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Chapter Five

The Civil War In Charlotte-Mecklenburg

Dr. Dan L. Morrill

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

 

Charlotte-Mecklenburg was important strategically to the South.  The most important local facility was the Confederate Naval Yard.

         J. W. Ratchford , a student who had left Davidson College  to follow D. H. Hill to the North Carolina Military Institute ,  remembered attending chapel and listening to his mentor speak. Hill spoke about politics. When word arrived that South Carolina had seceded from the United States  on December 20, 1860, many of the cadets from South Carolina, including Ratchford, considered withdrawing from school and going home to support their native state. "Gen. Hill made us a talk . . . one morning, telling us that if we did have a war he expected to go, and advised us to stay at school until it was certain," Ratchford reported.

     One comes away from examining the fateful weeks in the first half of 1861 with the distinct feeling that Hill, in keeping with his long-held convictions, was willing to fight to protect the Southern way of life but that he sincerely hoped that war would not occur. D. H. Hill had no illusions about the horrible realities of military combat. "Recruiting sergeants, with their drums and fifes, try to allure by 'the pride, pomp, and circumstance of war;' they never allude to the hot, weary marches, the dreary night-watches, the mangled limbs, and crushed carcasses of the battle-field (sic.)," he proclaimed.  Hill was proud of the South's military tradition. "The armies of the Revolution were commanded by Washington, a Southern General," he told an audience in Wilmington, N.C.  But he knew that a struggle with the North would be long and arduous.

Daniel Harvey Hill in his Confederate uniform. Steward's Hall, home of the North Carolina Military Institute.

      Rumor and suspicion were rampant in Charlotte-Mecklenburg in the spring of 1861.  The Western Democrat  reported that "several strangers" were prowling about different sections of Mecklenburg County pretending to be peddlers "but acting in such manner as to cause the belief that this was not the real object."  The newspaper went on to state that these sneaky fellows were asking all sorts of questions about the status of people's property.  One was even discovered "talking with Negroes at a distance from any road or path."  The article applauded the determination of local farmers to arrest these troublemakers and turn them over to the sheriff for questioning.  "In these times of peril," declared the Western Democrat, "it behooves every man to be on the alert, and we verily believe no class of persons needs watching more than these strolling traders."

      After Confederate troops opened fire on the Federal garrison at Fort Sumter in the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina on April 12, 1861, D. H.  Hill summoned the young cadets to the chapel in Steward's Hall  on the outskirts of Charlotte and told them what to expect in the weeks, months and years ahead. His words were tragically prophetic. Ratchford recalled what the Superintendent said:

He warned us that it would be no child's play, and the chances were that it would last as long as the Revolutionary war, and we would all get enough of it. He mentioned the contrast between the resources of the North and the South, both in men and means. . . .

     The second half of April 1861 witnessed a flurry of activity at the North Carolina Military Institute . A particularly dramatic scene occurred when the cadets raised a secession flag, made by the ladies of Charlotte, over Steward's Hall  so the passengers on the trains moving north out of South Carolina could see it. James H. Lane , a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and a member of Hill's faculty, described what happened when the next locomotive passed by the campus. ". . . the artillery thundered its greetings to South Carolina as the train passed slowly by;  the male passengers yelled themselves hoarse; the ladies waved their handkerchiefs and threw kisses to these brave boys." One prominent North Carolinian called Charlotte a “young Charleston” because of the firmness with which the majority of white citizens supported secession

      North Carolina Governor John W. Ellis  summoned D. H. Hill to Raleigh to organize the State's first military instruction camp. The cadets followed soon thereafter. They marched as a body into Charlotte and boarded trains headed for the State capital on April 26th. Crowds lined the platform as the locomotive pulled away from the station.    Among the passengers headed for Raleigh was  L. Leon , a private in the Charlotte Greys , a local Confederate unit that had been ordered the day before to wrest control of the Charlotte Mint from Federal authorities.  "Our trip was full of joy and pleasure, for at every station where our train stopped the ladies showered us with flowers and Godspeed," he recorded in his diary. 

