Survey and Research
Eli H. and Francis M. Hinson Store
Name and location of the property: The property known as the
Eli H. and Francis M. Hinson store is located at 8925 Arlington Church
Name and address of the current owner(s) of the property:
The current owner of the
Eli H. and Francis M. Hinson Store is:
B. David Houston, Henry and Margie Y. Houston
8916 Arlington Church Road
Charlotte, NC 28227
Representative photographs of the property: This report
contains representative photographs of the property.
A map depicting the location of the property: This report
contains a map depicting the location of the property.
Current deed book reference to the property: The most
recent deed to the Eli H. and Francis M. Hinson Store can be found in
Mecklenburg County Deed Book 4241 Page 996. The Tax Identification
Number for the property is 139-37-103. The property is zoned R.
A brief historical sketch of the property: This report
contains a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by Lara
A brief architectural description of the property: This
report contains a brief architectural description of the property prepared
by Lara Ramsey.
Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria for designation set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-400.5.
Special significance in terms of its history, architecture,
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission judges that the Eli H.
and Francis M. Hinson Store possesses special significance in terms
of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its judgment on the
The Eli H. and Francis M. Hinson Store is a physical representation
of rural commerce in Mecklenburg County in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries. The simple brick store, constructed in the late
1880s or early 1890s, served as a center of commercial activity for the
farmers in Clear Creek Township. The Hinson Store, and others like it
scattered throughout Mecklenburg’s countryside, provided a vital
link for relatively isolated rural communities to the larger economy of
The Hinson Store was built by Eli Hinson, a well-known and
successful gold miner, farmer, and businessman, along with his son Francis
Martin Hinson, who was also a prominent merchant. Both men were
respected and important members of their small rural community
located in the center of Clear Creek Township. Eli had been a
founding member of Arlington Baptist Church and had donated the land on
which the first church building was built. Martin was a teacher at
both the Mount Pleasant School and Rutherford College before taking over
his father’s farm and store. The brick store that remains today replaced
the original wood frame store that Eli had opened across Arlington Church
Road many years before, and was part of a number of enterprises (including
a grist mill and brick yard) that encompassed the Hinson farmstead.
Integrity of design, workmanship, materials, feeling, and
The Commission contends
that the architectural description prepared by Lara Ramsey demonstrates
that the Eli H. and Francis M. Hinson Store meets this criterion.
Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The Commission is aware that
designation would allow the owner to apply for an automatic deferral of
50% of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property that
becomes a designated “historic landmark.” The current appraised value of
the entire 44.09-acre parcel on which the Hinson store sits is $18,562.00.
The current appraised value of the store building is unknown.
preparation of this report:
July 10, 2004
2436 North Albany Avenue, Apt. 1
Chicago, IL 60647
Statement of Significance
Eli H. and Francis M. Hinson Store
The Eli H. and Francis M. Hinson Store, located at
8925 Arlington Church Road in Mecklenburg County, NC, is a property that
possesses local historic significance as an excellent example of the small
rural stores that served Mecklenburg County’s farming communities in the
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although the years
following the Civil War witnessed unprecedented growth for Charlotte and
small towns like Davidson and Matthews, Mecklenburg County remained a
rural place, populated by modest farms scattered throughout the
countryside. Because many farmers were still miles from the nearest
railroad town or village, let alone the booming city of Charlotte, rural
general stores were a vital commercial center for these families.
Usually owned and run by well-off planters, these unassuming stores
provided most of what local families needed or wanted but could not
produce themselves, from tools and farm equipment to buttons, ribbons and
kitchenware. The Hinson Store was just such a commercial hub for the
small community of Allen in Clear Creek Township. Run by Eli
Henderson Hinson and his son Francis Martin Hinson, the store sold
everything imaginable to its customers, from common household and farming
tools to coffins.
The Hinson Store is also significant for its
association with Eli Hinson and his son Francis M. Hinson. Eli
Hinson had already made a name for himself as a successful gold miner when
he moved from his native Union County to Clear Creek Township in the
1850s. Through the last half of the nineteenth century, Eli
established a large farmstead that included the general store, brick yard,
cotton gin, and grist mill. He also continued to use his knowledge
of mining, acting as manager of the Surface Hill gold mine for many years.
After a religious conversion that is said to have happened on a Civil War
battlefield, Eli also founded Arlington Baptist Church, providing land and
funds for the building of the sanctuary. Eli’s son Francis Hinson
(known in the community as “Martin”) followed in his father’s
footsteps—after attending Rutherford College and teaching school for
several years, Martin began working with Eli in the running of the farm,
mill, and store. Martin received the deed to the farm in 1887 and
continued to operate the store until his death in 1935.
