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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

  • 4 Jul 2022 8:04 PM | Anonymous

    When little Kenneth Jenkins died in Chatham County at age 3 in 1919, it was not particularly strange that his parents had a photograph made of him in his coffin. That photograph could well have been the only one taken of Kenneth in his short life and would be treasured as a comforting reminder. After-death photography was quite popular in Victorian times--when photos of the living were not common. The practice began to wane as photography became more accessible and photographs of living people were more widely available.

    Because Kenneth's photo was made a part of his grave marker, we can all get a glimpse of this aspect of history today. He is buried at Martha's Chapel Christian Church in Chatham County. You can see our inventory of the markers at Martha's Chapel here:

    According to his death certificate, Kenneth died of scarlet fever.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #gravemarkers #cemetery #afterdeathphotography #MarthasChapelChristianChurch #1910s

  • 4 Jul 2022 7:54 PM | Anonymous

    Some Siler City history here. From Duane Hall's Historic Siler City collection.

    Our car experts tell us that the newest cars in the photo are from the early1970s, so we think the photo was taken then. Lots of folks remember this place. 

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #SilerCityNC #AnP #1970s

  • 20 May 2022 4:34 PM | Anonymous

    Old Providence Methodist Church -- Preachin' Days are Over Here. More history about this now-gone part of Chatham history.

    In this photo from the Chatham County Historical Association collection, one man is holding carpenter's tools, so perhaps the church had just been finished. Also notice the woman in the window.

    It is believed that this photo shows the Old Providence Church that was located on what is now the Gum Springs Church Road. Though the church is gone, the cemetery remains, and the earliest burial recorded--that of Henrietta Womble--occurred in 1883. Family names in the cemetery include Bland, Clark, Cole, Copeland, Gunter, Harward, Johnson, Marks, Stedman, and Womble.

    You can find information about the Providence Church cemetery in CCHA's cemetery records on

    There are numerous references to Providence Church activities in Chatham newspapers from 1890. According to a 1973 article in the Chatham Record, the old church was torn down in July 1973 because of vandalism. 

    If you have additional photos or info about the church or the area, please share.

    #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #ProvidenceChurch #CCHAcollection #church #cemetery #HawRiverBoys

  • 20 May 2022 4:23 PM | Anonymous

    Among the treasures in the Historic Chatham County Courthouse are two safes built in to one of the original courthouse fireplaces. The safes have an interesting story. They came from the Bonlee Bank and Trust Company, which opened in 1917 with Isaac H. Dunlap as president and C.M. Andrews as cashier. Mr. Andrews became president in 1924.

    The bank folded during the Great Depression and the county obtained the two safes and installed them in the courthouse where they were used to store cash payments until they could be deposited. The safes were used until the time of the fire in 2010. They were manufactured by the Mosler Safe Company in Hamilton, Ohio.

    At one time Mosler was said to have safes in 80% of US banks. Some of their most famous contracts have been with the United States Government. In the 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression, Mosler safes were bought by the Federal Reserve to store massive gold reserves. When Fort Knox was constructed, it included vaults and emergency doors from Mosler Safe. The company supplied blast-proof doors that weighted over 20 tons, were made of torch and drill resistant materials and both doors were over 21 inches thick; the vault casing was also over 25 inches thick. Mosler also made the doors for nuclear missile silos, the vault that formerly held the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, and shielding doors for the Atomic Energy Commission’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

    So, the Bonlee Bank and Chatham Courthouse appear to have had the very best available when it came to safes!

    Thanks to CCHA volunteer Charles Thomas for the Courthouse safe info.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #courthousesafes #museum #BonleeNC #BonleeBankandTrust

  • 20 May 2022 4:16 PM | Anonymous

    Siler City's Feedwell Cafe was opened in 1918 by Ernest and Will Richardson. The cafe changed hands soon after and was owned by R. M. (Mack) Green, M. R. (Roy) Teague until the late 1920s. After that, the cafe changed hands numerous times. Does anyone know when it closed?

    Advertisements over the years proclaimed the Feedwell Cafe to be "The Next Best Place to Home," and "Siler City's Foremost Dining Room." Rabbit dinners were a favorite at the cafe in the 1920s.

    Info from Wade Hadley's The Town of Siler City: 1887 - 1987. Photo cropped from a 1939 photo contributed by Duane Hall.

    Click on the image to enlarge.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamNC #SilerCityNC #FeedwellCafe #food #rabbit

  • 3 Mar 2022 10:48 AM | Anonymous

    This is the J.B. Mills House, which is located on the southwest corner of the intersection of 64 and 751. The house is currently obscured by trees, but many remember it from the days when it was easily visible from the roadway.

    The earliest portion of the house is thought to have been built in the 1800s. Local tradition attaches the name of Dr. Cotton to that structure and his office is said to have been located in the woods west of the house. Ramsey's 1870 map shows "Cotton's Store" at this location.