      It was Friday night. Steward's Hall  was turned over to the State as a place for volunteers to rendezvous. The halls were silent. The classrooms were empty. The chapel was still. Unknowingly, the Old South was entering its death agony. Two members of the faculty of the North Carolina Military Institute  would perish in the Peninsular Campaign, and James H. Lane  would be wounded twice.  Daniel Harvey Hill , called "Harvey" by his friends, was to see "about as much combat as any general on either side" in the Civil War, writes historian Shelby Foote.

Confederate troops, some very young, went off the war with considerable bravado and enthusiasm as the outset of the war.  This father and son served together.  They are William and John Howey of Mecklenburg County.

     The mood of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County was hopeful and resolute at the beginning of the Civil War.    Just as they had done for the cadets at the North Carolina Military Institute , the "young ladies" of Charlotte presented a flag to the "Charlotte Greys ."   Lizzie Alexander , a  Confederate supporter, gave a stirring speech  on April 21st when she addressed the Sharon Riflemen   on the occasion of their receiving a "handsome flag"  from the local ladies.  "Permit me in the name of the ladies of Sharon to present you this Flag bearing the Lone Star as an emblem of North Carolina, to whom alone we now owe allegiance," she began. "Together with this token of our esteem and confidence," she exclaimed, "we also entrust to you, brave sons of Mecklenburg, our dearest interests and hopes of security."  Eight companies of troops from Mecklenburg County had left for the front by September 1861.

     Charlotte's small community of free African Americans also demonstrated their commitment to the Confederate cause.  No doubt motivated mostly by desires to appease their white neighbors, black leaders like barber Jerry Pethel , who owned $2300 of real property in 1860, and household laborer Nancy Jenkins  led a successful campaign to raise $55 for the Soldiers' Aid Society, an organization headed by prominent white women.  "Our country's cause is a common one with master and servant alike," proclaimed an official of the Soldiers' Aid Society, "and it behooves us all to . . . to show the fanatics of the North that we of the South, regardless of colour, stand as a unit to sustain and strengthen the arm of the soldier of our glorious Confederacy."

Stephen Mallory, a lawyer and former U. S. Congressman from Key West, Fla., served as Confederate Secretary of the Navy throughout the Civil War.  He believed that the South could challenge the Federal Navy only be using ironclad ships.  The Confederate Naval Yard in Charlotte was a vital component of the South's military effort.

      "Let our people plant corn," proclaimed the Western Democrat .  "Let them wear jeans and homespuns as their ancestors did before them, when they threw off British rule."  It became commonplace for supporters of secession to compare the actions of  patriots during the War for American Independence with the exploits of Confederates soldiers during the Civil War.  Many advocates of secession believed that  defense of liberty stood at the heart of  both conflicts.  In his provocative study of the political culture of the ante-bellum South,  Masters and Statesmen.  The Political Culture of American Slavery, Kenneth S. Greenberg asserts that  “Southern anxieties about England, inherited from the republican ideology of the revolutionary period and reinforced by later events, underwent a slow transformation into a fear of New England and the North."  According to Greenberg, “Northerners just seemed to copy everything that England had done -- encourage slave revolts, fail to return fugitive slaves, prevent the extension of slavery, develop an abolitionist movement, exploit labor, and threaten liberty with power."

      President Jefferson Davis  drew upon the same theme of the supposed similarities between the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War when he addressed a large crowd in Charlotte in September 1864.  Not the first or last visiting politician to make note of the alleged Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence , the Confederate chief executive said he was aware that the "people of this section were the first to defy British authority and declare themselves free."  Davis encouraged the citizens of Charlotte-Mecklenburg to continue to back the war effort even in the face of mounting hardships and adversities.  By doing so, he contended, local folks would prove that the "spirit of the sires of '75 and '76 still actuated their descendants."   

