The History of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina

To those who do me the honor of reading the history as prepared, it is necessary that I should say I am indebted in greater or less degree, to Foot's Sketches of North Carolina, Wheeler's History of North Carolina, Martin's History, written between 1791 and 1809, but not published till a later date; also I am indebted to manuscripts of Mrs. H. M. Irvin, deposited in the archives of the Mecklenburg Historical Society; also largely to manuscripts of Lyman Draper, of Wisconsin. Prof. Draper spent much time and took great pains in looking up the early history of Mecklenburg, and left no stone unturned that might throw light on the character of those early patriots, who risked everything to establish independence. This was indeed a bold act, to sever all relations with the mother country, knowing that not to succeed, meant death on the gallows. The Rubicon was crossed, and they could not go back. Patriots of the county held many meetings and debated the question earnestly before the final meeting in Charlotte on the 19th and 20th of May, 1775. All the costs were counted, and each one knew what the consequences would be if they should fail. They were in desperate straits either to live as slaves and submit to all the indignities of a subjudicated province, or make a declaration of independence, maintain their freedom by force of arms, trusting in the God of right. This last resolve was adopted, success was achieved, and Mecklenburg occupied the foremost place for patriotism in all this mighty continent. Strange that a history of so remarkable a country should have been neglected so long, and only here and there a fugitive piece has been preserved; many things of note were enacted by patriots more than a century ago that are now faded from memory, that should have been preserved by those who lived at that time. It has been characteristic of North Carolinians to make history, but not to write it.

In writing the History of Mecklenburg County, I find it very difficult not to trespass on the confines of neighboring counties, and not to follow people who have gone out from our borders. The history of a State, or a county, is almost entirely the history of the people who constitute the inhabitants; all that part of Mecklenburg county, or the greater portion of the county, was settled with the Scotch-Irish, but the part that was given to form Cabarrus, had many of German extraction. This eastern border was trimmed in 1791, and the southeastern section was lopped off to form Cabarrus county, was peopled with the Scotch-Irish, the same people that populated Mecklenburg.

In the years 1830 to 1855, quite a large emigration of our people to all of the Western States was effected, that was to the detriment of our county, but tended to the advancement of all the interests of the States to which they migrated. From the latter period, but a small per cent, moved away in comparison to the number that moved previously. Prom the location, being placed' in the southern part of the Pied- mont section, filled with the best of immigrants from Ireland and Scotland, inheriting a love of freedom that had come to them through a long line of ancestors who had suffered much, for their love of freedom to worship God according to the distates of their consciences, they were exceedingly fortunate in having Mr. Alexander Craighead, providentially sent to instruct them how to resist all kingly oppression, both in ecclesiastical and civil affairs. Notwithstanding he ceased from his labors nine years before the great convention of May 20, 1775, the doctrines he advocated with so much earnestness from the pulpit, and in his pastoral visits, found lodgment in good and honest hearts of all the people who sat at his feet and learned of him. Through the instruction given by this great man, though rejected by Maryland and Pennsylvania, and urged to leave these States, was gladly accepted by the people here, whereby the county of Mecklenburg became the cradle of liberty for the Western world. The seven churches he was instrumental in forming, contributed most of the men who signed the immortal Declaration of Independence.
It is now the part of patriotism for the descendants of those who endorsed the work of that ever memorable 20th of May, as well as the descendants of the committee who signed the famous resolutions then adopted, to hold them up as patriots in deed, who took a decided stand for liberty more than a year before the colonies declared themselves free and independent of Great Britain.

This act is enough for any people to be proud of, and had it occurred in ancient times, the participants would have been knighted, if not deified. And it is with sincere regret that any citizen of Mecklenburg county should deny the truth of so w:ell established a fact, by records of court, the statements of several of the signers themselves, and by men who were not participants but were present; two of whom were Maj. Gen. Joseph Graham and Rev. Dr. Humphrey Hunter, both of whom were present, but not signers, both being under age, but both in the patriot army.

The love of country, which has always been a crowning virtue in the people of Mecklenburg, could be seen in the Revolutionary period, and in the war of 1812-14, when England claimed the "right of search;" in the war with Mexico, and last but by no means least, the war between the States, when our county sent to the front more than 2,700 men. She is always first in a good cause, and last to let go. For the last forty years she has devoted her whole attention to building up her shattered fortunes, and; educating her children. For seven years after the close of the war between the States, not a public school was taught in the county ; our people needed* schools, but we lived for a while under the iron heel of despotism. But, now we hear of education on every side, and civilization is progressing with steam and electricity, so it is hard to keep up with the procession. Our old civilization is fast disappearing, giving way for the new. War is no longer a coveted art in the South, but its opposite is in the lead, and peace will soon have her victories that will far exceed those that formerly belonged to the red flag of war.

