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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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  • 30 Aug 2023 11:17 AM | Anonymous

    Few travelers have passed this stately house on 15-501 between Pittsboro and Chapel Hill without noticing and admiring it. Bill Sharpe has provided a brief description of its history and his own boyhood memories of the house and its early occupants.

    Read it here on our website:

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #ChapelHill #WilliamBrooksCheekHouse #architecture

  • 30 Aug 2023 11:11 AM | Anonymous

    This photograph is of "Kentucky," the Chatham County home of Frederick Jones Hill, one of several Cape Fear planters who made their summer homes in Pittsboro in the early 1800s. Kentucky was located on the 99-acre parcel that is now occupied by the Chatham County Agriculture and Convention Center.

    The land on which Chatham County’s new Agricultural Center was built has an interesting history. The earliest owner shown in Chatham County records is Mary Watters, daughter of Continental Army General James Moore, and wife of Colonel William Watters, who also served in the Continental Army. In 1825 Mary Watters sold the 99-acre property to her son-in-law, Frederick Jones Hill. The deed (Z/460) indicates that the property was her former residence. The Old Stage Road formed the southern boundary of the parcel and then turned north for some distance within the parcel before joining Old Salisbury Road which continued northwest.

    Frederick Jones Hill was a physician, planter and enslaver, and legislator known for his early legislation to establish public schools in the state. Raised in New Hanover County, he, like several other wealthy Wilmington families of the period, had ties to Pittsboro. Hill, his father, and three uncles owned elaborate summer homes in and around Pittsboro. Hill and his uncle, Dr. Nathaniel Hill, were instrumental in building St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in 1831 in Pittsboro.

    The records are unclear whether Frederick Jones Hill built his summer home, “Kentucky,” on the parcel he purchased from his mother-in-law Mary Watters, or whether it was built prior to his purchase of the property. Hill and his wife, Anne Ivey Watters, were third cousins, once removed. They married in 1812 and had no children. The Kentucky property was eventually inherited (in 1874) by William H. Moore, a presiding elder of the Methodist Church, and to whom both Hill and wife Anne had family connections.

    Until the property was purchased by Chatham County in 2012, it had been handed down in the Moore family through several generations.

    Remarkably, some features and artifacts from the property’s early history survived, and the Chatham County Historical Association sought to document those and to learn whatever possible about that history prior to its development as the county’s long-awaited Agricultural Center. Volunteers wrote a detailed report about the property and surviving structures and artifacts. You can read it on the Chatham County Historical Association website:

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #FrederickJonesHill #Kentucky #HillFamily #PittsboroNC #ChathamCountyAgricultureandConventionCenter #CapeFearPlanters

  • 30 Aug 2023 11:05 AM | Anonymous

    We love maps! How about you?

    Pictured here is the 1870 Ramsey map of Chatham County. It's a useful summary of so much information about a slice of Chatham history. We often turn to it when researching Chatham topics.

    The Ramsey map lists dozens of places-- some still on current maps and others long gone. We would love to share the stories of all -- if only we knew them! What place on the map would you most want to know more about?

    You can see a larger version of the Ramsey map here:

    Our website also contains an index to the map:

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #Ramseymap #maps #ChathamPlaces #communities #1870s

  • 26 Jul 2023 6:06 PM | Anonymous

    This 1939 photo, taken in Pittsboro, always had us curious about what a "Pickle Low party" might be.

    In her trek through North Carolina in 1939, famed documentary photographer Dorothea Lange captured the photo above in Pittsboro. Lange offered no details other than those that appear in the caption “Sign tacked to pole near the post office. Main street, Pittsboro, North Carolina.” At the time, the Pittsboro Post Office was located in the main block of Hillsboro Street.

    Perhaps Lange decided to photograph the sign because she too was curious about it. A little online research suggests that "piccolo" was slang for jukebox, or recorded music. The sign has the word spelled in an unusual way but the message was likely clear to all potential participants -- Come dance to canned music.

    Hosting the party was GW Leach--likely George W. Leach, who lived with his wife Sallie on Masonic Street. Note the admission charges included on the sign: Single man, 10 cents; man and woman, 15 cents. Commenters on other sites have suggested that this was what was called a "rent party." Especially during the Great Depression, this was a party with music and dancing, given to raise money for the host's rent or household expenses by collecting a contribution from each guest. Sometimes food was sold at the event. Too bad Lange didn't stay in Pittsboro to photograph the party!

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #PiccoloParty #DorotheaLange #1930s #PittsboroNC

  • 26 Jul 2023 6:01 PM | Anonymous

    What can an old store ledger tell us about the history of Chatham County? Plenty, if we pay attention. Back in 1974, local historian Wade Hadley obtained a copy of a ledger covering part of 1851 and 1852 for the general store located at Saint Lawrence Post Office in Chatham. The day book is believed to have belonged to Henry C. Luther, who was postmaster at Saint Lawrence. The book is in the collection of the Southern Historical Collection at UNC-CH. The image of Hickory Mountain Township from the 1870 Ramsey map, shows the location.

    Hadley wrote a sixteen-page paper that gives a glimpse into western Chatham in 1851-1852. Saint Lawrence was an important crossroads community before the Civil War --located approximately four miles east of what is now Siler City--between the old and present routes of highway 64. Earlier it was called McCarroll, for Dr. James McCarroll, who operated an ordinary (tavern/inn) there. McCarroll died in 1777 and was buried near his home. His widow, Elizabeth, later married Patrick St. Lawrence--for whom the area was likely renamed.

    By 1851-52, settlers had been in the area for around ninety years and some farms were in the hands of second or third generation Chathamites. Hadley notes that the items they were buying at the general store "give an indication of how far they had advanced from the state of near self sufficiency characteristic of the earliest settlers in the backcountry of Chatham County."