      No battles of consequence occurred in Charlotte-Mecklenburg during the Civil War. There was to be no repetition of what had happened in this region during the American Revolutionary War.  The closest Union troops came was Rozzelle’s Ferry  in western Mecklenburg County in  April 1865, when  Yankee troops marched from Lincolnton to destroy the bridge that carried a plank road over the Catawba River .  Ironically, that same month Confederate President Jefferson Davis  and his Cabinet traveled through Charlotte on their flight southward from Richmond. 

     On learning that Federal troops were approaching, Richard Rozzelle , whose home stood on the eastern bank of the Catawba River  and who had already lost two sons in the war, one at Gettysburg and another in the Battle of the Wilderness, scampered to the bridge and removed the boards from the roadbed.  The Yankees, after setting the bridge ablaze and skirmishing with a cavalry unit, fired at a Confederate officer who had ridden into Richard Rozzelle ’s yard.  Their aim was high, and the bullets supposedly hit the house.  These were the only bullets fired  in anger by the enemy into Mecklenburg County during the Civil War.

     The absence of fighting did not make Charlotte-Mecklenburg an unimportant place during the so-called Great Rebellion.  Because it remained in Confederate hands until the very closing days of the conflict and because it was a major railroad junction, this community was of great strategic value to the South.  Trains left Charlotte laden with strategic supplies, transforming Charlotte-Mecklenburg into a major manufacturing and distribution center during the Civil War. So busy did the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad  become that it announced in February 1863 that it had "purchased 40 slaves to be used in working the road."

     In the spring of 1862, the Confederates had to abandon the Gosport Naval Yard in Norfolk because of the likelihood of its imminent capture by the North.  Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory , an ingenuous and bold innovator, chose Charlotte as one of the principal locations to which to transport the invaluable machinery and irreplaceable workmen. Laborers occupied the Mecklenburg Iron Works  and erected a series of new wooden buildings along the tracks of the North Carolina Railroad  in what is now First Ward in the summer of 1862  to house the Charlotte branch of the Confederate Naval Yard . 

Charlotte's strategic importance resulted largely from its position on a vital railroad link in the Confederacy.

   

      About 300 machinists and foundry men moved to Charlotte, so many that the surrounding neighborhood became known as “Mechanicsville.”  The smoke stacks of the naval yard were spewing smoke and soot into the Carolina blue sky by the summer of 1862.  Among the products of the factories were mines, anchors, gun carriages, and even marine engines.  The propellers and shafting for the famous Confederate ironclad C.S.S. Albemarle , which attacked and sank a Union gunboat at Plymouth, North Carolina in April 1864, were manufactured at the Confederate Naval Yard  in Charlotte.

       Charlotte-Mecklenburg had other important industrial facilities that served the Confederacy.  These included the Confederate State Acid Works  that produced sulfuric acid and nitric acid that were necessary to make fulminate of mercury, an essential component of percussion caps.  Sulfuric acid was also needed for wet cell batteries that provided electric power for the telegraph system of the South, including that used by the Confederate military.   W. F. Phifer  and J. M. Springs   and other local residents established the Mecklenburg Gun Factory  “for the manufacture of ordnance and small arms.”  J. M. Howie  of Charlotte made belt buckles and wire, and the New Manufacturing Company  produced wooden canteens for the army.  

Torpedoes (the Civil War term for underwater mines) were one of the items manufactured by the Confederate Naval Yard.

        Industrial life was fraught with danger.  This was especially true in the case of the North Carolina Powder Manufacturing Company  near the Tuckasseegee Ford  on the Catawba River .  Disaster struck the plant on May 23, 1863.  700 pounds of powder exploded, killing 5 people, destroying most of the factory, and rattling windows in Charlotte almost ten miles away.  "It is said there were about 700 pounds of powder in the mill at the time of the explosion," reported the Western Democrat . Rebuilt, the plant was destroyed again by an accidental explosion in August 1864 that killed "one white man and two mulattoes."   The mill never reopened.  Remains of the North Carolina Powder Manufacturing Company survive in what will become a public park.

