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AMONG the provision of the Mecklenburg Resolves of May 31, 1775 it was stipulated that the inhabitants form themselves into nine companies and "chuse" two freeholders from each who would act as selectmen to govern the county. With some unimportant changes, this form of government existed until the Civil War. Following the war, the county was divided into fifteen townships. Later, five towns were incorporated and many villages and communities established.
The town of Davidson was first incorporated in 1879 under the name of Davidson College and continued under this name until 1891, when by legislative enactment the name was changed to Davidson. The town had its beginning in the early days of Davidson College, which was founded in 1837. The name Davidson came from General William Lee Davidson, a Revolutionary hero who was killed in battle not far from the site of the college and the town.
The town of Davidson is governed by a mayor and five commissioners elected by vote of the citizens every two years. The town owns its own Municipal Building in which centers the town government. Public utilities are ample. The town purchases electricity from Duke Power Company and owns and operates its own electrical distribution system, as well as its water and sewer services. Three policemen are in service working on eight-hour shifts, and there is a radio connection between the Mecklenburg County rural police and the Davidson police car, which substantially strengthens the town's police protection. The town has a 26-man volunteer fire department trained in the art of fighting fires. Insurance rates are low and the tax on property is 65 cents on the $100 taxable valuation.
Much of the life of the community centers around the college and the churches. There are five churches or chapels for white people and three for Negroes. There are various social clubs, usually spoken of as "Book Clubs." Located here is one of the oldest Masonic lodges in the state and a vigorous and progressive Lions Club. Scout troops for both boys and girls have capable and dedicated leaders. Davidson is a delightful little town in which to live and rear a family, and has attractions for persons seeking a place to spend retirement years. The College Art Series, lectures and other happenings are open to the public. There is a fine commingling of interest between the town and the college.
Public school facilities are adequate and are staffed by competent teachers. The Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County has erected a new branch library.
Davidson has a dentist and two medical doctors, a bank, and all other services.
Pineville, eleven miles to the south of Charlotte on U.S. Route 21, near the South Carolina line, was
incorporated as a separate municipality in 1872. Nearby is the birthplace of James Knox Polk, eleventh President of the United States. The site, one mile from the Pineville railroad station and 220 feet off the highway, is marked by a rubble-stone pyramid fifteen feet high.
Another distinction of which the town is proud is that it was probably the first in North Carolina to prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages, in fact, the original charter so provides.
Originally known as "Morrow's Turnout," the busy little town became Pineville with the opening of the Charlotte, Columbia and Augusta Railroad in 1852. Not long after the Civil War, one merchant, Tom Younts, was doing a retail business of more than $100,000 annually at Pineville, and by 1900 there were ten stores operating in the village.
About three to five thousand bales of cotton are still ginned and sold in Pineville each year; it is the only cotton producing section of any consequence left in Mecklenburg County. In 1890 the Dover Yarn Mill was established by a group of Pineville and Charlotte stockholders. In 1902 this mill was bought and reorganized by the Chadwick-Hoskins Mills. In 1946 it was acquired by the Cone Mills Corporation, enlarged, and completely modernized, since which time it has operated 36,000 spindles and 660 looms. The hundred or so homes, previously known as the mill village, have been remodeled and are now owned by their occupants.
The Pineville Elementary and High School began with three teachers and one hundred and twenty-five students in all grades. Now limited to elementary students, this school has fourteen teachers and four hundred and fifteen students, while high school students attend a nearby consolidated school. The school for Negro students is a modern building with twenty-six teachers and enrollment of 752.
Pineville has seven churches. The Presbyterian, daughter-church of Sharon Presbyterian Church, was built in 1875; the Methodist Church was established in 1881; the Baptist, daughter-church of Flint Hill Baptist Church, was established in 1903; the Nazarene Church in 1947; the House of God in 1948. There are two Negro churches, a Presbyterian and a Methodist.
