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Chatham County Historical Association

Preserving and sharing the history of Chatham County North Carolina

snippets ~ chatham history BLOG

Little Bits of Chatham History

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  • 31 May 2024 8:26 PM | Anonymous

    The Endor Iron Furnace is legendary in Chatham County--even though it "moved" to Lee County when that county was formed in 1907.

    The Endor Iron Company was chartered in April, 1862. Two months later investors purchased the Deep River plantation of Alexander McIver and constructed a smelting furnace on it. The furnace is constructed of soft local reddish-gray stones and measures approximately 32 feet square at the base and rises to a height of about 35 feet.

    It is likely that the furnace supplied the Confederate arsenal at Fayetteville in addition to small nearby arms factories. The ironworks changed hands twice before a Maryland manufacturer purchased Endor and, with a local partner, invested heavily in the operation. By 1872, their Cape Fear Iron and Steel Company was one of the South’s largest and best equipped iron furnaces.

    Only two years later, it was determined that local mineral deposits were smaller than had first been thought and by 1876, the company had ceased operation. Though most of the machinery was dismantled and removed, the furnace continued operating until 1896 on a smaller scale, serving only local manufacturers.

    Back in 1990, Robert Weisner wrote a detailed article about the furnace for CCHA's journal. He tracked down records and tried to sort out the furnace's story. He entitled his article "Wading through Error and Confusion: An Update of a Study of the Endor Iron Furnace." If you care to know more about the site, you can read it on our website (along with other, shorter articles in that issue):

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #EndorIronFurnace #DeepRiver #mining

  • 31 May 2024 8:23 PM | Anonymous

    The Bonlee and Western Railroad 1915.

    This short line, home-owned and operating entirely within the county, was incorporated in 1908 for the transportation of freight and passengers. It extended from Bonlee in a southwesterly direction for about ten miles to Bennett. It was completed in 1910. The locomotive was a wood burner.

    At Bonlee, the Bonlee and Western connected with the railway running between Greensboro and Sanford. The train made four round trips a day. The line primarily served the lumber business of John H. and Isaac H. Dunlap, who were also its principal stockholders. It also provided important freight and passenger service to the general public.

    For several years, the Bonlee and Western ran a special on July 4 to take passengers to the celebration in Siler City.

    The railway operated until the early 1930s. The principal station between terminals was at Wells, located three miles northeast of Bennett. There, a dilapidated building remained as late as 1971, when the county history, Chatham County 1771-1971, was written.

    Folks from that part of the county have told us that they have found spikes from this line. If you have some, how about donating one for the Chatham County Historical collection?

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamHistory #ChathamCountyNC #ChathamNC #BonleeNC #BennettNC #BonleeandWestern #railroad #locomotive #July4 #1900s

  • 31 May 2024 8:16 PM | Anonymous

    This is the G. W. Blair Filling Station and Store, which was located on West St. in Pittsboro. It was built in the 1940s by G. W. Blair, who also built the Blair Hotel in Pittsboro and served as Chatham County Sheriff from 1920 to 1932.

    Unlike earlier commercial architecture, this building had a more residential look that mirrored neighboring one-story homes built in the 1920s. The building also served as Whitaker's Tire Sales and West End Grocery, as well as the Greyhound Bus Stop. The exterior was altered in 1989. The building now (2024) houses Keepsakes Frame Shop.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #PittsboroNC #GWBlair #FillingStation #CommercialArchitecture #architecture #1940s

  • 31 May 2024 8:11 PM | Anonymous

    More than 100 years ago, Isaiah Cole visited the house in which his father was born, and reported that it was in good condition. The house was said to be 106 years old at the time. Reported in the 20 Mar 1919 Chatham Record.

    The house, pictured here in 1983, when the county's architectural survey was conducted, was in "very dilapidated condition." It was said to be one of the most important early houses in Chatham County. It is believed to be the homeplace of Methodist minister Isaiah Cole (1778-circa 1850), who bought the land on which it stands from his father, William Cole, in 1811.