     The biggest calamity that occurred in Charlotte during the Civil War was the destruction by accidental fire in January 1865 of the Confederate storage warehouses and depots and platforms of the North Carolina Railroad  and the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad .  "The loss to the Confederate Government is severe," reported the Western Democrat .  Large quantities of foodstuffs went up in flames, as did "blankets, soldiers clothing, leather, and various other articles."  To witness the obliteration of such vast amounts of food and supplies in this "terrible conflagration" must have pained the people of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, because they were experiencing firsthand the deprivations caused by the lack of essential commodities.  Local newspapers complained about the paucity of paper.  "Within the past month three of the four or five Paper Mills in this State have stopped by the advance of the enemy," proclaimed the Western Democrat in the final weeks of the war.  Factories found it increasingly difficult to obtain lubricating oils.   Charlotte fell into "almost complete darkness" in March 1864 when gas supplies ran out. 

       Charlotte newspapers were full of articles encouraging the people to provide greater support to the men in uniform.  "All person wishing to render the Confederacy essential service, can do so by cultivating the common GARDEN POPPY," declared the Western Democrat  on May 12, 1863.  Confederate officials proceeded to explain how one should go about extracting the "exuding juice" from the plant.  " . . . let it be collected and forwarded to the nearest Medical Purveyor."  Farmers were told to plant "large corn crops, not only corn but everything that will sustain life."  On January 12, 1863, Confederate officials in Charlotte issued an urgent plea for soap.  "The inability of the Government to procure Manufactured Soap will, it is hoped, induce the people of this section to engage in making an article so indispensable to the health and comfort of their relatives in the army."

     The people of Mecklenburg County had to endure increasingly grim news as the war dragged on.  "We have not room to publish a list of the casualties in all of the N. C. Regiments reported, and therefore select the companies from this and the surrounding counties," announced the Western Democrat   on May 19, 1863.  The newspaper proceeded to list the names of those who had fallen in the Battle of Fredericksburg.  Imagine the dread and apprehension with which mothers and daughters must have scanned the pages.  "Company A -- Killed:  Lieuts E. M. Campbell, R. A. Bolick; Privates W. S. Deal, F. T. Clodfelter, A. P. Parker, Smith Price, E. B. Austin."  Hands trembling, family members would have continued to read.  "Wounded: Lieut P. C. Carlton breast slight, Searg'ts G. W. Condroy two fingers off, . . . H. L. Miller mouth seriously."  Such were the harsh realities of the Civil War in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

     Unlike some sections of North Carolina, especially the Albemarle Sound and Pamlico Sound region, the Quaker settlements in and around Randolph County, and some parts of the mountains, Charlotte-Mecklenburg remained steadfast in its commitment to the Confederate cause.  “If the whole South was imbued with the same spirit of resistance to Yankee tyranny and oppression as that which characterizes the people of good old Mecklenburg,” commented one soldier who visited Charlotte in 1863, “no one need fear the result of the mighty struggle which is now going on.”  The Western Democrat  exhorted its readers to persevere no matter how great the obstacles.  “There must be no despondency among a people who are struggling for liberty, for property, for honor, for existence, and for the future welfare of their posterity,” the newspaper declared on September 20, 1864. There were some instances of defiance of Confederate authority.  Silas Davis tells a wonderful story of how his ancestors built a trap door in a horse stall in the barn on their farm.  Whenever a Confederate official would show up in the neighborhood, the Davis boys would run to the barn and hide beneath the trap door that was covered with horse manure.  "Horse manure never hurt nobody," Silas Davis told this writer.