    Hadley's paper lists all of the items purchased at the store during the period covered by the ledger, along with the unit price, total amount sold, and number of sales. He notes that tallow candles were the main source of household illumination; firearms were muzzle loading; looms and spinning wheels were used in many homes. Calico, homespun, indigo, coffee, molasses, rice, sugar, and chewing tobacco were staples.

    Fashions of the date "penetrated the backwoods of Chatham as evidenced by the purchase of a 'California hat' on April 10, 1851 for $2.50 by Mr. Samuel B. Perry." Artificial flowers, ribbons, lace, and neck ribbons were purchased. Luxuries such as broadcloth, silk bonnets, silk handkerchiefs, and French brandy were purchased by a few families. On rare occasions, fresh lemons and coconuts were available.

    The list includes several items that we were unfamiliar with and had to look up: asafetida, coperas, saleratus. See the comments below for what we found.

    The day book records the names of 159 customers. Hadley lists the thirty-five regular customers who made purchases on ten or more occasions during the period covered by the ledger. Surnames include Alston, Brooks, Caviness, Cotten, Crutchfield, Dorsett, Dowdy, Evans, Hackney, Hall, Headen, Hutton, Johnson, Kirkman, Lineberry, Marsh, Perry, Rogers, Self, Teague, Temples, and Webster.

    Wade Hadley's paper is now available on the Chatham County Historical Association website:

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #StLawrencePO #generalstore #ledger #WadeHadley #ChathamCountyHistoricalAssociation

  • 26 Jul 2023 5:56 PM | Anonymous

    From the early 1900s, Siler City was the place to be on July 4. According to newspaper clippings, thousands of people came to Siler City on the train for the celebration!

    Here's a selection of photos covering several time periods from various contributors. There's more info with each photo. Click on the photos to see more.

    When did Siler City stop having a big bash? Share photos if you have them!

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #4thJuly #IndependenceDay #SilerCityNC #holiday

  • 3 Jul 2023 5:15 PM | Anonymous

    New cemetery volunteer and avid photographer Christopher Atack has recently documented the Jacob Hadley cemetery in Hadley Township. The remote site was visited back in 1989, at the very start of the Chatham County Historical Association's cemetery project, but was not photographed at that time, so Christopher's photos are the first we have to document the site. (The lack of digital photography made photographing most sites impractical in the early days of the project.)

    There are four graves in the walled cemetery, which is approximately 27' square--Jacob Hadley, his wife Phebe, their son Thomas, and their grandson William Justice. Burial dates range from 1848 to 1875, and the markers are professionally carved--several by Fayetteville stonecutter George Lauder. Perhaps the most striking feature of the cemetery is the wall itself, which, at approximately 4' high is taller than most others in the county, and it is mortared, whereas most cemetery walls in our area are dry-stacked. The late Siler City surveyor Rufus Johnson surveyed the cemetery in the 1990s and commented that the wall was one of the finest he had encountered. Mr. Johnson had extensive familiarity with family cemeteries in Chatham, so his opinion of this one was duly noted. We're pleased that Christopher has now photographed it so that we can share it.

    The documentation on the Hadley cemetery and the burials it holds has been added to our cemetery database on You can see it at:

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #cemetery #Hadley #stonework

  • 3 Jul 2023 5:10 PM | Anonymous

    Pittsboro's Shady Rest Motel was built in 1955 and still stands on what was once known as Gallows Hill in Pittsboro.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #PittsboroNC #GallowsHill #shadyrestmotel #motels #1950s

  • 3 Jul 2023 5:04 PM | Anonymous

    In 2022, Kathy Thornton contacted us asking if there was some way she and family members might visit the John A. Mason House and Jesse Mason cemetery. She noted that some of her ancestors had been enslaved on that plantation. We were able to connect Kathy to the folks responsible for caring for the historic site, which is part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jordan Lake Project, and she and her family visited in March. Kathy provided the photo shared here.

    According to the Architectural Heritage of Chatham County, NC, the John A. Mason House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built about 1850 and is a "distinguished Greek Revival farm house." John Acree Mason obtained a 600-acre parcel "on the waters of New Hope and Morgan Creek" in 1835 from his parents, William Mason and Nancy Acree Mason. In the next two decades, John Mason expanded his holdings to 1,027 acres, built his house, and "became a member of the middle-echelon planter class." The most distinctive interior feature, according to the survey conducted in the 1980s is the stair with landing. The wave pattern along the staircase is shown in one of Kathy's photos.

    The cemetery has been inventoried and is shown in our cemetery records. See:

    Kathy noted with interest that one of the formerly enslaved Masons was buried within the family plot and has an inscribed marker saying "Sallie Mason, Our Black Mammy." The graves of other enslaved persons are believed to be outside of the fence enclosing the family graves.

    The John A. Mason House is not open to the public, but CCHA will look into arranging possible future tours of this property.

    #ChathamNCHistory #JohnAMasonHouse #ArchitecturalHeritage #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #cemeteries #enslaved #plantation

  • 26 May 2023 7:57 PM | Anonymous

    Oval Oak Manufacturing Co. became a nationally known manufacture of washboards after starting in 1909. This 1916 photograph shows the production staff. Front row L to R: Coley Fox, Lauritt? Fesmire, Ott Curtis, Joe Phillips, Ralph Blair, Paul Blair (?), Clyde Bunting, Unknown. Back row L to R: Mr. Hunt, Dr. Dowdy, J.C. Gregson, Owen Stove, Milton Smith (?), Sam Curtis, Dwight Lambe, Rudy Kirkman, Unknown, Lester Fesmire

    More info about the Oval Oak Manufacturing Co. can be found on our website:

    Photo from Duane Hall's Historic Siler City collection.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #OvalOakWashboard #industry #1910s

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