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A History of Troy
A History of Troy, North Carolina
and the Blair Family
by Claudia Bulthius

In 1886 two men decided to seek their fortunes in the town of Troy, NC, the county seat of Montgomery County.  The county has a colorful past.  Originally the territory covered a very large tract know as Bladen.  As it became more populated, it was difficult for the people to interact.  In 1749 a petition was approved and a section was separated into Anson County.  A similar division formed Montgomery County in 1779.  The large county was divided by the Yadkin-Pee Dee River.  This posed problems for government as there were no bridges and crossing the river was difficult and dangerous.  Numerous county seats were named often on  alternating sides of the river.  Courthouses burned down and a new location was chosen.  To solve the problem in 1842 the area was split once again along the river with the new Stanly County on the west and Montgomery County on the east.  Finally the roving courthouse found a home when a crossroads known as Simmons Tan Yard was chosen for its central location. Lockey Simmons had set up his operation there and Simmons Post Office was established in 1831. 

 

 

 Angus McCaskill donated 50 acres and the town of Troy was laid out with a wooden courthouse built in the center of the town in 1846.  Businesses and homes clustered around.  The town was most likely named for John B. Troy a prominent attorney at the time. Troy was incorporated in 1852.  In 1886 the courthouse burned to the ground with all the documents lost.  Little information is available before this time for those doing historical research.  The town was growing.  People coming to court needed lodging, food and supplies.  Gold was discovered in the area and mines were constructed.  Thirty mines were operating well into the 1920s.  It was to this developing economy that George Washington Allen and Joseph Reese Blair came in 1886 when Troy had a population of about 200 and the area had 1400 people.

 George Washington (G. W.) Allen (1847-1937) and his wife, Utah Jane Leach (1856-1947) were Montgomery County natives, descended from early settlers who moved west from the coastal settlements to the Pee Dee and Little Rivers from 1740-1790.  G. W. was from Shady Grove a few miles from town and Utie was from the vicinity of Star, 10 miles from town.  They made their home near G.W.’s family on the “plantation”, a modest cabin where they farmed, milled grain and distilled turpentine.  In 1886 they purchased a row of buildings a block from the courthouse and moved their growing family to Troy.  Joseph Reese Blair was a native of South Carolina, who moved to Monroe, NC with his family as a young boy.  At age 26 he had graduated from Rutherford College, studied law and sat for the bar in Raleigh.  A few months before the Allens moved to town, Mr. Blair had decided that the growing county seat was a good place to start his law practice and opened his office in Troy. 

The Allens had purchased property including The Halton Hotel, one of two in Troy.  They operated it as The Allen House providing lodging and meals mainly to people coming to town during court session.   G. W. opened a general store in the other buildings selling everything needed by the customers.  Many came to town only once a year to do business and stock up on supplies.  In the back he had livestock and a livery stable.  As a bachelor Lawyer Blair would often take his meals at the Allen House where he enjoyed the fine cooking.  The oldest daughter Ada helped serve.  Although Mr. Blair was 15 years older, they began a correspondence.  The first letter when she was 16 reads, “I don’t think I will ever marry because I have never met a man worth spending my life with”.  As a Victorian woman she should have been planning her wedding.  Their letters would continue through her time at Greensboro Women’s College (now UNCG) where she received her degree in 1897.  She returned to Troy and continued to work in the family business.

Mr. Blair was busy in his law practice.  He took all kinds of cases and was colorful in the courtroom.  He began to purchase property.  Troy was growing.  In 1897, the railroad came to town.  The depot was built on the north end of town where for many years there was a campground for visitors to court.  The heavily wooded area became the street where prominent citizens built their large Victorian homes.  The business along North Main St. was developed and a hardware store opened in the first brick building constructed.  Mr. Blair owned a small hotel that also housed a bakery, movie theater, printer and drugstore.  He chose this part of town to build his 5,000 sq. ft. home in the Queen Anne Victorian style.  He started construction in 1893 and completed it in 1897, the same year that Miss Ada returned to Troy.   The two carried on a courtship that lasted for 8 years.   They finally married in 1905 and she joined him in his grand home.  The Blairs loved to entertain and newspapers of the time describe their wonderful parties.  Mr. Blair was a sporting man and loved to hunt fox—not the fancy red coat hunt, but the let the hounds go and catch’em type.   One of their evenings was a banquette for the Montgomery Fox Hunters in 1909.  The menu lists 6 courses with various dishes including quail, opossum a la fermier and tutti-fruitti for dessert.  The Mt. Gilead Coronet Band provided entertainment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both men who had come to Troy were prospering as the town grew.  The railroad brought new trade.  In 1904, you could board the railroad in Mt. Gilead and ride all the way to Biscoe stopping at all the towns along the way.  G.W. was the first to offer Ford cars in the area.  The Ford dealership started then is still located across from the courthouse.  It was a prosperous time in Troy with Mr. Capel starting his rug company in 1911 when he realized that the mule harnesses he was making would no longer be in demand.  Troy Cross Arm Company was established and with plentiful raw materials in the pine forests became a major supplier of telephone and electric pole cross arms.  The Cross Arm Co. evolved into Troy Lumber Co.  Both of theses companies are still active and are major employers in the county.