    The Charlotte press lashed out with special vengeance against so-called “croakers” – those who unduly criticized the Confederate government and who sought to make peace with the North.  Chief among its targets was William Woods Holden , the editor of the North Carolina Standard of Raleigh.  Born a bastard in Orange County in 1818, Holden had led a successful campaign against the Whig Party in the 1850s that had made the Democrat Party the dominant political organization in the State.  After secession, however, he broke with the Democrats and became increasingly hostile to continuing the war.   Holden encouraged like-minded citizens to establish committees throughout North Carolina and to speak out against the Confederacy and its policies. “The man who instigates another to commit a crime is just as bad as if he had committed it himself,” announced the  Western Democrat .   One anti-war group, headed by Thomas Gluyas , did meet at Whitley’s Mill  in the Long Creek community of Mecklenburg County in 1863 but was never able to gain broad support locally.

     Even the optimism of the Western Democrat  began to wane during the last year of the Civil War when the prospect of ultimate defeat loomed ever larger.  “Let us be ready to bear reverses as well as victories,” the newspaper proclaimed.  The possibility that Union troops would raid Charlotte was becoming more of a distinct possibility.  “There is a good deal of Government property and stores, workshops, &c at this point,” wrote one reporter, “and the Yankees know it as well as we do.”   

The North Carolina Flag contained two dates.  "May 20, 1861 -- the date of secession -- and May 20, 1775 -- the date of the alleged Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

       The Western Democrat  announced that increasing numbers of unruly deserters from Confederate ranks were finding their way into Mecklenburg County.  Famished and half-naked, these desperate men were further diminishing public morale by engaging in criminal activities.  “On Wednesday night last, two armed men (supposed to be deserters) went to the house of Mr. Sam Davis , who lives on Potter road about 12 miles from this place, and demanded his money,"  the Western Democrat declared on December 22, 1863. The newspaper noted that several deserters "who had been for a long time skulking in the upper end" of Mecklenburg County were captured in October 1864.

     Its relatively secure location made Charlotte an ideal place to treat the Confederate sick and wounded. The Western Democrat   reported as early as June 1861  that "large numbers of wounded will be passing through."   In July 1863, officials erected  “extensive hospital buildings on the Fair Gounds, about 1 mile from the Public Square” or about where South Boulevard and East Boulevard now intersect. Steward’s Hall  at the nearby North Carolina Military Institute  housed a medical laboratory, where surgeons and doctors devised compounds to help make the infirm soldiers well.   The women of  Charlotte were indefatigable in gathering provisions for the military hospitals of Charlotte.   They brought bedding, bandages, blankets, towels and rags.  They brought what food they could spare, including “butter, eggs, fowls, dried fruit, vegetables, milk, etc.”  Mayor S. A. Harris  implored the "people of Mecklenburg County to send to Charlotte meat, flour, meal and all kinds to vegetables, to be prepared here for the large number of our wounded soldiers who are arriving daily."

       By 1865, when the ability of the South to hold off the Yankees was approaching the breaking point, hordes of wounded were transported by rail to Charlotte from such cities as Raleigh and Columbia. Refugees came too.   Local residents had to open up their churches and even their homes to the suffering soldiers.  It was a pathetic scene.  So desperate did the situation become that local officials urged refugees to stay at home or seek shelter elsewhere.  "The citizens of town are doing what they can towards supplying the wants of the sick soldier, but they have not the means to do much," lamented the Western Democrat  on March 28, 1865.

      Southern society was collapsing under the unrelenting pressure the North was bringing to bear against it.  On February 21, 1865, the Western Democrat  warned its readers that it did not know how long the newspaper could continue to appear.  Expecting William Tecumseh Sherman 's army to arrive any day, the editors declared that they would keep the presses rolling "until the enemy prevents us from publishing."  Union troops did destroy the bridge that carried the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad  over the Catawba River  but then turned eastward toward Goldsboro. 

     Mail service, the only way in those days to communicate with loved ones on faraway battlefields, was no longer available in the spring of 1865.  People on the home front therefore could not continue sending boxes of special items, such as food and clothing, to their relatives in uniform. Everywhere there was hunger.  Everywhere fear.  Everywhere suffering.  "In addition to the demands of the hospitals, thousands of soldiers are passing though our town, requiring something to eat," reported the Western Democrat .   President Jefferson Davis  delivered a somber speech when he arrived by horseback in April 1865 on his flight southward from Richmond.  "I am conscious of having committed errors," he declared, " . . . but in all that I have done, in all that I have tried to do, I can lay my hand upon my heart and appeal to God that I have had but one purpose to serve, but one mission to fulfill, the preservation of the true principles of Constitutional freedom, which are as dear to me today as they were four years ago."   

