Becky Griffin, Executive Director of the Mint Hill Historical Society unveiled the Carl J McEwen plaque in the Carl J McEwen Historic Village, a project of the Mint Hill Historical Society. Members of the McEwen family were recognized and Carl J. McEwen was remembered with the following words.
Carl J. McEwen
Those of us in the MHHS felt it appropriate to erect a permanent marker to honor the man whose generous spirit made Mint Hill the community it is today. We want the citizens of Mint Hill to know who Carl J. McEwen was, and what he did to grow and develop our town.
Born in 1893, in Mint Hill, he was only 15 years old when his father opened the RJ McEwen and Son General Store in 1908 at the corner of Lawyers Road and Matthews Mint Hill Road. Long before all people in Mint Hill had electricity, the McEwen store had a freezer where they rented space for people to store the vegetables from their gardens and the meat from their cows and hogs. His father was a cabinet maker and was often asked by friends and family to build a coffin for a loved one. Carl began stocking them in the store. He soon realized the need to have a funeral home to assist families with burial. He started the McEwen Funeral Home and built a stunning building that people came from miles away to watch as it was constructed. A decent burial cost about $100 then. Not every family had an automobile. Transporting a sick or injured person to a hospital was not an easy task in those days and waiting for an ambulance to come all the way from Charlotte lost valuable time for the patient. So he started an ambulance service and even had an Air Ambulance Service with his own plane.
He and his father had a nursery where he sold trees and shrubs to make available and encourage people to beautify their yards and homes. That was a new concept in rural Mint Hill. He began adding to the general store. He added a meat market, then a drug store, a men’s clothing store that sold overalls and work boots as well as dress clothes for church. He added a fertilizer store and then a grocery store where the customer selected items from the shelf rather than having them selected by the clerk, as in a country store and a hardware store. As more people bought automobiles, he opened a full service gas station across the street.
He started selling burial clothes for women and soon it developed into a dress shop run by his wife, Minnie Belle, who made seasonal trips to New York to buy the latest fashions. Women even came from Charlotte to shop at the McEwen and Thompson Dress Shop.
He had a cotton gin so that Mint Hill farmers had a convenient place to gin their cotton and then bought the cotton at the going price.
As successful as he was in business, he may be best remembered for his humanity and compassion for his fellow man. He cared about Mint Hill. He helped others start their own business. He built a new commercial building in Mint Hill every year for seventeen consecutive years. The exciting thing about this endeavor was that he found a good manager and set him up in business. When he saw that he could be a successful businessman he would invite the person to buy the business.
Carl McEwen was a man of great vision. He promoted everything and anything to boost economic development in Mint Hill. He donated land to establish civic organizations including the VFW Post, the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department and several churches.
His businesses spread to the greater Charlotte area and as a Mecklenburg County Commissioner he helped to bring hard surface roads to many parts of the rural county including Mint Hill. He was a quiet and unassuming man who loved Mint Hill.
A Charlotte Observer article published in the 50’s said that what Robert E. Lee meant to Richmond and what Winston Churchill meant to London, Carl McEwen meant to Mint Hill. When we were first organizing the MHHS we talked with Dan Morrill the noted Charlotte historian and asked what he knew about Mint Hill history. He told us that the only thing he knew about Mint Hill History was Carl McEwen. Indeed Carl McEwen and Mint Hill were synonymous in the 1930’s.
This Village is named the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village. The Carl McEwen heirs, continuing their father’s generous spirit donated the land in 1987 so we could move the Dr. Whitley/Dr. DeArmon Country Doctor’s Office and the Ira V. Ferguson Country Store to this location and save the buildings from demolition and decay. Additional cash donations from the McEwen Heirs led to the purchase of land for the administrative office, the one room schoolhouse, the bathrooms, and blacksmith shop as well as the buggy house and meat curing buildings.
We trust that this marker that we are about to unveil today will perpetuate the memory of the man who made possible so many things that are good about Mint Hill.