Historical Background Statement
Rural Stores in Mecklenburg County
The period between the Civil War and the turn of
the twentieth century was one of unprecedented growth and prosperity in
Mecklenburg County. This economic expansion was most apparent
in the emergence of Charlotte as North Carolina’s most important
trading and manufacturing center, and in the emergence of several small
towns along the newly-laid railroad lines that crossed the county.
Charlotte had already risen to prominence within the county and among
neighboring towns for several reasons:
The railroad, in addition to the discovery
of gold in 1799, followed by the establishment of a branch of the United
States Mint in 1837, brought Charlotte into the forefront of the
Carolinas' economy. By 1860, four converging railroads had made Charlotte
a trading center surrounded by a few prosperous plantations and numerous
small farmers. The city's population had doubled between 1850 and 1860.
Charlotte continued to progress through the Civil
War as a center of war time industry, producing cannons, gunpowder,
chemicals, and other supplies; these same industries would provide the
base for the city’s post-war boom.
The expansion of the rail lines throughout the county and the coming of
cotton textile mills in the late nineteenth century aided in Charlotte’s
growth, and encouraged the growth of several smaller towns—Pineville,
Huntersville, Matthews -- within the county.
Despite the obvious increase of industry and
commerce in Charlotte, the county’s post-bellum economy remained firmly
rural and agricultural. This was partly due to increased production of
cotton made possible with the newly discovered fertilizer Peruvian guano.
Also, because the vast majority of farms in antebellum Mecklenburg County
had been too small to require slave labor, most planters were able to
recover quickly after the end of the war, and the number of farms
increased steadily in the years following the conflict.
In 1860, Mecklenburg contained 1182 farms; by 1880, the county had 2645,
over twice as many.
Most of these were modest farms of less than 100 acres, on which were
grown a variety of crops, including wheat, corn, and cotton. While
many of these farms were within an easy distance of one of the growing
railroad towns like Pineville or Matthews, there were many more that
remained outside the reach of these commercial centers. These
farmers relied upon small country stores, as well as mills, blacksmiths,
and other establishments, usually clustered near rural crossroads.
The Hinson Store retains its rural setting.
Of course, there had been country stores in
Mecklenburg long before the Civil War. In their survey of
Mecklenburg’s rural resources, Sherry Joines and Dan Morrill explain that
“as the number of farmers increased [in the first decades of the
nineteenth century], blacksmith shops, carpenters, grist mills, and
country stores developed in Charlotte, Paw Creek, Hopewell, Providence,
Sugar Creek, and Rocky River, as well as other rural sections of
These modest shops were the commercial backbone of the county, providing
farmers with goods and services that had previously required travel
to a larger trading center like Charleston or, later, Charlotte.
Most of the county’s early dry goods stores offered an array of household
goods, as well as tools and other farming aids. The inventory for an
early dry goods store owned by James Torrence, son of prominent planter
Hugh Torrence, is indicative of the goods offered by most general stores
in the county: “James purchased most of his initial inventory from
merchants in Philadelphia. According to the receipts from his first buying
trip in May and June, 1805, James spent nearly $4000.00 to purchase
ribbons, cloths, buttons, dishes, jugs, tools, kettles, shovels, curry
combs, rat traps and hardware.”
Farmers in ante-bellum Mecklenburg rarely paid for these goods with
cash—most traded portions of their harvest or other products from their
farms in exchange for merchandise, with cash sometimes given as partial
payment. This system of exchange continued to be used by many rural
stores through the mid-1800s. Store owners also extended
credit to customers.
As the number of small farms increased in
Mecklenburg County in the late 1800s, so did the number of rural stores.
Many owners of existing general stores simply expanded to accommodate the
new customers; others built new establishments. Some of these stores
were built along one of the many new rail lines crossing the county,
others were built at rural crossroads or near other establishments like
mills or blacksmith shops. Like the early dry goods stores
established almost a century before, these country stores provided an
important commercial center for Mecklenburg’s farming communities.
The Eli H. and Francis M. Hinson Store
The Eli H. and Francis M. Hinson Store was one of
these rural general stores that prospered along with Mecklenburg’s farmers
in the late nineteenth century. The one-story brick building,
constructed in the late 1880s or early 1890s, was meant to replace the
frame store that Eli Hinson had opened years before. Born in 1824 in
Union County, Eli Hinson had achieved modest success as a gold miner and
farmer there before moving to Mecklenburg County in the 1850s.
Eli, his wife Tursey, and their young son R. Martin settled in Clear Creek
Township, in a two-story brick house originally built by Colonel David
Kerr in 1786.