    According to the Architectural Heritage of Chatham County NC, the original house was a south-facing saddle-notch log cabin, probably one room in size, constructed circa 1800. The beautifully crafted chimney can be seen in our photo. Subsequently, in the mid-1800s, a frame addition with pegged joints was built on the western elevation of the cabin and given a Federal era treatment that included flush sheathing in the hall-parlor interior, an enclosed stair, and "a notable mantle with reeded pilasters and a two-part frieze." I wish we had photos of those features!

    The house no longer stands today. Click on the image to enlarge.

    Chatham's architectural heritage has recently been updated, at least in part, by a project undertaken by volunteer Kimberly Steiner, to photograph older houses in four of Chatham's townships. You can find her results to date on our website:

    If there's an old house or outbuilding in the county that you think is worth preserving in photos, send us some photos along with whatever information you have.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamNC #ChathamHistory #OldHouse #IsaiahColeHouse #LogCabin #architecture

  • 30 Apr 2024 9:44 PM | Anonymous

    The home places of early Siler City residents, like those of the residents of Pittsboro, resembled, on a reduced scale, the family farms from which most had recently migrated. On the premises, a horse, cow, pigs and chickens might be kept--necessitating a barn, hog-pen and chicken house. Many homesteads had a vegetable garden and a few had a smokehouse. All had a privy.

    Water was most often from a hand-dug well located in the back yard or under the back porch. Dead horses and cows were dragged through the streets behind a wagon to the local boneyard, which was located in the area where Jordan Matthews High School now stands.

    In 1914 a town ordinance required that excrement be removed from all privies and pigpens at least once a month. The man who carried out this job used a one-horse wagon with a wooden box with hinged cover in the wagon bed. A bucket and shovel were used to move the material from the privy or pigpen to the wagon. He was said to always be smoking a pipe with strong tobacco.

    Information from Wade Hadley's The Town of Siler City: 1887 - 1987. Photo is the John Siler, or Siler-Matthews house from The Architectural Heritage of Chatham County, North Carolina. Both books are available in CCHA's online store

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #SilerCityNC #EarlyTownLife #privies #SilerMatthewsHouse

  • 30 Apr 2024 9:38 PM | Anonymous

    A few yards south of The Arbor section of the Galloway Ridge Retirement Community in north Chatham, inside an old stone wall, nine tombstones rise starkly above the barren ground. They tell the story of the Smith and Jones families, who lived on this land and whose legacy is an important part of American history up to this day. All the complexities and contradictions of the southern slave-owning society of the 19th century influenced the lives of the eight family members and one friend buried in the cemetery. Mike Zbailey tells the story of the former Jones Grove plantation and the families associated with it. An associated paper by Sy Robbins traces the deed history of the various parcels that were once part of this former plantation.

    Jones Grove The Land and the People

    Jones Grove Deed History

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #JonesGrove #plantation #slavery #cemetery

  • 30 Apr 2024 9:27 PM | Anonymous

    Adcock Family of Chatham County ca 1908

    This photo of the Adcock family is part of the Historic Siler City Collection donated to the Chatham County Historical Association by Duane Hall.

    In the 1900 census, the family lived in Matthews Township, where Joseph J. was a farmer, age 55. His wife, Louiza, was 25 (note that ages were often estimated by the census taker and can be inconsistent from one census to the next). Children in the household at that time were Sanky, 8; Mildred, 4; Arizona, 2; and Fada, 1. [Fada in the census and Fobie on the photo, must be Foda, according to the grave marker in Love's Creek Church cemetery. Foda died at age 13.]

    In the 1910 census, closer to when this photo was taken, the family is listed as Joseph J. age 60; Lou, age 30; Sankie, 17; Mildred, 13; Arizona, 12; Foda, 9; Joseph [Broadway], 7; Pickard [Plackard], 6; Hazel, 5; Decie, 4; Laura, 1. (We think Laura might be Margaret, who was born in 1908. Margaret named her daughter Laura, so perhaps that was a middle name?)

    Ancestry lists more children, including Franklin, Jessie, and Fannie, born after this photo was taken.

    According to a newspaper article that included this photo, the family members are identified as Foda, father Joseph J. [or Joshua Joseph], baby Laura/Margaret held by mother Louiza, Sankie, Mildred, Arizona. And the front row with smaller children shows Joseph Broadway, Plackard, Hazel, and Decie.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #SilerCityNC #SilerFamily #Genealogy

  • 30 Apr 2024 9:20 PM | Anonymous

    Siler City Post Office, 1940.