There are 35 business establishments in Pineville besides the Cone Mill. These include a boat factory, a chemical plant, and a bag factory. The town also has a hospital, bank, public library, an efficient fire department, police department and sanitary department as well as all modern conveniences. The health of the city has been in the hands of a long list of capable physicians, including Dr. J. A. Ardrey (1872-91); Dr. Wm. K. Reid (1892-1908); Dr. E. H. Hand (1908-1920); Dr. George A. Black (1920-1932); Dr. W. C. Ward (1933-1943); Dr. H. B. McGill, Jr. (1933-1943); Dr. L. D. Walker (1943-1944); Dr. R. C. Reid (since 1944).
Pineville's altitude is 575 feet, and the population at the time of the 1960 census, 1,514.
Before the coming of the railroad in 1874 there was a stagecoach inn and post office known as Fullwood near the present site of the town of Matthews, about ten miles from Charlotte on United States Route 74. The name of the community was changed to Matthews with the coming of the Central Carolina Railroad as an honor to one of the railroad officials. The railroad eventually became the Seaboard Air Line.
The story of Matthews is not one of phenomenal growth, but rather a record of steady and permanent community development. The town was incorporated in 1879 when the population was about 200. As of 1960 the population had increased to 609, many of whom bear the name of Reid, Funderburk, Renfrow, Stevens, Grier, Massey, Barrett, Heath, Hood, McLeod, McLaughlin, Phillips, and Cochran, all of whom descended from early settlers. Two citizens of Matthews have served in the legislature - T. J. Renfrow in the House and J. Sol Reid in the House and in the Senate.
Matthews is especially proud of three churches: Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian, the first building of all three having erected in 1877, on lots donated by local citizens, E. J. Funderburk to the Baptists, Joseph McLaughlin to the Methodists, and J. Sol Reid to the Presbyterians. The town is also proud of its record in education, having the first Mecklenburg County school to add Home Economics to its curriculum, and among the first to broaden its program by the establishment of a program of music instruction, and adopting the use of audio-visual methods.
An active Woman's Club, American Legion Post, and Masonic lodge contribute to the cultural and fraternal life of Matthews, as does a flourishing branch of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Once humorously called "Stumptown" because of the stumps left when the forest was learned, Matthews was developed into a community of neat, well-kept homes. Like Pineville, it is becoming the trading center for Charlotte people who have moved to the neighborhood. The altitude of Matthews is 716 feet.
Cornelius, youngest of Mecklenburg's five incorporated towns, was born in 1893 but not incorporated until 1905. The story of its origin is given in an article by Fannie Lou Bingham in the Charlotte News of September 27, 1935.
Before 1888 Davidson was a market place for a great many farmers from up and down the Statesville road and from Lincoln County. The Lincoln County folks came across the Catawba River and up the river road which entered the Statesville Highway at a point which is now the middle of Cornelius.
Two business firms were thriving at Davidson, the R. J. Stough Company and Sloan Brothers. Each firm furnished farms on open account and had its own scales and did its own weighing of cotton. When Charlotte, the county seat, appointed a town weigher, an agitation began at Davidson for a similar official. Some thought it was a waste of money to pay for weighing, while others thought that it was the only way to insure honest weighing. R. J. Stough Company was in favor of the buyer doing his own weighing, and Sloan Brothers in favor of a town weigher.
A hot election was held. The Stough Company lost and a town weigher was hired. Thereupon, Stough went just outside the Davidson town limit, where the river met the Statesville Highway, and built a small frame building, placing scales in the back yard. He retained his place of business at Davidson, but did his weighing outside of town.
Later, the hill leading into Davidson became so muddy that farmers were convinced it would be better to sell to Stough than to venture into Davidson, which accounts for the fact that Stough began buying more cotton than Sloan Brothers. He then moved a little stock of goods to his country store and hired a "right smart boy," C. W. Johnston, to clerk for him. (That "right smart boy" turned out to be the C. W. Johnston who headed Highland Park Mill and other mills and who built the 17-story Johnston Building in Charlotte.) Stough and Johnston conceived the idea of having a mill nearby so that cotton could be converted into cloth right there. They didn't have enough money to spare but knew a man who did, Joe Cornelius of Davidson. Soon the cotton mill opened and the town took its name from the principal stockholder who apparently never made his home there but whose widow, nee Ann Sherrill, did locate at Cornelius after his death.
