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History

Ensuring The Past For The Future

Lincolnton was established as the county seat of Lincoln County in 1785. It was laid out with a central courthouse surrounded by a grid plan of streets, blocks, and lots with four primary streets—East Main, West Main, North Aspen and South Aspen—leading from the court-house and dividing the town into quadrants. Over time, development in Lincolnton filled the original grid plan, expanded it, and eventually moved beyond it while maintaining the four principal arteries like compass points. Due to a steady influx of pioneers to North Carolina’s backcountry, by 1840 Lincoln County was one of the largest and most populous counties in North Carolina. It led the state in the value of many farm products, including wheat, orchard products and dairy products and was among the top producers of cotton and livestock statewide. In the late eighteenth century, forges and furnaces in Lincoln County were among many that were established in the western Piedmont. By 1849, the county’s ironworks lead the industry in North Carolina, producing large quantities of iron castings, bar iron, and wrought iron tools. Other manufacturing activities such as saw mills, grist mills, tanneries, paper mills, and potteries bolstered the economy.

Of particular significance, around 1813 Michael Schenck established the first successful textile mill south of New England. In 1816 it was destroyed by a flood, but three years later Schenck, James Bivens, and John Hoke erected a larger plant, the Lincoln Cotton Mills, on the South Fork of the Catawba River, which operated until the Civil War.

Lincolnton grew into a prosperous center of trade, culture and government. In 1800 forty-eight whites and forty-four slaves lived in town. In 1816, growth had continued to the point where the General Assembly authorized the laying off of additional lots in the town on land previously set aside, reserving tracts for an academy and a church. By 1820, the number if town lots had expanded from the original 100 to 161. The sale of town lots provided for the construction, ca. 1821, of the Pleasant Retreat Academy for male students. Several years later a female academy was constructed (Brown and York, 262).

Lincolnton continued to grow. According to the Lincoln Courier, by 1845 five attorneys maintained offices along East Main Street, six physicians had their offices along both East and West Main Street, and merchants surrounded the courthouse. Additionally the town supported four hotels, four grocers, three tailors, a watchmaker and jeweler, a printer, three saddle and harness makers, five coach factories, five blacksmiths, a cabinetmaker, two tanners, two hat manufacturers, two shoemakers, and a coppersmith, as well as five carpenters and two brick masons (Brown and York, 263).

Political developments in the 1840s, however, had a sobering effect on Lincolnton’s future. In 1841 Cleveland County was formed out of part of Lincoln County, followed by the creation of Catawba County in 1842 and Gaston County in 1846. As a result Lincoln County was reduced from over 1800 square miles to 305 square miles. In the 1840s’ partitions, Lincoln County lost prime farmlands and important factory sites to the new counties, and much of the county’s momentum for growth was curtailed (Brown and York, 244,263).

Growth in Lincoln County’s population remained static during the mid-nineteeth century and progressed at a slow pace throughout much of the second half of the century. In 1887, the editor of the of the Lincoln Courier wrote that “Lincolnton is not dead. Her condition is simply comatose….” (Brown and York, 271).

With the beginning of a new century, Lincolnton began to flourish once more. A variety of new businesses improved the local economy, yet they were surpassed in their impact by a growing number of textile mills located in and around Lincolnton that took advantage of the South Fork of the Catawba River and two rail lines. The town’s population increased from 828 in 1900 to 2,413 in 1910; by 1920 it had reached 3,390. The early twentieth century saw building activity greatly increase in Lincolnton, with brick stores replacing frame structures around the court square.

Today Lincolnton’s history is reflected in its downtown and residential historic districts adjacent to downtown.

South Aspen Street National Register Historic District

The South Aspen Street Historic District is a cohesive and distinctive area where over 70 historic resources form a microcosm of Lincolnton’s residential and institutional development from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.

