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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

  • 11 Feb 2023 8:18 PM | Anonymous

    Fatal train wreck on Deep River Bridge near Cumnock, 3 June 1913. The bridge collapsed and the train plunged into the river, causing the deaths of three men and injuring seven others. Details are given in the 11 June 1913 Chatham Record.

    Thanks to Chadburn Spivey for sharing the photo of the wreck. He says the bridge that collapsed was between highway 421 and the camelback bridge (Deep River Park), and that you can still see remnants of the wreck when the river is around 75-150 cubic feet per second (summer time average flow).

    Photograph of the wreck: Frederick Marchant "Frank", Commercial Photography (1907-1930's), Hamlet, N.C. Wreck at Cumnock, N.C. Raleigh, Charlotte & Southern Rail Road - June 3, 1913 into Deep River.

    #ChathamNCHistory   #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #trains #trainwreck #CumnockNC #DeepRiver #1910s 

  • 11 Feb 2023 8:10 PM | Anonymous

    Who would guess that this old garage, located on the west side of Hillsboro Street in Pittsboro until it burned in the late 1920s was, in its earlier life, Chatham County's first courthouse and jail.

    Earlier courts were held in the home of Stephen Poe until this building was constructed south of Robeson Creek. The area was called "Chatham Courthouse." The town of Pittsboro didn't yet exist.

    The courthouse in this picture is the one raided by David Fanning in July 1781. Amazing, isn't it, that it survived into the 1920s, when it burned along with half a block of other frame buildings on Pittsborough's main street. I wonder if its history was appreciated back then. How fortunate we are to have this photo of it.

    Photo from the UNC-CH Wilson Library North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives. Subseries 1:19 Chatham County, Folder 0246: Pittsboro Courthouse, Scan 13.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #ChathamCourthouse #PittsboroNC #1920s 

  • 11 Feb 2023 8:07 PM | Anonymous

    This is the female dormitory of the Mt. Vernon Springs Academy, built in 1855. It is the oldest structure in the Mt. Vernon Springs Historic District.

    The Academy was founded in 1855 by the Sandy Creek Baptist Association and opened for classes in 1856. By the early 1860s, the academy had about 100 students--two-thirds male and one-third female. The state's Baptist newspaper, The Biblical Recorder, reported in 1858 that Mt. Vernon Springs was "one of the most favorable locations for a flourishing school in all the State."

    The minutes of the Sandy Creek Association indicate that the original plan was to construct a male academy in Pittsboro, but for some reason this plan was abandoned and Mt. Vernon Springs was chosen as the location for a school for males and females.

    For most of the Civil War, the academy was closed, but it reopened in 1865. It maintained close ties with other Baptist institutions, including Wake Forest University, until it closed permanently in the early 1900s.

    The trustees originally purchased the spring and its property from Abner Marsh and subsequently formed a fifteen-thousand-dollar stock company and bought several hundred acres of adjacent land. Dr. George W. Paschal described further, "At the top of a beautiful slope, 200 yards north of the Spring, they built the male academy, a stately structure, large enough to accommodate 100 students. On another slope 300 yards to the east of the Spring and separated from the male academy not only by distance but also by a stream and a thickly wooded ravine which obscured all vision, they erected the building of the Female Academy, and equipped the rooms with pianos, and palettes and paints and brushes..."

    Both the male and female dormitories were built in 1855--the only two structures known to have been constructed. The male dormitory burned in the 1970s. According to the Architectural Heritage of Chatham County, NC, "the vernacular Greek Revival style of the dormitories strongly influenced Mt. Vernon Spring's domestic architecture into the 1880s."

    Photo from the National Register of Historic Places form for the Mt. Vernon Springs Historic District. Additional information from The Architectural Heritage of Chatham County, NC and Chatham County, 1771-1971.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #MtVernonSpringsNC #MtVernonSpringsAcademy #SandyCreekAssociation #Baptist #schools #1850s

  • 11 Feb 2023 8:02 PM | Anonymous

    In 1917 George Walker Blair, a local businessman, horse trader and livestock dealer, saw the need for up-dated accommodations for visitors to Pittsboro, and built the Blair Hotel on the court house circle where the old Central Hotel, which burned several years earlier, had stood. The new Blair Hotel offered modern facilities for its time. These included a steam bath, electric lights, hot and cold running water, and indoor baths and toilets.