The Confederate Battle Flag flies over the Confederate marker and burial markers in Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte.

 

      Then it was over.  The Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad had much of its infrastructure destroyed.   As civil authority collapsed, looters began moving unmolested through the streets of Charlotte, smashing storefronts and stealing whatever they could find.  Drunks staggered from one street corner to another, oblivious to the throngs of anguished soldiers who were lying virtually unattended in makeshift hospitals all over town.  Town leaders welcomed union troops who took control of Charlotte without a struggle in May 1865.   The first order of business for the Yankee commander, Colonel Willard Warner  of the 180th Ohio Volunteers, was the restoration of order and the imposition of a loyalty oath.  ". . . all persons who wish to engage or are engaged in any business, are required to take the oath of allegiance to the United States," announced Colonel Warner.

        Days of great uncertainty were in the offing.  "When our soldiers returned to their former homes," wrote J. B. Alexander , a prominent Charlotte physician, "they felt the bitterness of defeat, and were stared in the face by poverty."  Paul B. Barringer , then a young boy living in nearby Concord, remembered what his uncle said to the family slaves.  "My uncle called all of them in and told them that they were now free and from henceforth could go where they willed, Mr. Lincoln's proclamation having been made good on the field of battle."    

Refugees such as these flooded into Charlotte during the closing weeks of the Civil War.

     Confederate soldiers returned without fanfare to their homes in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County during the weeks and months that followed the Civil War.  There were no crowds waiting to greet them as before.  No bands played patriotic tunes, and no ladies unfurled ceremonial flags to welcome them back.  These beleaguered veterans, many mud-splattered and shoeless, faced the awesome task of picking up the pieces of their shattered lives and starting over again.   Some troops arrived by train.  "A friend calls our attention to the fact that numbers of Confederate soldiers, who have recently been released, are daily arriving at Charlotte, many of them sick," reported the Western Democrat  on July 3, 1865.   Others, like John Starr Neely , had to walk home.  Imprisoned by the Yankees after serving as a guard in the Confederate prison in Salisbury, Neely did not get back to Mecklenburg County until 1866.

     Also among the returnees was Daniel Harvey Hill .    One cannot help but wonder whether the redoubtable warrior cast a nostalgic glance toward Steward's Hall  on the former campus of the North Carolina Military Institute  where only four years earlier he had taught enthusiastic young men the art of warfare. Surely he must have lamented the death of so many of his beloved students in the horrific conflict that had just ended.  Writing in the first issue of The Land We Love , a monthly magazine he founded in 1866, Hill gave full vent to the agony he felt over the South's defeat.  "All  the rivers  of plenty have been dried up!  The grass sprouts and grows from blood only; the rains of peace can not wash it away!  Want, want, want, cries!  Suffering groans!"   

     The Western Democrat  shared Hill's dreary assessment of the local economy.   "Everybody is complaining of the scarcity of money, and nobody seems to have any," the newspaper complained on June 13th.  There was plenty of crime, especially theft.  A small minority of Union troops made unauthorized visits to plantations and hauled off whatever they wanted.  Gangs of robbers traveled to Charlotte by train and proceeded to plunder the countryside.  One farmer had two mules stolen.  Another lost a "thousand pounds of bacon."  One unfortunate fellow drove his horse and buggy into town only to have them purloined by a "Negro man."

     A major reason for economic hardship in Mecklenburg County and its environs was the departure of large numbers of former slaves from the plantations where they had traditionally resided.   Blacks swarmed into Charlotte from the surrounding countryside.  "We know of instances where Negro men, having good homes and plenty to eat and wear, have left the crop just at the time it needed working and come here to town and lie about the suburbs in idleness," complained the Western Democrat .  " . . . the first result of the war," wrote Paul Barringer, "was the leaving of almost all our servants."