The middle of the last century brought in many changes in the workings of our civilization; our people till then nearly all lived on their farms, raised their own supplies, save their sugar, coffee, salt, molasses, etc. All of our ordinary clothing was spun and woven at home. Every community had its own tanyard, and every farmer (of consequence) had their own shoemaker. In fact we were able to live within ourselves. The women knit all our hose; if flannel shirts were needed, they were made of home-made flannel. A great deal of attention was paid to the raising of sheep; fine wool was in demand for making fine flannel, and: for making wool hats. Much attention was given to procure the best breed of hogs, cows, horses; even attention was given to the best strain of poultry, chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks. We did not have such a variety to select from, but the poultry and hogs did not have cholera; and I never heard of cows being affected with ptithisis, or consumption. The last twenty-five years have added to the ills of humanity, as much as to the sufferings of the domestic animals.

The affection known as "appendicitis," was unknown twenty-five years ago, even in the medical books, but has become quite common not only in Mecklenburg, but throughout the country. This is probably offset by smallpox becoming mild, and is dreaded not so much as measles; hence it is but little talked about, although it has scarcely been absent from Charlotte in the past six months.

It is well for the children to know the history of Mecklenburg, for no other territory of the same size in the United States has such a glorious record to hold before her people. Charlotte was properly named by Lord Comwallis, "A Veritable Hornets' Nest," and she will ever be jealous of fier rights, in whatever way or form she may be attacked. Let her children learn her history, and it will be safe from those who would traduce her fame. There is no safer custodian to preserve her priceless treasure than the descendants of those heroes who won for us the Constitutional Liberty we enjoy today.

 

Table of Contents

Preface 3
Early Settlement 9
Early Recollections of Charlotte 12

May 20, 1775 25
Martin's Historical Account of the Declaration of Independence 28
Prominent Men who Took an Active Part 33
The Celebration of May 20, 1775, in the Year 1825 42
A Historical Fact Not Generally Known 47
Troops Furnished for the War of 181 2-14 52
Members of General Assembly from 1777 to 1902, Inclusive, and Time of Service 58
County Officers and Time of Service 61
Rev. Alexander Craighead 66
Dr. D. T. Caldwell 71
Lives and Peculiarities of Some of the Signers 73
Some of the Bar One Hundred Years Ago 91
President James Knox Polk 95
William Davidson 97
Gov. Nathaniel Alexander 98
Maj. Green W. Caldwell 99
The Opinion of the Ladies 100 Matthew Wallace and George Wallace 101
Adam Alexander 104
Humphrey Hunter 107
Hopewell Church and Graveyard 115
The Part Mecklenburg Took in Mexican War 118
Banks and Banking 119
Some of the Prominent Citizens in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century 120
The Champions of the County 123
Blind Dick 124
Negroes Before the War Between the States 125
State Laws Before the War in 1865 129
Biographical Sketches 131
The Central Hotel 194
The Charlotte Hotel 195
Rufus Barringer, of Cabarrus and Mecklenburg 197
The Great Commoner, Z. B. Vance 209
Calvin Eli Grier 222
Matthew Wallace and Family 225
Capt. John Randolph Erwin 227
Hon. James W. Osborne 231
Rev. John Hunter 234
The Hunter Family 235
The Descendants of Some of the Famous Men who Fought in the Revolutionary War 237
Many Men Who Sustained a Splendid Reputation as Ministers of the Gospel in the Various Years of the Nineteenth Century
Rev. John McCamie Wilson, D. D 252
Rev. A. W. Miller, D. D 258
Two Church Sessions Act as a Unit 261
Methodists in the County 264
Roman Catholic Church 271
The Associate Reformed Presbyterians 272
The Lutheran Church 276
The Baptist Denomination 277
The Rock Springs Burying Ground 279
Sugar Creek Church 281
Steele Creek Church 286
Providence Church 291
Flowers Now and One Hundred Years Ago 295
The Old Four-Horse Stage 297
Lee Dunlap Kills James Gleason 299
Mint Built in 1836 302
The Two Town Pumps 303
Public Works in Charlotte Fifty Years Ago 304
Changes in Mecklenburg in the Last Century 308
Healthfulness of Mecklenburg 311
Snow on the 15th of April, 1849 313
Aurora Borealis as Seen in October, 1865 314
Stars Fell in the Fall of 1833 315
The Passing of an Aerolite From West to East 316
Earthquake Shocks in 1886 317
Progress 320
Gentlemen and Ladies Before the Civil War 323
Patrol in Slavery Times 329
Roster of Confederate Troops 333
Reconstruction Times in Mecklenburg 361
Last Chapter of Mecklenburg History 370
Appendix 385

 

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With what complacency we could look back upon the early years of our county, if a memorandum had been kept of the first inhabitants, what they did, how they educated their children, how far apart the neighbors lived, their first temples of worship, how services were conducted, did the aborigines join in the praise to God, the giver of life and every blessing, or did they sullenly lode on as if they were infringing upon their inalienable rights, as if they were taking unwarranted liberties that no one had ever dared to do before. The settlement of the State began near the coast and gradually extended west. The eastern section of the State was populated a century before Mecklenburg was named, or steps were taken to lay off meets and bounds to form a county. In that early period there was no occasion for hurry, and everything moved slowly.