    The larger, 1910 house, shown here in a mid-1980s photograph, was owned by the Mills family, who are said to have been a prominent family in nearby Wake County. The house is described in The Architectural Heritage of Chatham County, a 1991 publication. CCHA volunteer, Kimberly Steiner, did not receive permission from the current owner to photograph the structure in 2021 as part of her update of the architectural history of the township.

    #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #ChathamNCHistory #JBMillsHouse #ArchitecturalHeritage #Preservation #NewHopeTownship

  • 3 Mar 2022 10:46 AM | Anonymous

    Meet the 1940 congregation of Rocky River Missionary Baptist Church (Silk Hope-Liberty Rd). Calvin Dark contributed this photo, which shows his Grandma Mabel Bowden in the black dress on the far left. His Uncle Marvin Bowden is the 10yr old in the front row center in the suit.

    Click on the photo to enlarge.

    CCHA volunteer Susan Mckean Hall photographed the markers in the church cemetery. You can see the record and photos here:

    #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #RockyRiverMissionaryBaptistChurch #churches #1940s #cemetery

  • 3 Mar 2022 10:44 AM | Anonymous

    Did you know that Chatham County once had a salt mine? This 1862 clipping shows that the operators were exempted from military service for six months. Salt, was, of course, important for preserving meat and in short supply during the Civil War.

    The location of the mine is suggested by an ad posted in November 1862 from Carthage, NC, advertising "mineral lands for sale." In it, John Morison offers for sale his one-third interest in "a tract of 500 acres on the waters of Deep River, on which have been discovered a salt mine and pure saltpeter, and an oil of good quality for greasing leather, well worthy of geological investigation." From the Semi-Weekly Standard 28 Nov 1862.

    Chatham deed 292/147, tract 3 also mentions a 1.38 acre "Old Salt Mine Tract." Names mentioned in the deed are D.C. Holler, S.O. Dudley, and Jenks.

    Clipping from 8 Mar 1862 Semi-Weekly State Journal.

    #ChathamNCHistory #ChathamHistory #ChathamNC #SaltMine

  • 2 Jan 2022 9:41 PM | Anonymous

    Tucked into woods along busy Highway 64 between Pittsboro and Siler City lies the grave marker of Dr. James McCarroll, whose story is written on the slab. The original thick, flat marble slab, 3 feet by 6 feet, is one of the oldest inscribed grave markers in the county. It has the following inscription:

    "Here lies interred the body of Doctor James McCarroll.
    He was born in the County of [Aramagh-sic] Armagh in the Kingdom of
    Ireland in the year 1734 and departed this life on the 93rd day
    of the year 1777, the 43rd year of his age. He was remarkable for his
    knowledge in the arts and science. This monument erected by
    Elizabeth McCarroll his widow on the 16th day of 1778."

    A new monument was erected by Rachel Whithead, April 2000:
    "Dr. James McCarroll
    Born in Ireland 1734
    Died 3 April 1777
    Married to
    Elizabeth St. Lawrence"

    The Chatham Record published an article "An Old Grave," about the McCarroll gravestone on 15 Nov 1883, noting that it was even then believed to be one of the oldest marked graves in the county. That article incorrectly indicates that Dr. McCarroll's daughter married Patrick St. Lawrence. It was Dr. McCarroll's widow, Elizabeth, who married Mr. St. Lawrence. The error has been carried forward to some more recent histories of the county.

    Thanks to Duane Hall for photos taken in 2011 and 2018.

    These markers are on private property. Please do not visit without permission.

  • 2 Jan 2022 9:37 PM | Anonymous

    Harvey Newlin, was born 19 July 1888, the 6th child of James Nathaniel “Jim” and Martha Elizabeth Guthrie Newlin. His birthplace was a sharecropper cabin in Hickory Mountain Township between Pittsboro and Siler City in Chatham County, NC.

    Harvey is probably best remembered for the barns he built in Alamance, Chatham, and adjoining counties. The first barn was built on his own farm in southern Alamance in the late 1920’s. It has a gambrel roof and is built on a hillside, so a horse-drawn wagon could be driven into the hayloft through a large door in the side of the barn. It is still a beautiful building after standing for more than 80 years. He and a crew of farmer-carpenters built dozens of gambrel-roofed barns, several Gothic-roofed barns, pole barns as well as several dwelling houses. There were 153 barns built by Harvey and his crew before his retirement.

    Read more about Harvey Newlin and his barns on our website:…/HarveyNewlinsBarnsDavidHobson.…

    Harvey's story is told by David K. Hobson, a member and past president of Silk Hope Ruritan Club and Pastor of the Rocky River Friends Meeting. Helen Newlin Bowers, Harvey's granddaughter, provided information. We thank Helen, David, and the Silk Hope Ruritan for allowing us to share this story.

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

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