In 1863, at the age of 39, Eli Hinson joined the
Confederate Army, enlisting as a private in Company I of the 48th
Infantry Regiment North Carolina.
Local legend holds that Eli “dedicated himself to the Lord and wanted to
put down his gun and pick up his Bible to promise the Lord’s work” on a
Virginia battlefield in 1864.
Eli went on to found Arlington Baptist Church after the war:
Upon his return home, he, with other
interested Christians, met for worship in a brush arbor on his plantation
. . . In 1875, Mr. Hinson built a small one room house, twenty by
thirty-five feet, and dedicated it to God and his people. . . . The
first baptismals were held in the stream near Eli Hinson’s old gristmill,
located back of the church. This was the community social center and
the people voted here in county and state elections.
In 1884, Eli and Tursey Hinson deeded a 4.5-acre
lot north of their farmhouse to the church. A modest sanctuary was
erected on this donated land, constructed of bricks “made by hand at the
rear of the building by men in the community.”
Eli established a large and productive farmstead
during the 1860s and 70s. In addition to planting wheat and Indian
corn and raising milk cows and hogs, Eli operated a grist mill, cotton
gin, and thriving general store.
The original frame building that housed the store sat beside the Hinson’s
After the end of the war, Eli took on several tenants to cultivate land on
the farm. Early meetings of Arlington Baptist were held in one of the
tenant houses on Eli’s property; and church records indicate that by the
1880s, there were four tenant families living on the Hinson Farm.
In addition to overseeing operations on the farm,
Eli continued to work in gold mining, acting as manager for the
Surface Hill Gold Mine in Clear Creek.
The Charlotte News described Eli’s mining work in his obituary in
Mr. Hinson was one of the pioneer gold
miners of this county and successfully operated the Surface Hill mine in
Clear Creek township for many years. He was considered one of the
best informed men on mining subjects in the state and from time to time
during his life had much experience in operating other mines than the one
at Surface Hill.
In 1887, Eli and Tursey Hinson deeded approximately
250 acres of their farmstead—including the brick farmhouse and surrounding
land on the east side of Arlington Church Road and land directly across
from the house, on the west side of the road—to their son Francis Martin
Martin, who was 31, had attended Mount Pleasant Institute and Rutherford
College, and had taught at both schools before returning home to the
Martin gradually took over the running of the farm, including the grist
mill and gin, and the general store. Eli, approaching 70, continued
working as manager at the Surface Hill Mine.
Eli and Tursey remained in the brick house, and Martin built a white frame
house on the property for his own family. The house, which sat
perpendicular to the street, its front elevation facing the side of the
brick farmhouse, has since been demolished.
It was probably sometime around the time of this
transaction that the present Hinson Store was built, directly across
Arlington Church Road from the Hinson Farmhouse. Descendents of
the Hinson Family assert that Eli built the store soon after the sanctuary
for Arlington Baptist was built, using the same handmade bricks from Eli’s
However, the transfer of the farm to Martin, as well as the listing of
Martin as a merchant and owner of a grist mill and gin in several business
directories, indicate that Martin Hinson had at least some measure of
involvement with the store’s construction. By the time of Eli’s death at
age 94 in 1916, Martin had had full control of the farm and store for
The Hinson Store is currently used for storage.
Martin Hinson operated the farm, mill and store
into the early decades of the twentieth century.
By 1920, however, Martin began to focus more of his energies into running
and expanding the general store. The 1920 and 1930 census records
list his profession as simply “merchant—general store,” and list several
of his family as salesladies or clerks at the store.
Martin continued to manage the store until his death in 1935.
According to Martin’s granddaughter Mildred Hartsell, Martin’s son
Raymond (who had moved into the brick house across the street from the
store) attempted to keep the general store open after his father’s death,
but eventually gave up the venture.
In 1946, Martin’s heirs sold the property, including the original Kerr
farmhouse and brick store, to H. J. Houston and his wife Florence.
Houston converted the store building for storage, adding a shed-roof
lean-to onto the north end of the building to house farm equipment.
The store has remained in the Houston family since 1946 and is currently
owned by B. David Houston, Henry T. Houston, and his wife Margie Y.