 

The Blairs were settled in their grand house.  Mr. Blair became active in politics and was the first man from the Democratic Party to be elected to state office from Montgomery County—as a representative (1893) and then as a senator (1907).  He was generous and helped Mr. Jacob Polakavetz start his clothing store in 1911 by offering a store location and a horse and buggy until his business was a success.  When the patriarch of a farm family died, Mr. Blair charged them only rent to cover the taxes until they were back on their feet. After nine years of marriage they had no children.  Ada did not wish to have children ; she preferred not to “share” Mr. Blair.  However in 1914 she became pregnant.  Mr. Blair was at the courthouse and was stricken with paralysis (most likely a stroke).  They brought him home and he passed away.  Six months later his only child, Joseph Reese Blair II, was born.  Mrs. Blair found herself a widow with a large house, much property and numerous downtown business holdings.

 

 

 

The 1920s were a boom time for Troy.  Cars were becoming popular, but the dirt roads became a muddy trap when it rained.   In 1922 a tax was levied on all property owners and for the first time, the streets were paved.  Sewer and water lines were laid.  There seemed to be a gas station on every corner.  A fire in the jail in 1918 did not destroy the courthouse, but there were concerns about the old wood structure.  It was torn down and a new masonry courthouse was built.  It was moved out of the center of the road to allow cars to pass.  The 1921 building is still in use and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Mr. Blair had plans drawn to remodel his home before he passed away.  Mrs. Blair went ahead with the project turning the exterior of the house into a more modern Neoclassical exterior in the 1920s.  At the same time she had plans drawn to expand and improve her hotel behind the house.   Then fire struck again and destroyed the old hotel and the whole Blair block.  The flames wiped out 25% of the business district.  It is likely that the new brick exterior and slate roof saved the Blair House.  Mrs. Blair rebuilt her block with small businesses that provided all the town needed—drug store, post office, grocer, theater and clothing.  These buildings are still in service.

 

The town weathered the Depression.  Mrs. Blair supplemented her income by providing rooms at her house.  The door was unlocked and those needing lodging would place a dollar in the basket and find a bed upstairs.  The end of World War II brought an era of prosperity.  Through the 50s, 60s and 70s textiles were king and many mills were opened.  Furniture  manufacturing was strong.  Employment was high and Troy thrived with Saturdays full of farmers from the countryside filling the stores.  Fine homes were built once again.  Mrs. Blair and her son challenged the town to grow by donating land for a hospital and community college.  The people of Troy responded by raising money and both of these institutions are important today.

 

G. W. Allen’s descendants operated a store in his building until it was torn down along with The Allen House hotel in 1975.  Mrs. Blair died in 1975 at the age of 99 having lived in her house as a widow for almost 60 years.   Little remains of the old downtown businesses that surrounded the courthouse.  Capel’s Mill Outlet is there.  Lawyer’s offices occupy most of the buildings.  Now in the 21st century, things have come full circle.  The granddaughter of Reese and Ada has opened The Blair House as a bed and breakfast.  Once again The Blair House is being enjoyed by guests.  Troy struggles with the realty of declining industry and unemployment.  But the lovely small town atmosphere and the supportive, friendly community are ever the same.  It will always retain its rural roots as The Uwharrie National Forest, designated in 1960, covers up 2/3 of Montgomery County.   The next chapter in the history of Troy is waiting to be written.  

 

 

In researching this article, I used the three volumes of Montgomery County Heritage published by The Historical Society,  The Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Dept. of Cultural Resources and Pattern of Timeless Moments : a History of Montgomery County by Mable S. Lassiter (1975).

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