On the collaborative album “Will the Circle be Unbroken,” legendary singer Roy Acuff can be heard telling the younger Gritty Dirt Band:
“Once you decide you’re going to record a number, don’t say ‘Oh, we’ll take it over and do it again’ . . .because every time you go through it, you”ll lose a little something.”
I can’t help but think that these words of wisdom also find truth in the nature of historic documentation, its impact on the future, and how we perceive the past. I’d like to share my thoughts on the construction of a major highway and how its change over time impacted our ancestors’ decisions and life story. This post will set the stage for a follow-up discussion on implications.
On Dec 9, 1771, the North Carolina General Assembly ordered a road to be built through Mecklenburg County leading to Campbellton, now Fayetteville. The road likely followed the present path of Brief Road (at least east of present day Mint Hill). Ancient Presbyterian cemeteries dotting the landscape are all that’s left to remind us of the prominent families who settled along the road west of the Rocky River.
Mentioning Rocky River, just where did this first road cross the river? And more importantly, what iterations in its routing over the years led us to today’s crossing between Midland and Locust? …be assured the original crossing was nowhere near the present day crossing of Hwy 24-27!
A 1789 plan of Mecklenburg County (left) shows a road running through present day Cabarrus County and crossing the river at the mouth of Clear Creek before continuing east into Montgomery (present day Stanly County).
A year later, in 1790, another Mecklenburg County Map (right) identifies the road “Charlotte Lincoln Co. to Fayetteville” still crossing Rocky River at Clear creek near the corner of Anson County. Note the mentioning of “Barron’s” in identification of the great track once owned by Governor Arthur Dobbs. Following the 1765 death and ensuing settlement of claims by the heirs of Arthur Dobbs, a 1778 petition by the residents of Mecklenburg County led to an act of General Assembly that transferred unsold Dobbs land to the Secretary of State for issuance as grants.
In 1795, a small group of land speculators were issued over 60,000 acres of this land in Montgomery County taking up much of present day Stanly County. A compilation of plats (left) shows the Charlotte-Fayetteville road as “Poulk’s Road.” Known today as Polk Ford Road, It enters the county near the mouth of Clear Creek, apparently crossing at Polk Ford.
From these records, it’s safe to conclude that the Charlotte to Fayetteville road followed a path as has been described in maps.Looking further east, it likely passed between Locust and Stanfield in present day Stanly County. By 1875, the road continues to take a more sourthern route near Brief Road before bending north to cross Rocky River likely in the area around Michael Garmon’s mill (right).
Per 1910 soil map of Cabarrus County (left), the road veers to the northeast passing SOUTH of Bethel UMC and merging with today’s 24-27 near the present crossing of 24-27 and 601. It appears that by 1910 the road crossed the river near where it does today.
Not old enough to know any better, the idea of this sort of road migration has opened my eyes! This is but one road that must have changed many times. How would such changes impact value and incentive for my ancestor to buy or sell? Did such movement corrupt maps and land records? Did they change the understanding of verbal histories passed down to myself as well as others?
Maps on this page are courtesy of North Carolina Maps.