That’s quite a change from my usual blog post titles! My post a few days ago was rather “heavy” in that it was about the things I think I need to do this year to further my writing career. I’m glad that’s out of the way now, so I can get back to more interesting topics. Today I’m doing something I haven’t done before in my blog. I’m sharing a small sample of my writing.
Did You Know?
I wrote a local history column titled, “Did You Know?” in Harrisburg Horizons, a weekly newspaper here in Cabarrus County, North Carolina from May 2006 through December 2012. It was a perfect opportunity for me as it allowed me to do two of my favorite things: historical research and writing. It was my first freelance writing job. I had complete control over when I worked on the column and what topics I chose. I had a deadline every two weeks, but the day-to-day freedom the work gave me was a perfect fit for me. Once-a-month in 2017 I plan to share one of my newspaper columns or an essay or short story I’ve written. Today’s offering is a slightly edited version of my May 31, 2006 newspaper column.
George Washington Ate Here
President George Washington didn’t sleep here, but did you know that he ate in Harrisburg? That might be a wee bit of a stretch, but on Sunday, May 29, 1791, he ate a meal where Charlotte Motor Speedway now sits. Most locals still consider the speedway to be in Harrisburg, although it is now in the Concord city limits.
Colonel Moses Alexander and his wife, Sarah, purchased the land from Henry McCulloch and built a house. Col. Alexander died around 1772. Sarah married Robert Smith and he moved into her home.
Robert Smith was a Colonel in the British Army prior to the American Revolution. He took up arms to fight for American independence and rose to the rank of Major General.
The Smiths named their plantation “Smithfield.” The house survived into the 1960s and stood just a few feet from US-29. It served as the ticket office for the Charlotte Motor Speedway for several years.
The beloved Revolutionary general and sitting United States President, George Washington, took a tour of The South in 1791. As a result of that tour, there are numerous historical markers titled, “George Washington Slept Here.” There is no such roadside marker at the corner of US-29 and Morehead Road, but there should be one that says, “George Washington Ate Here.” President Washington spent the night of May 28, 1791 in Charlotte. After noting in his diary that the village was “a trifling place,” he traveled northeast out The Great Wagon Road which was a forerunner of US-29.
Open the Gate and Roam Cabarrus With Us,” by Adelaide and Eugenia Lore, states that President Washington traveled “in a coach of pale ivory and gilt.”
C.E. Claghorn III’s book, Washington’s Travels in the Carolinas and Georgia, says the President “was accompanied by Major William Jackson, five servants, two footmen, coachmen & postilion [guide], chariot & four horses, light baggage wagon drawn by two horses, four saddle horses plus one for himself.”
The green meadows and hardwood forests of our area probably reminded the President of his Virginia homeland. Our red clay rolling hills were in stark contrast to the sandy South Carolina Lowcountry he visited on his way to North Carolina.
Can you imagine how nervous Sarah Smith was on the days leading up to the President’s arrival? It would be interesting to know the menu she planned. Being late May, the summer staples of squash and beans were not in season.
Mrs. Smith’s spring garden possibly provided turnips, radishes, and an assortment of greens and herbs. No doubt a servant retrieved a well-cured country ham from the log smokehouse for the occasion. In my mind’s eye, I see a bowl of fresh wild strawberries on the dining table or perhaps strawberry shortcake with fresh cream drizzled on top for dessert.
I would have liked to have been privy to President Washington and Gen. Smith’s conversation. Perhaps the President “broke the ice” by asking Smith about the battles he participated in during the Revolution. They probably discussed political matters of the day such as the moving of the nation’s capital from New York City to Philadelphia the previous year.
After dining at “Smithfield,” President Washington returned to his coach and traveled to Colonel Martin Phifer’s “Red Hill” tavern near the Poplar Tent section of the county. He lodged at “Red Hill” that night before continuing on toward Salisbury at four o’clock the next morning.
Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time. Feel free to Tweet about my blog or share it on other social media.
Sources I used as I researched this newspaper column’s subject:
Piedmont Neighbors: Historical Sketches of Cabarrus, Stanly and Southern Rowan Counties, edited by Clarence D. Horton, Jr. and Kathryn L. Bridges.
Open the Gate and Roam Cabarrus With Us, by Adelaide and Eugenia Lore, 1971.
The Historic Architecture of Cabarrus County, North Carolina, by Peter R. Kaplan, 1981.
A Light and Lively Look Back at Cabarrus County, North Carolina, by Helen Arthur-Cornett, 2004.
Washington’s Travels in the Carolinas and Georgia, by C.E. Claghorn III.