    The hotel was built in the “California Mission Style” with a low, overhanging tile roof and open balconies. The hotel facilities were located on the second floor, and the first floor consisted of commercial store-fronts. This seemingly up-to-date design was carried out before the paving of the town streets--when horses and carts were the predominant means of transportation.

    An early commercial tenant was Hall’s Department Store, established in 1922 and which operated continuously into the 1960’s. Hall's was Pittsboro’s oldest retail business, and sold clothing for men, women and children; a line of general merchandise, and what was described as “a ten cent store department.”

    Phreddie Popp says that she remembers her father having coffee with other men in the mid-1940s at a restaurant in the hotel. She also notes that Hall's Department store was a stopping off point for children walking home from school. It was the place to get 1-cent candy.

    Even before the building was completed, it was put to use by the town to house newly-recruited troops on their way to WWI.

    Adapted from Fred Vatter's March 2012 article in Chatham County Line and The Architectural Heritage of Chatham County, NC.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #PittsboroHistory #PittsboroNC #HallsDepartmentStore #BlairHotel #CaliforniaMissionStyle #1910s

  • 1 Jan 2023 7:31 PM | Anonymous

    1970 -- new assistant principals at Pittsboro High School -- Gene Brooks and Bishop Leach.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #PHS #PittsboroHighSchool #PittsboroNC #schools #GeneBrooks #BishopLeach #1970s

  • 1 Jan 2023 7:26 PM | Anonymous

    Aaron Honeycutt shared this fascinating history about the geology of the area.

    "Rhyolite, the chosen material for stone tools by The Early Ones was quarried all along the Haw River in what is now North Carolina. Rhyolite is a volcanic rock that has a somewhat glassy texture. Though not as fine a stone for tools as some, within the borders of what is now North Carolina rhyolite was much sought after and is the material that many fine artifacts found today are made of. There are many quarry sites that can be seen in the rivers across North Carolina. This one is in the Haw River in Chatham County a bit up river from Bynum NC. When breaking out a chunk of stone for tool making a heavy harder rock was used to chip off a piece. The pieces that were harvested in this manor would have been reduced there on the river bank to smaller and lighter to carry pieces. Certainly the ground around this place holds MANY flakes from this reduction process. Preforms were made, blades of beauty that might later be taken down to smaller more refined spear points, knives, scrapers and other types of tools. When I visit a quarry site like this one I think about The People, clad in loin cloth (skins) and living on the land in such a natural way. They had no thoughts of accumulating wealth or even planning for old age. Their days were about finding some food, preparing for weather/season change and making the things that made life easier for whatever they planned to do. I love that we can see and touch the evidence of those who lived here before us. We can't see much to remind us of them as they left few scars upon the land but here in the rock we can clearly see the results of the visits by them."

    Thanks Aaron!

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #ChathamNCGeology #Geology #rocks #fossils #NativeAmericanHistory #BynumNC

  • 1 Jan 2023 7:19 PM | Anonymous

    Old house inspires a Chatham Christmas tradition.

    According to Strowd familly tradition, the 1830s house shown here was the home of John Snipes Strowd (1809-1891). It was occupied and added to by generations of Strowds until the 20th century, when it was partially dismantled and the older section was moved to its present location a short distance away on Crawford Dairy Road. Doris Snipes describes how the manger scene came about:

    "I started making the manger scene around 1985. I remember looking at the old house one cold rainy day in the early winter and thought how it sort of reminded me of the stable Jesus was born in. I thought - what could I do with that? I first thought it would be impossible to do anything with it to create a manger because I did not have manikins - nor just the head of a manikin. I finally thought about using some of my old dresses. I had to find enough dresses that had long sleeves. I only had 4. I tied a bailer twine around the bottom of each dress and tied the sleeves closed at the wrist level. I buttoned or zipped the garment and stuffed it with balled up newspaper. I needed one more 'person' but had nothing to work with - so I happened to see a leather bag that we used to carry baseball helmets in and low and behold there were 4 helmets in it! I draped material around the bag, turned one helmet upside down and used it for the head. I found 5-gallon buckets to sit some people in and a wooden chair with the back broken off. I still needed something to make Joseph look taller, so I got one of my husband's microphone stands and put it through the back of the dress (to be a backbone) and he worked out great."