The West Main Street National Register Historic District

The West Main Street Historic District possesses among its eighteen primary and eight secondary resources the largest surviving collection of buildings erected in Lincolnton during the nineteenth century prior to the Civil War—that period when the county seat experienced its greatest period of prosperity and influence. The buildings reflect the Federal and Greek revival styles of architecture. Complementing the buildings from the first half of the nineteenth century up to the civil war, the district also contains houses from the first three decades of the twentieth century that are good representatives of the transitional late Victorian/Colonial Revival, Colonial Revival, bungalow/Craftsman and period cottage styles popular during those years.

Phillip, Laura A.W., “Lincolnton Historical Background”
West Main Street National Register
District Nomination 2002

National Register of Historic Places

Lincoln County has 23 historic resources listed on the National Register of Historic Places including six downtown church buildings

Caldwell-Cobb-Love House
Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Emanuel United Church of Christ
Former First Baptist Church
First Presbyterian Church
First United Methodist Church
William A. Graham Jr. Farm (Round Barn)
Ingleside
Lincoln County Courthouse
Loretz House
Magnolia Grove
Methodist Church Cemetery
Mount Welcome
Old White Church Cemetery
Pleasant Retreat Academy
Rock Springs Camp Meeting Ground
Salem Union Church and Cemetery
Andrew Seagle Farm
Shadow Lawn
St. Luke’s Church and Cemetery
Tucker’s Grove Camp Meeting Grounds
Vesuvius Furnace
Woodside

State Historical Markers

Lincoln County has 24 historical roadside markers

Battle of Ramsour’s Mill

Whig Victory over Tories, June 20, 1780. Scene 400 yards west
US 321 Business (North Aspen Street in Lincolnton)

Confederate Laboratory

Under Dr. A.S. Piggott, manufactured medicine for confederacy,
1863-65. Remains are 2mi. S. US 321 Business (South Aspen Street) at SR 1252 (Laboratory Road) in Lincolnton

Schenck-Warlick Mill

First Cotton Mill in NC Built prior to 1816 by Michael Schenck and Absalom Warlick. Mill Stood one-half mile N. (NC27/150 East at Boger City)

UDC Memorial Hall

Building housed first the Pleasant Retreat Academy, Chartered 1813. Later public library, museum. 1 block east. US 321 Business (North Aspen Street) at Pine Street in Lincolnton

Stephen D. Ramseur

Confederate Major General at age of twenty-seven. Mortally wounded at Cedar Creek, Virginia, Oct. 19, 1864. Grave 2 blocks north. NC 27 (East Main Street) at Cedar Street in Lincolnton

Stonewall Jackson

Thomas Johnathan Jackson, later confederate general, on July 16, 1857, married Anna Morrison in her home which stood 200 yards east
SR 1511 (Old Plank Road) at SR 1400 (Morrsion Road) east of Lincolnton>

Iron Works

Many iron mines and forges were operated within a radius of ten miles of this point between 1790 and 1880. (NC 27 at Iron Station)

J.G. Arends

Native German, pioneer teacher and minister, ordained 1775, first president of the NC Lutheran Synod, 1803. Grave a few yds. East
US 321 Business (South Aspen Street) in Lincolnton

Hiram R. Revels

First Black to serve in Congress. Native of NC. Mississippi senator, 1870-1871. Operated own barbershop here, 1840s. NC 27 (West Main Street) in Lincolnton

Catawba Springs

Fashionable “watering place” a recreational and social center prior to 1861. The hotel stood five miles northeast. NC 73 at SR 1360 (Beth Haven Church Road) east of Lincolnton.

