840 acres, with his farm valued at $8,000. He kept 8 horses, 12 milk cows, 14 other cattle, 25 sheep and 107 swine. His largest crop was Indian corn, but he also grew wheat and oats. In 1860, his holdings expanded to 915 acres, still valued at $8,000. he kept 7 horses, 9 mules, 12 milk cows, 18 other cattle, 20 sheep and 100 swine. Indian corn was still his largest crop; although he added some cotton and increased his wheat production. His oat harvest remained the same. Harris had 48 slaves.

By 1870, the Harris farm decreased in size, probably due to the post Civil War economic depression. Harris owned only 455 acres valued at $4,000, 1 horse, 3 milk cows, 7 other cattle, 10 sheep and 9 swine. He no longer produced oats, and his wheat, Indian corn and cotton productions all were down by half. Despite the decline, Harris still ranked as a fairly prosperous Cabarrus farmer and his essay is worthy of consideration for its details on agriculture and many other aspects of life in Cabarrus County.

In one passage, Harris describes the land as it appeared to the earliest settlers in the area: they found "a wilderness of cane, through which they cut their pathways with hatches brought with them from Pennsylvania...such was the exuberance of the virgin soil--that the pathways would fill up every spring--the tread of a sparse population and few domestic animals not being sufficient to keep them open...The timber...was principally large trees but was abundant enough for fuel and building."

Early houses were built of "exceedingly ponderous" logs, "preserved through a century of time," and "covered with boards secured against the wind and storm." It was expensive and very difficult to get nails. In later years, some houses had thatched roofs: "When farmers began to raise rye, they adopted the quaint mode of covering their farm houses with rye straw. So thoroughly thatched and laid in parallel [sic], that such roofs have been known to last 70 years.

William Shakespeare Harris' "Essay on Agriculture" reveals much more about everyday experiences and way of life of early Cabarrus county settlers. The entire essay is available in the Concord Library Lore Local History Room.

Courtesy of the Concord Library Lore Local History Room.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Dear Brother: A Cabarrus Soldier Writes Home

Library of Congress: "News from home". (Soldier at Culpeper, Va.,
Sept. 30, 1863). Pencil drawing by Edwin Forbes, 1863.
Today marks the sesquicentennial of the The Battle of Appomattox Court House, fought on the morning of April 9, 1865, and the subsequent surrender of Confederate Army general Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia to the Union Army under Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The signing of the surrender documents occurred in the parlor of the house owned by Wilmer McLean on the afternoon of April 9. On April 12, a formal ceremony marked the disbandment of the Army of Northern Virginia and the parole of its officers and men, effectively ending the war in Virginia. This event triggered a series of surrenders across the south, signaling the end of the war.

The author of the letter reprinted below was Richard Martin Patterson (1830-1909), a farmer and carpenter from northwestern Cabarrus County. He was married to Mary Ann Propst on 16 Feb 1854. They had five children. Richard and Mary are buried in Center Grove Lutheran Cemetery in Kannapolis. Patterson served in the 52nd Regiment, North Carolina, which fought at Gettysburg in 1863 and surrendered at Appomattox Court House in 1865. Patterson's letter has been reproduced with his own spelling and lack of punctuation.
January the 4 the
Camp Near liberty Mill
Dear Brother I seat my self to drop you afew lines to let you no that I am in tolerable helth my foot is very sore I hav not had my shoe on my foot in a month it looks like it will have to be taken off I hope thoes few lines ma find you an famley all well I wold like to be at your house to day it is snowing as hard her now as I ever saw if I was there we wold go a hunting and a hunting wold giv me som thing good to eat I cant get nothing her I want you to send me somthing to eat the first chants you can I cant say any thing about the war for I dont her any thing her the soldiers has mor hops of peas now thern ever was her be fore I hope the time is near at hand when the pore soldirs can get home an be a free peple again you hav no idia how glad I sold be to see my dear litle Betie but I hope I ma be spard till the 30 of Augest 1864 an then we will come home an see you all I expect to be a sconscrip in some other Ridgment I wist you new my mind an my notion about som thing I wold tell you if I cold see you I want you to let me no what you think about this war I want you to tell G A Propst that I think of him often and think of the good times I hav had at his house it makes me feal sory to think about theas good times we youst to hav and see what we hav come too tell him to rite an giv me all the news tell George an Jacky howdy for me Giv my respects to all my friends if you think I hav any but it is very doutful for I cant her from any person onley my Wife I want you to let me no how Charles is geting along Martin A Propts is well I see him evry day or too I Must Close it is very cold and we hav to keap our house dore shet to keep the snow out and it is so dark that I cant see to rite you must excues my bad riting an spelling for I am so easy bothered an somutch fuss that I cant do any beter I want you to rite soon an fail not I remain your treue
R M Patterson
un till deathe an
I wish to be rememberd
by you all 

