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Local History



Written by Erin Shrum,
8th grade student at Carmel Middle School

Notes Summary

The first white settlers arrived in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area in the 1740's. The Piedmont area that would become Mecklenburg County was still inhabited by the Catawba Indians. Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have historic landmarks from these early years still standing today. Pollution and expansion are threatening many of these historic landmarks. We can protect these landmarks by preserving and conserving our natural resources.

In Charlotte and Mecklenburg County there are a lot of rural farmsteads. Rural farmsteads are large areas of land with farms and outbuildings. Outbuildings were often constructed to house the servants. Some examples of rural farmsteads are the William Caldwell Farm, the Washam Farm, and the John Milton Alexander House. Plentiful timber made it possible for settlers to build log cabins, which were originally only one story, but were improved in later years to two stories. Also, clay was used to produce bricks, which were used for brick chimneys. In the 1920s, the number of farms in Mecklenburg County started to decline. Neighborhoods began to spring up in the early and mid twentieth century. At the same time, better roads were being built. Park Road Shopping Center, the first suburban shopping center, was built in 1956.

Dr. Dan L. Morrill is the consulting director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. He and his associates have worked to identify historic landmarks and endangered properties. They identify these properties by using the following criteria: 1) association with important historic events or people, 2) excellent examples of a property type important to the understanding of Mecklenburg's rural past, and 3) level of endangerment. The purpose of rural preservation is not to prohibit or inhibit growth. Its purpose is to manage growth, so that areas that are significant to the rural history of Charlotte-Mecklenburg are preserved within the context of economically viable development. Some historic landmarks in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area are the W. T. Alexander House, the Beaver Dam, the James A. Blakeney House, the Croft Schoolhouse, and the Hugh Torance House and Store.

Beaver Dam

Some properties that are endangered but are not historic landmarks are the Dr. James Samuel Abernethy House, the John Milton Alexander House, the William Caldwell Farm, the Croft Filling Station, the Oehler House, the Thrift P & N Depot, the Washam Farm, and the Grier Farm. The Croft Schoolhouse was active until 1890. It had first grade through twelfth grade classes. The Caldwell Farm was built in 1844 and significantly altered in the 1930s and 1980s. It is a two-story log house and has a large number of outbuildings and large fields. Interstate-485 is being built to go through the front yard of the Caldwell Farm. Construction like this destroys rural property.

Pollution is threatening Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. There are several things that are hurting the environment. Some of them are industrial smokestacks which cause pollution by smoke billowing from them, radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants which are very hazardous to human and animal health, littering, smoke from cigarettes, and construction for road expansion. Things can be done to protect the environment. Ways to protect the environment include installation of scrubbers on smokestacks to wash sulfur oxides out of factory smoke, recycling and throwing trash in the proper place to help reduce the amount of litter on the ground, and energy conservation.

If the work being done by Dr. Morrill, his associates, and others such as the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission continues our history can be preserved. If we take steps to stop pollution, and help save the environment, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County can have a brighter future.

Plan of Action

The current environmental situation in Mecklenburg County is worse than it was several years ago. It is worse because of rapid growth and major development in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. There are several ways that we can continue to grow and develop while using our natural resources wisely. You will be able to see that later on in this paper.

The land in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County is being used up quicker and quicker each day. So many more people are moving into Mecklenburg County that the land is going fast. Rural areas are being engulfed by urban development. Everyone wants to build new houses, shopping centers, roads, and other amenities, and undeveloped land is being used up quickly. The government is often exercising its right of way options to widen and build roads to handle the extra traffic. We can save land by building apartments, condominiums, and attached houses instead of single family homes. Also, if more people would carpool or ride buses, there would be fewer cars on the roads. Therefore, we wouldn't need to build as many roads. Another way to save land is by recycling. Recycling garbage will reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills that take up valuable land space. Recycling paper will also help to reduce the number of trees cut down to produce new paper products. Also, renovating existing, empty buildings instead of leaving them deserted and constructing new buildings on undeveloped land will conserve land use. Another idea that will help the land is to plant a tree for every tree that is cut down.

The air in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County is polluted. Exhaust from cars, smoke from factories, smoke from cigarettes, and more pollute it. Even charcoal grills and campfires contribute to air pollution. Air pollution has brought acid rain and smog to Charlotte and Mecklenburg. Acid rain is the general term for precipitation (rain, snow, sleet, hail, or fog) that is more acidic than normal. Smog is a form of a thick, brownish haze formed when hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and other gases react in the sunlight; it is a combination of the words smoke and fog. A way to help the air quality is to carpool, ride the bus, ride a bicycle, or walk because it is safer for the environment. Also, recycling will help the air because we wouldn't have to use machines that put chemicals in the air to cut down trees to build new landfills. If industries would learn to reduce and control the smoke and chemicals released into the air it would also help. If consumers would reduce their demand for electricity, it would reduce the pollution produced by power plants. Also, it would help if consumers would buy recycled and recyclable products.

The water in Mecklenburg County is polluted. It gets polluted when people throw trash and other things into it. It also hurts the water when industries dump chemicals into the water. If people would stop throwing trash into the water and throw it in a garbage can or recycle it, the water pollution would improve. Also, industries could dispose of chemicals safely if they really wanted to help the water bodies and the environment in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.I think if everyone pitched in, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County would be a much better place for people to live. Each person could start by recycling at home, school, and work and then learn to work together to do bigger and better things to help the environment.