    This building was completed in 1940 on the site of the John Siler House around which Siler City developed. Mount Airy granite was used in the construction of the post office, which cost $57,490.

    The mural inside the post office was commissioned by the WPA (although the building itself was not). The mural, which depicts nineteenth-century Matthews Crossroads (Siler City's precursor) and the John Siler House, was painted by artist Maxwell Starr of New York, who was paid $400 for the project.

    From the Chatham County Historical Association collection.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #SilerCityNC #postoffice #1940s 

  • 31 Mar 2024 6:06 PM | Anonymous

    Pictured here is Amanda Jane Watson (Bynum) Headen, daughter of Sidney Bynum and Harriet Watson Bynum. Amanda was born into slavery in 1847, near Goldston (Chatham County). She was enslaved by the Watson family. Amanda, also known as Mandy Jane, married Zachariah (Zach) Headen on 8 October 1872. Zach had been enslaved by the Headen family.

    A story about Amanda’s young life was related by her daughter Ida, who said her mother “had it better than most enslaved people” because she worked inside the house. However, when Mr. Watson’s daughter married, he gave Amanda to the couple as a wedding present. The couple lived in a big house across from the Sharpe Store on the Pittsboro-Goldston Road. Amanda spent most of her young life there. One day, the son-in-law became angry at Amanda and cut off all of her long black hair. When Mr. Watson heard about this event, he took Amanda back for good.

    Zachariah grew corn and wheat from which the family made their own corn meal and flour. They ate year-round from their family’s garden and slaughtered all of their own meat. Zach was a well-known farmer who acquired land. Stories have been passed down through generations that he owned the land where Goldston’s present day JS Waters Elementary School and Mt. Herman AME Zion Church are located.

    Zach and Amanda’s children included: Fisher, Hazy, Osker, George, Nina, Gertrude, Esther, Walter, and Ida. Zach gave all four of his daughters names of endearment--Nina was Miss, Gertrude was Babe, Esther (Easter) was Shug, and Ida was Honey. In a 1975 Chatham Record article about the life of 105-year-old George Headen, his sister Ida stated their parents taught their children “to do right, be truthful, don’t steal, and don’t meddle.”

    Zachariah and Amanda made sure all of their children attended the one room school at Roberts Chapel Missionary Baptist Church where they learned to read and write and attended weekly services. The date of the photo included here of students at the school is unknown, but could include some of Zach and Mandy’s children.

    The descendants of Zachariah and Amanda gather bi-annually during the third weekend in August. Five hundred descendants come to Chatham and Lee Counties from all across the United States. The Zachariah and Amanda Headen Mega Family Reunion has become the largest family gathering in the region.

    Our thanks to Jace L. Cox for contributing this story about his great-great-grandmother's family.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #FamilyHistory #WomensHistory #HerStory #BlackHistory #AfricanAmericanHistory #Headen #GoldstonNC #1800s #1900s

  • 31 Mar 2024 6:04 PM | Anonymous

    Martha Susan Johnson Burns was a well-known Pittsboro fixture--and an interesting character. For many years, Martha ran the Cross Hotel--which became known as the Burns Hotel. It was located across East Street from the Pittsboro Presbyterian Church. According to newspaper accounts, the hotel was a busy place, hosting visitors to Pittsboro, many hunting parties, weddings, and itinerant professionals and tradespeople such as dentists, veterinarians, and piano tuners. Martha's accommodations and cooking were praised widely. Many northerners who came to Chatham to hunt stayed in the hotel year after year.

    Martha's great granddaughter, Edwina Eubanks, has shared Martha's story with us. You'll see that she preferred to travel by horseback and loved fishing--even at 83! You can read more about Martha's life on our website:

    Edwina doesn't have a lot of information about her great great grandmother Eliza Ann Brantley Burns, but has written a short piece about her as well. You can read it here:

    And we've already shared Edwina's article about her grandmother, Annie Thompson Burns:

    We're grateful to Edwina for sharing the stories and photos of these Chatham women, whose stories tell us much about Chatham County's past.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #WomensHistory #HerStory 

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