Ingleside

Home built about 1817 by Daniel M. Forney, major in war 1812, congressman, 1815-1818, legislator, and planter. NC 73 east of Iron Station

Machpelah Cemetery

Presbyterian, 1801. Graves include those of Alexander Brevard, Joseph & James Graham and Robert Hall & Joseph Graham Morrison.
SR 1511 (Old Plank Road) at SR 1360 (Brevard Place Road) east of Lincolnton

Robert F. Hoke 1837-1912

Major General, CSA Promoted after victory at Battle of Plymouth. Led troops in VA & NC Home stands 50 yards E. US 321.(North Aspen Street) at Chestnut Street in Lincolnton

Andrew Loretz

Minister, 1786-1812 of German Reformed Church in the Carolinas. Home built in 1793. Located one-half mile south. SR1113 (Reepsville Road) northwest of Lincolnton

William A. Graham

Governor, 1845-1849; Secretary of the Navy; United States Senator; Whig nominee for Vice-President in 1852 His birthplace is 3 mi. E.
SR 1511 (Old NC 273) at Amity Church Road east of Lincolnton

Peter Forney 1756-1834

Pioneer manufacturer of iron; Revolutionary War officer; Congressman, 1813-1815 Mt. Welcome, his home, was ¾ mi. S. SR1511 (Old Plank Road) at SR 1412 (Mariposa Road) west of Lowesville

Hutchins G. Burton

Governor, 1824-1827; Attorney General of NC; Congressman. Grave is ½ mi. E. NC 16 and SR 1439 (Unity Church Road) at Triangle.

William A. Hoke 1851-1925

Chief justice 1 year & assoc. justice 20yrs., NC Supreme Court. Superior court judge 13 yrs. Birthplace stood here. NC 27 (East Main Street) at South Cedar Street in Lincolnton

Andre’ Michaux

French Botanist, pioneer in studying flora of western North Carolina, passed through Lincolnton, July 24, Sept 11, 1794 and April 29, 1795.
NC 27 (West Main Street) in Lincolnton

Daniels Church

Evangelical Lutheran. Organized in 1774. JG Arndt was first regular minister; Philip Henkel assistant. This building, 1888, is third on site.
SR 1113 (Reepsville Road) northwest of Lincolnton

James Pinckney Henderson 1809-1853

First Governor of Texas, 1846-47; US Senator; officer, Mexican War. His birthplace is here. NC 182 west of Lincolnton

Connie M. Guion

Pioneer female physician. Gained national reputation from work at Cornell medical clinic, 1922-1970 Born 2/10 mile N. NC 27 at SR1227 (Spake Road) in Lincolnton

Local Preservation Commission

Lincoln County and the City of Lincolnton established a joint Historic Properties Commission which has designated eight landmarks throughout the County. The County and City are certified Local Governments.

Lincoln County Historical Association and the Lincoln County Museum of History

The Lincoln County Museum of History, located on the first floor of the Lincoln Cultural Center,was established by the Lincoln County Historical Association to collect, preserve, study, and exhibit authentic artifacts and other historic materials relating to the heritage and history of Lincoln County.

Public Education and Publications

Barefoot, Daniel W. General Robert F. Hoke: Lee’s Modest Warrior. John F. Blair; 1996

Beam, Bill, Jason Harpe, Scott Smith and David Springs.
Two Centuries of Potters a Catawba Valley Tradition Lincolnton, NC: Lincoln County Historical Association, 1999

Brown, Marvin A and Maurice C. York. Our Enduring Past: A Survey of 235 Years of Life and Architecture in Lincoln County, North Carolina Lincolnton, NC: Lincoln County Historic Properties Commission with assistance from the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, the City of Lincolnton, and the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1986

Gallagher, Gary W. Stephen Dodson Ramseur: Lee's Gallant General. Univ. of NC Press: 1995

Harpe, Jason. Images of America: Lincoln County North Carolina. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing for the Lincoln County Historical Association

Historic Preservation Week.
A week long celebration of Historic Preservation activities in
Lincoln County organized by the Lincoln County Historical Association and the Downtown Development Association of Lincolnton. Lincolnton, NC

Lincoln County Heritage. Waynesville, NC: Don Mills Inc. and the Lincoln County Heritage Book Committee, 1997