The Eli H. and Francis M. Hinson Store is located
at 8925 Arlington Church Road, in the Clear Creek Township of
Mecklenburg County. The store sits on a 44.09-acre site that borders
the west side of Arlington Church Road, and faces northeast
(approximately) onto the road. Located near the southeast corner of
the lot, at the edge of the right-of-way for Arlington Church Road, the
store faces the two-story brick house—built by Colonel David Kerr in 1786
and the former residence of Eli Hinson and is family—on the east
side of Arlington Church Road. A number of farm buildings are
located southeast of the store, including several storage buildings, two
silos, three barns, and a grain bin. A dirt drive runs along the
northwest elevation of the store, continuing past the rear of the
The Eli H. and Francis M. Hinson store is a
one-story, gable-front, brick building with a half basement. The
walls of the store are made of brick laid in common bond. The
low-pitched roof is covered with corrugated metal, as is the underside of
the southwest gable and the shed-roof lean-to on the southeast elevation
of the store. The lean-to, which runs along the entire length of the
elevation, was added by H. J. Houston shortly after he purchased the
property in 1946.
Exposed rafter tails provide a subtle decoration under the eaves along the
northwest and southeast elevations.
The façade (northeast elevation) of the store is
approximately two bays wide. A simple, shed porch supported with four
metal poles stretches across the elevation just under the gable,
protecting the storefront from the elements. Two large, six-over-six, wood
frame windows dominate the elevation; underneath each window is a simple
wood panel that continues to the ground. Centered between these two
windows and flanked by two square brick pilasters, is the main entrance to
the store. A large, two-light transom sits atop a set of wood doors, each
with two glazed panels above a single wood panel. Many of the panes in the
windows and doors of the façade (and on the rest of the store’s
elevations) have lost their glass, and the large storefront windows and
door have been covered with wire. The brick pilasters that flank the
doorway continue up along the gable wall; a large fan pierces the
gable between the pilasters.
The northwest and southwest elevations are plain
and unadorned, the brick interrupted only by windows and doors.
Three lunette windows regularly punctuate the northeast wall of the store.
Toward the rear (west corner) of the elevation are a doorway topped with a
segmented arch leading into the rear of the store, and a segmented arch
basement window. Another segmented arch doorway and window, similar
to those on the northeast elevation, pierce the southwest (rear)
The author was not able to gain access to the
interior of the store.
Although in a state of disrepair, the Eli H. and
Francis M. Hinson Store remains as an example of the many small rural
stores that flourished in post-bellum Mecklenburg County. The modest brick
building provided an important commercial center for farming families too
far from large trading centers like Charlotte, and even from smaller
railroad towns like Pineville or Matthews. The store also serves as
a reminder of the influence of Eli and Martin Hinson within their small
Clear Creek community.
Joines and Morrill, “Historic Rural Resources in Mecklenburg County,
North Carolina,” Reconstruction.
University of Virginia Geospatial and
Statistical Data Center, United States Historical Census Data
ONLINE, 1998, University of Virginia, Available:
(10 July 2004).
and Morrill, “Historic Rural Resources in Mecklenburg County, North
Carolina,” Antebellum Period.
“ Mr. Eli Hinson, One of Oldest Residences in County, is Dead,”
Charlotte News, 23 October 1916.
Historical Data Systems, comp., Military Records of Individual
Civil War Soldiers, [database online] (Provo, UT:
“Arlington Baptist Church 1880-1980: Centennial Celebration,”
(unpublished history of the church, 1980), 3.
1850 United States Federal Population Schedules, Union County, Roll
M432_647, Page 86; 1860 United States Federal Population
Schedules, Mecklenburg County, Roll 906, Page 32; 1860 United States
Federal Agriculture Schedules, Mecklenburg County, Page 7;
“Arlington Baptist Church 1880-1980: Centennial Celebration,” 3.
“Arlington Baptist Church 1880-1980: Centennial Celebration,” 3.
Levi Branson, A. M., ed., Branson’s North Carolina Business
Directory, 1896 (Raleigh, NC: Levi Branson, Office
Publisher, 1896), 419.
Charlotte News, 23 October 1916.
Register of Deeds, Mecklenburg County Courthouse, Deed Book 54,
Charlotte Observer, 27 September 1935, Section One, Page
Mildred Hartsell, telephone interview with author, 21 June 2004.
Charlotte News, 23 October 1916.
The North Carolina Year Book and Business Directory, 1905
(Raleigh, NC: The News and Observer, 1905), 388; The
North Carolina Year Book and Business Directory, 1914 (Raleigh, NC:
The News and Observer, 1914), 295.
1920 United States Federal Population Schedules, Mecklenburg County,
Roll T625_1310, Page 14A; 1930 United States Federal Population
Schedules, Mecklenburg County, ED 53. The household was
assigned numbers for the agricultural schedules in both census
years—it’s likely that most of the farm work was being done by tenants.
Hinson Dies at Allen,” Charlotte Observer, 27 September
1925, Section 1/Page 1.
Register of Deeds, Mecklenburg County Courthouse, Deed Book, 1234