Courtesy Cabarrus County Library, Lore History Room 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Cabarrus Businessman Bascom Umberger 
Financed Education Through Music

Bascom Umberger in his office instructing a salesman. The office was upstairs on the corner of Union Street, S. and Barbrick Avenue.

The following article contains excerpts from the June 1974 issue of Progress Magazine, produced by the Concord Telephone Company. 

About 1905, an enterprising and ambitious young man by the name of Bascom Leonard Umberger established a new business in Concord called The Home Educational Company. He was vitally interested in education, and his new enterprise sold and distributed books and other educational materials in North Carolina and several adjacent states. Included in the activities of this new establishment was the promotion and sale of a stringed musical instrument known as the "Mandolin-Guitar Harp."

The Mandolin-Guitar Harp has strings arranged so that the notes
of chords occur in groups.
The Mandolin-Guitar Harp, a type of modern chord zither, was actually manufactured by the Phonoharp Company, of East Boston Massachusetts. In spite of its beautiful tone and appearance, and the ease in which it could be played, the harp was was not selling. About the time the manufacturer was considering its discontinuation, it was discovered by Bascom Umberger. Since he had sold books door to door during his summer vacations from college, the idea came to him that if he had salesmen to take this harp to the home and show how even the children could play tunes on it, the harp should sell.

After working out an arrangement with the manufacturer to be an exclusive representative, he set up a business in Concord under the name The Home Educational Company. His first move was to visit some of the colleges and engage students who would work on commission selling harps over summer vacation in order to finance their education. Soon the business grew and there were hundreds of men in the field each summer, in addition to a number of men who worked for the company the year-round. These sales representatives worked in various locations across the country.

Bascom Umberger enjoyed successful and lucrative business until the tide changed in 1913. Mr. Umberger suffered an illness that hospitalized him in New York for some months. Although he recovered, 1914 proved to be a fateful year for The Home Educational Company. An economic slump occured when World War I broke out in Europe. The draft then called the young men into service who otherwise might have been his sales representatives. These conditions along with the worsening physical condition of Mr. Umberger finally ended the existence of The Home Educational Company.

Umberger family home "The Luberger Place."
Bascom Umberger was born December 16, 1872 in Wytheville, Virginia. He was the son of Abraham Umberger, a Confederate Civil War veteran, and Elizabeth Martin Umberger. In 1899 he married the lovely Miss Jennie Bell Ludwig of Number 4 Township (now part of Kannapolis), Cabarrus County. Mr. and Mrs. Umberger built a beautiful home atop a ridge near Cook's Crossing, Number 4 Township, and named it "The Luberger Place." This home was destined to survive for more than one-half century and to be occupied solely by the Umberger family. The building was demolished in 1971.

Mr. Umberger was active in all phases of religious and civic life in the Winecoff community. He served as a member of the school committee and was very active in Mt. Olivet Methodist Church. He was gifted with a rich tenor voice and could play many musical instruments. His talents were in great demand. He was principal in the development of the Parkwood Community and was a member of the Citizen's Bank & Trust Company Board of Directors. It is thought that he owned the first automobile in Cabarrus County and organized the first Boy Scout troop in the county (excluding the City of Concord). Along with Mr. C. J. W. Goodman and Mr. Will M. Barnhardt, Mr. Umberger was instrumental in securing the first telephone and electric service in the community.

Today, very few people in Concord have heard of The Home Educational Company, or even knew of its existence when at its height, because most of its operation was carried on in distant locations, and most of its salesmen lived elsewhere. Noted singer and musician Barbara Mandrell is known to own one of the mandolin-guitar harps, given to her from an admirer. Somewhere, sometime, it was sold by one of Mr. Umberger's traveling salesmen.

Bascom Umberger died in 1929. Jennie Ludwig Umberger survived him until 1968. They, as well as other family members, are buried at Mount Olivet United Methodist Church Cemetery in Concord.

Courtesy of the Concord Library, Lore Local History Room