By the late 1800s, Fairview Road was developing into a busy commercial area, “Mr. Dallas Henderson had built a brick store on the north side…Here he operated the proverbial ‘Country Store’ where all types of merchandise were available, from farm equipment to dry goods to groceries.
At one time, it housed a post office run by R. H. Henderson and Dallas Henderson…It was this post office that gave a new name to the community” (The Presbyterian Gathering on Clear Creek by Russell Martin Kerr).
A group discussing possible names for the post office gazed upon some mint growing in a nearby field and suggested the name “Mint Hill,” though some believe the name was tied to gold mining.
The Clear Creek name, used for over 150 years, was dropped. The post office did not survive, but the name stuck, and Dallas Henderson served as mayor of the town for a while.
His son Dowd also worked in the post office and served as the town constable, locking up rowdies in the town jail. Dallas Henderson and his brother Eli operated a cotton gin and a flour mill in the same area.
The town was also home to a blacksmith shop, an excelsior plant which eventually burned, and a doctor’s office, used by Dr. John McCamie DeArmon and then Dr. Ayer Whitley. (The doctor’s office was moved to the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village several years ago.)
The Hendersons played a key role in the development of Mint Hill. The family operated four stores in Mint Hill at various times. One stood at the corner of Lawyers and Bain School Road and three on Fairview — the “Garland Store,” Henderson Bros. Store, and a feed and seed store.
When Will Beaver decided to downsize the store at Lawyers and Bain School, he persuaded Dowd and Don Henderson, his partners, into building a brick store on Fairview Road (today O’Neil’s).
He moved his inventory to a smaller building next to the store, where he sold feed, seed, and farm equipment. While Don worked at Dallas Henderson’s Ford dealership in Charlotte, Dowd ran the Henderson Bros. store and the cotton gin behind it. Mule-drawn wagons loaded with cotton headed for the gin crowded the town during harvest season in the 1920s and 1930s.
During the same period the Henderson brothers created the Mint Hill Telephone Company and laid telephone lines up and down Fairview and Wilgrove Roads.
Dowd’s wife Lillian operated the switchboard in the Henderson home (originally owned by Dallas Henderson; now the site of McCarthy’s Tires) and rented rooms to Bain Academy teachers. (After Dowd and Lillian moved to Charlotte, each enjoyed 25-year careers. He retired from Nehi Bottling at age 65 and she worked at Montaldo’s Department Store until she turned 80.)
When bartering became the means of trade during the Depression, Dowd’s daughter Evelyn ran Henderson Bros. Eventually, the family had to close the store, and Carl J. McEwen purchased the property and kept it until J.T Allen bought it in the 1940s.
Donald Dulin Allen and his wife Evelyn Henderson purchased the two stores and the homeplace. They remodeled the stores and operated Allen’s Market, a grocery store, from 1959 until his retirement in 1978. Don raised his own beef, selling it first at the back of Garland’s Store and then at Allen’s Market.
After Don passed away in 1981, Evelyn kept the properties until 1990 when she sold them to James McWhirter. Tommy Mullis, who learned all about the restaurant business from his father Penny, leased the old Henderson Store and opened O’Neil’s pub, a popular gathering spot today.
“My sister Donnlea Allen Flynt and I helped run his store until we both moved away in the 1960s,” recalls Denny Allen. “That old Henderson Bros Store has been around our Henderson/Allen clan since the late 1920s until the early 1990s. Its old 14-inch walls have stood the test of time…. in the old heart of east Mint Hill… the main part of town for many years.
I learned to cut beef there and how to trade cattle along with Dad. That experience set me up later in life, when I retired as a federal bank examiner, and returned to our farm on Allen Black Road, where I started DD Farms and Vineyard.
I grew cattle and sold beef to many of the same families who had been my Dad’s customers, as well as the Mint Hill Farmers’ Market, until 2014. That old Henderson Store is also where I learned to play twin saxes when I was not waiting on customers.
Every time I visit O’Neil’s today, I sit toward the back of the bar and am flooded with old memories of every brick in that old building – probably one of the best kept secrets in Mint Hill. My experience at Henderson Store inspired me to write ‘Bain Academy Boogie’ and ‘Mint Hill Rocks.’ Everything ties back in time.”
Next week’s column will center on the official establishment of Mint Hill as a town.