First United Presbyterian Church

      Bondspeople left the plantations to give expression to their new status as free people.  The same impulse caused African Americans to establish their own churches. "The unifying theme underlying the diverse efforts of the freed people remained the drive for autonomy and independence," explains historian Peter Kolchin.   Kathleen Hayes  of Charlotte summoned the black members of First Presbyterian Church to "come down out of the gallery and worship God on the main floor." Rev. Samuel C. Alexander , a white Presbyterian missionary from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, came to Charlotte soon after the war and purchased property at Davidson and Third Sts., where Hayes and her small band commenced to worship.   The Seventh Street Presbyterian Church, now First United Presbyterian Church,  stands today at North College and East Seventh Streets.

    Blacks  in rural areas also departed from the white man's churches.  Beginning in 1865, the Providence Presbyterian Church  Session minutes reported  the elders' concern about the "irregularities with the Colored people" which seemed in some way connected with their new freedom. In May of that year, many African American members formed a Sunday School under the supervision of William Rea . They met for one hour starting at 10:00 a.m., devoting one-half hour to teaching letters, spelling, and reading. The other half hour was devoted to catechism lessons. By October 1867, the Rev. Willis L Miller  of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. intervened to advise the black members or Providence to form their own church.  Now the Matthews-Murkland Presbyterian Church, the congregation meets in a modern building on Old Providence Road.    The African American members of Sharon Presbyterian Church also withdrew to form Lloyd Presbyterian Church.  Only the cemetery remains, near the intersection of Sharon Road and Colony Road.

The Lloyd Presbyterian Church Cemetery

     Missionaries for the A. M. E. Zion Church arrived in Charlotte in May 1865  and quickly moved to establish new houses of worship. Edward H. Hill  arrived and founded Clinton Chapel, the first black church in the city. It stood on South Mint Street between First and Second Streets. Reverend Hill licensed Bird Hampton Taylor , put him in charge of Clinton Chapel, and continued his organizing activities in the area. Before he died later that year, Hill had laid the groundwork for nearly twenty new churches within a fifty-mile radius of Charlotte. Thomas Henry Lomax , a native of Cumberland County, came to Charlotte about 1873 and soon thereafter founded Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church Grace A M.E. Zion Church  was established in 1887 by dissident members of Clinton Chapel. 

     African Americans residing in Mecklenburg County also witnessed the founding of Biddle Memorial Institute , now Johnson C. Smith University .  Three white Presbyterian ministers, Samuel C. Alexander , Sidney S. Murkland , and Willis L. Miller , were eager to impart Christianity and such middle class values as punctuality and frugality to the newly freed black men of the region. "It seemed an unreasonable thing to do," wrote Alexander's wife many years later, "when scarcely a dozen colored people in the County could read and fewer still could write." Excluded from the Concord Presbytery and vilified by many of their white neighbors, the three courageous preachers became agents of the Freedmen's Committee of the Presbyterian Church of the North.  "Any man from the North doing what I did would have been killed," said Miller.  "But I had been the associate of the pastors of the white churches and they kept 'the lewd fellows' from me."

      Willis Miller traveled to Missouri in May 1867 to meet with denominational leaders.  He "urged the favorable consideration of the grave need for an educational center in the midst of the suffering field," explains historian Inez Moore Parker.  Miller was successful in winning the support of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  He and his associates came to Charlotte, purchased a lot, and moved a building formerly used as a hospital for Union troops to the Charlotte site and opened the school soon thereafter.  Mrs. Henry J. Biddle  of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania made a generous donation to the college and requested that it be named "Henry J. Biddle Memorial Institute " in honor of her husband who had been killed in the Civil War.  This was done.  

 

Rev. Willis L. Miller Rev. Hercules Wilson on the far right.  He served Lloyd Presbyterian Church.

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