The first post office was opened November 17, 1899, with F. C. Sherrill as postmaster. Before that, Jacob Alonzo (Jake) Dove rode a bicycle to Cornelius where he picked up the outgoing mail for the nearest post office, which was at Caldwell Station, three miles away. At the time he put the Cornelius mail in a tin tub at the mill where each person would go through it for his own mail.
Among the early settlers of Cornelius were the families of Robert Pitts, Douglas Weddington, Frank Brown, Andy Hall, Allison Black, Jack White, Charles Readling, and Isaac Barnette. The first local school was opened about 1906 with Mrs. Emma Thompson Stough as the first teacher. The monument in front of Mt. Zion Church, honoring 44 Confederate dead, was unveiled in August 1910.
From that early beginning has developed by 1960 a progressive little town, proud of its schools, churches, clubs, public library, and business firms. Its altitude is 833 feet and the 1960 census gives it a population of 1,444.
Since its earliest years the Huntersville community, originally called Craighead for the staunch pioneer patriot Alexander Craighead, has been known for its championing of education.
The site of two of the first high schools in the western area of the state, established less than two decades after the close of the Civil War, Huntersville continues as an educational center with two senior high schools, a consolidated junior high school, and an elementary school.
It is likewise a community of churches, with congregations affiliated with six denominations.
Huntersville was chartered March 9, 1877. From the beginning it has had an aldermanic form of government, with a mayor and four aldermen.
Of the original Huntersville High School's location, its "Scholastic Year, 1882-1883" catalog says:
"This School is situated in the pleasant little village of Huntersville, Mecklenburg County, N. C., fourteen miles north of Charlotte, on the A. T. & O. Division of the C. C. & A. Railroad. Hence the mail facilities are all that could be desired - twice every day. The climate cannot be excelled anywhere. Situated as it is on a high ridge of country, no place can boast of purer or fresher air, and consequently no place is healthier than Huntersville. There is emphatically no local cause either in or near Huntersville that has a tendency to produce disease."
This school was established four years earlier and was first taught in the little session house of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church by the church's pastor, Reverend W. W. Orr, D. D. "It started with ten scholars," the catalogue reveals, "without a school building. This year it closed with seventy pupils, and a bright prospect for the future." It then had a three-room frame building, some hundred yards south of the church, "neat, comfortable, and well adapted to the purpose for which it was built; each room is furnished with a large stove, comfortable desks and plenty of blackboard surface."
Board and lodging was $8 a month and tuition was for $1 to $5 a month. Washing was $1. "Persons desiring to move to Huntersville for the purpose of educating their children can buy good lots (1 acre) in any part of town for from $40 to $100," the catalogue further revealed. "The average price is $50 per acre."
Contemporaneously with the operation of Dr. Orr's school was that of the Grey Academy in the southern section of the village, conducted by Professor Hugh Grey, who was later Mecklenburg's superintendent of schools. Students from a wide area, many of them from Charlotte and some from as far away as Mexico, came to Huntersville to attend these schools and later the consolidated institution housed in what then was one of the largest and most modern school structures in the region, the two-story brick building in the western edge of the village known as The Academy. A few years later this school would become a part of the public school system as one of the original North Carolina state high schools.
Huntersville's attachment to education has been maintained through the decades. Its percentage of college-educated citizens is one of the highest in the state.
One of the state's oldest textile plants, founded at Huntersville in the decade of the 'nineties and long operated as the Anchor Mills, has developed in recent years into an ultra-modern plant manufacturing housewares and polyurethane products.
