Article By Ed Berti and Becky Griffin
The dream of the Mint Hill Historical Society is coming true! For about ten years plans have been brewing, money donated and set aside, and artifacts collected with high hopes of a barn to add to the Carl J. McEwen Village to show the rich agricultural history of Mint Hill. We have searched out barns in this area and beyond in hopes of finding an 1880 to 1930 era barn in good condition to relocate to our Village.
Interviews with locals over the past 30 years show cotton was a major crop in the 1830’s through 1850’s and agriculture was the chief industry of North Carolina. Corn was the most important single crop grown for both human and animal consumption. Horses, mules, cattle, pigs, poultry and humans all consumed corn in some form or another during this time in our history. Tenant farming flourished from 1865 to well into the new century. Share cropping and tenant farming were a new system. This large group of unskilled workers provided labor on farms in Mint Hill and around the country. The Mint Hill Historical Society is collecting stories of the tenant farmer and hopes to tell this story when the barn is complete. Many folks still remember the many dairies that sprang up in Mint Hill in the early forties. Holstein cows and tall silos dotted the horizon and some still stand as a reminder. So much has changed as new families have arrived. Farms have disappeared and neighborhoods have appeared. Who would guess less than 100 years ago Mint Hill was considered a farming community and the average farm was 200 acres. Showing and displaying the history of farming has long been the dream of the Mint Hill Historical Society. Agriculture was the basic economic pursuit from which most local citizens gained their livelihood for generations.
The Mint Hill Historical Society began a little more than thirty years ago with the idea to preserve the small office of Dr. Ayer Whitley who came to Mint Hill in 1908 to treat an epidemic of typhoid fever. Soon after announcing the restoration of this building which had originally been built for Dr. John McCamie DeArmon in the early 1880’s, crude furnishings, medical artifacts and wonderful stories were gifted to the historical society. Little did we know back then a super highway with multiple exits in or close to our town would change our landscape, take away farms and unearth even more historic buildings just waiting to be moved and restored.
The country doctor’s office is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the village where each year thousands of visitors including many school children come to see early instruments for removing tonsils, bone saws used to amputate diseased fingers, toes and even extremities, and strange equipment including some used in the treatment of diphtheria, whooping cough or asthma.
The Ira V. Ferguson Store added the element of rural isolation. Mint Hill was separated from the larger city of Charlotte by unpaved roads, few automobiles, and lack of services such as electricity and telephone. For convenience, country stores often sold a variety of items including plows, hand tools, kerosene for lamps, fabric for making clothes, seeds for planting, tobacco, along with candy and sweets to the delight of children.
A one room schoolhouse located near an interchange was donated by a local family who had heard their grandfather say, the building he used to store hay had once been a school for local children of all ages who walked and sometimes road a mule to school so they could learn to read, write, recite poems and do arithmetic. Today the Ashcraft School is a favorite for the visiting school children with a “black board” and pot belly stove. A colorful quilt hangs from the ceiling to demonstrate girls were taught domestic skills during recess when the quilt was lowered and small fingers made tiny stitches.
Other buildings in the village tell the necessity and importance of meat curing, black smith skills, laying chickens, and gold mining in rural Mint Hill. It has taken many supporters and volunteers to create the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village. The one remaining element of historical significance is a barn. We have searched for a local barn and removed many boards but never were we privileged to save an entire barn. In 2017 we found an 1880 timber frame in Ohio. After a trip to Ohio we agreed to purchase the vintage timber frame barn, hire an architect and began the journey. In March the plans were submitted to Mecklenburg County for review and just last week we learned that our plans had been approved.
Preparation has begun with the help of generational Mint Hill families. Tony Johnson long time Mint Hill resident gave legal expertise when we purchased an additional .7 acres of adjoining land in 2010. Father and son team, Ben and Greg Flowe surveyed the land and identified the best location for the corners of the building. For many generations the Flowe families have farmed, worked and raised their families in Mint Hill. Billy Smith cleared the site and we were in business. For generations his family, too, has lived, farmed and worked the soil. Blue Dot Redi Mix will pour the concrete slab. Owners Tony and Scott Griffin and Paul Cochrane can trace their lineage back for generations in Mint Hill. Pro Pest owner, Kelly is a new business in Mint Hill. However, he grew up here, says he loves this town and will provide the termite protection needed for the barn foundation. Yes, it takes a village to build a village. Throughout our thirty years countess people have repaired plumbing, electrical, pumps, wells, heating and air problems at little or no cost. We have depended heavily on dedicated individual volunteers to support our mission. Without their support we would not have the wonderful village for all to enjoy. All the proceeds from the three Mint Hill Rodeos as well as individual and corporate donations will help erect the barn. So once again, we are reaching out to the community to seek your support and expertise. If you can contribute in anyway please contact Sue McDonald, Director at our office located at 7601 Matthews Mint Hill Road, Mint Hill, NC 28227 or any member of the Mint Hill Historical Society.
We are now seeking bids from electricians, plumbers, heating and air companies including framers. We hope you will want to be a part of this exciting project. We believe community participation will make this project a dream come true. Bids are open until August 31st from all vendors. Call 704-573-0726 to express your interest and participation.
Finally timber framers will arrive from Ohio and erect the frame on a concrete slab. The community is invited to the barn raising. Please keep a watchful eye on the local media for this important date, especially our hometown publication The Mint Hill Times.