    "I scrambled through closets and the Thrift shop to find bath robes of a plain dark color. I dressed each person and used plastic grocery bags stuffed with newspaper for the heads. They had to be stapled to the bath robes to keep them in place. I used old pillowcases and old neck ties to make the head gear. It just so happened that the first year I made the manger scene a movie came out that had a big white buffalo in it. It was so popular for kids that they made them and put them for sale in stores. He became my sheep! We brought hay over from the barn and scattered it about. Many times my "people" get knocked down with deer sleeping out there. My shepherd uses a 'staff' which was my great grandpa's walking cane."

    "Making the manger scene became something that my three boys, my husband and I all took some part in. Each year as we started decorating the house, they would ask when we were going to put up the manger scene. It just became our family tradition. As the boys grew and went to college, got married and moved away, Joe and I continued with the manger scene. It reminds me of our time when we were all a family at home together. Each year I kept thinking that it would be my last year of doing it, but I just kept going possibly because each year I would always have a note in my mailbox of how it had affected someone in a special way. We never know what the smallest of things that we do can have an effect on others."

    "I am so thankful for the neighbors and friends that have taken an interest in seeing that we try to keep this old house standing so that this manger scene can bring special meaning to the passersby that she greets each Christmas season."

    Doris Snipes

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #OldHouse #MangerScene #ChristmasTradition #Strowd #CrawfordDairyRd

  • 30 Nov 2022 4:07 PM | Anonymous

    This photo shows detail of a beautiful stained-glass window located in Pittsboro's St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church. It was designed by Frank Marsden London, who was born and raised in Pittsboro, though he left North Carolina as a young man. This window is one of three in Pittsboro--two in St. Bartholomew's and one in the Pittsboro United Methodist Church.

    Learn more about Frank Marsden London and his art on our website:


    Photo by Gary Simpson.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #FrankMarsdenLondon #art #stainedglass #painting #ChathamCountyArtist #PittsboroUnitedMethodistChurch #StBartholomewsEpiscopalChurch #PittsboroNC

  • 30 Nov 2022 4:04 PM | Anonymous

    Siler City High School's 1939 football team was undefeated and un-scored on until a fluke play in the last game of the season. Robert Hughes wrote about this special team in the April 1990 issue of the Chatham Historical Journal.

    Because of the hardships of the Depression, SCHS had had no football team in the previous three years, despite football's popularity at the time. It was student Dick Huddleston who went before the school board to request that a team be formed.

    As Hughs tells the story, "The game was a far cry from its modern version, and it is no small wonder why Huddleston would have instigated the return of the sport to his native Siler City after going through what he described the previous year on a team in Roxboro, 'I hadn't gone out for the team because I was told they didn't have any more suits [uniforms]. But one day I was in the coach's office, and he told me to come out the next day.'"

    Huddleston said that what happened that next day almost made him quit the team. "What they did, they used me as a blocking dummy. I would just stand there and they would come full-speed and knock me all over the place. I kept getting up and another one would come back at me. I don't know why I stayed on the team after that, but I did."

    Thanks to Huddleston's dedication to the game, football returned to Siler City High School and remarkable season resulted. 

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamCountyNC #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #SilerCityNC #SilerCityHighSchool #schools #sports #football #1930s

  • 30 Nov 2022 4:00 PM | Anonymous

    Historic Columbus Lodge #102 AF & AM in Pittsboro. Built in 1838, modified in 1849, it has many interesting features, including a "lean" of about nine inches.

Chatham County Historical Association  ~   ~  PO Box 93  ~  Pittsboro NC 27312  ~  919-542-6222  ~  

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