The town's average elevation is 814 feet; the 1960 population was 1,004.
Before there were incorporated towns, Mecklenburg County had been divided into fifteen townships. The division took place about 1868 and was made necessary by Article VII, Section 3, of the newly adopted state constitution, reading as follows: "It shall be the duty of the commissioners in each county to divide the same into convenient districts, to determine their boundaries and prescribe the names of such districts. . . ."
Five of the townships were named for creeks, three for embryo towns within their borders, three for prominent families, two for Presbyterian churches, and two apparently for euphoney. While still referred to locally by their original names, all Mecklenburg townships are now known officially by numbers. With their 1960 census, these townships, with corresponding numbers, are as follows: 1 - Charlotte (201,564); 2 - Berryhill (8,250); 3 - Steele Creek (3,009); 4 - Sharon (7,971); 5 - Providence (2,815); 6 - Clear Creek (3,121); 7 - Crab Orchard (8,301); 8 - Mallard Creek (7,802); 9 - Deweese (4,988); 10 - Lemley (1,578); 11 - Long Creek (4,748); 12 - Paw Creek (9,308); 13 - Morning Star (3,246); 14 - Pineville (3,174); and 15 - Huntersville (2,866).
While these township divisions of the county have remained very much the same for nearly a century, the smaller subdivisions represented by lists of villages and post offices have changed so rapidly that they have been described as "genealogist's nightmares." The earliest Gazetteer of Mecklenburg County (an alphabetical list of villages and post offices) is contained in the Charlotte City Directory for 1879. Under each post office there is a list of prominent citizens. In addition to Charlotte, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, and Pineville, the following post offices are listed:
Alexandriana: on A. T. & O. RR 8 miles north of Charlotte
Caldwell: on A. T. & O. RR 15 miles north of Charlotte
Cowan's Ford: 16 miles west of Charlotte
Harrison: 13 miles south of Charlotte
Hebron: on C. C. & A. RR 7 miles south of Charlotte
Irene: 14 miles east of Charlotte
Martindale: 8 miles northwest of Charlotte
Mint Hill: 12 miles east of Charlotte
Mutual Love: 5 miles northwest of Charlotte
Paw Creek: 6 miles west of Charlotte
Query's: 8 miles north of Charlotte
Ranaleburg: 13 miles southwest of Charlotte
River View: 22 miles northwest of Charlotte
Steele Creek: 9 miles southwest of Charlotte
The above apparently was not a complete list, for Branson's North Carolina Business Directory for 1869 lists the following post offices for Mecklenburg County not in the 1879 Charlotte City Directory: Clear Creek, Providence, White Hall, Sherrill's Ford, Craighead, Hopewell.
By 1896 some of the foregoing had disappeared but many others had been added. Branson's Business Directory for that year lists the following with their population figures:
Cowan's Ford, 500
Mint Hill, 100
Paw Creek, 50
Pineville, 400 Query's, 40
River View, 30
Steele Creek, 50
With the coming of Rural Free Delivery service in 1896 these small post offices began to disappear rapidly. According to the 1960 Postal Guide those remaining in Mecklenburg were Charlotte, Cornelius, Davidson, Derita, Huntersville, Matthews, Newell, Paw Creek, and Pineville.
Of the villages large enough to support a post office the nearest to Charlotte and most thickly populated is Derita. It has the distinction of being almost in the exact center of Mecklenburg County. The first post office was established in 1882 with Amos L. Rumple as postmaster. The village was named after Derita Lewis, a friend of Mr. Rumple.
In 1889 the citizens bought $25 shares in a school which was built at a cost of $570. This was operated as Derita Academy before being sold to the Mecklenburg County Board of Education in 1892.
Other unincorporated villages in Mecklenburg County - each with its loyal citizenship - include Mint Hill, Steele Creek, Berryhill, and Newell.
Blythe, LeGette and Brockmann, Charles Raven. Hornets' Nest: The Story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Charlotte, N.C.: Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, 1961.