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Cities and Towns in Mecklenburg County

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Mint Hill

History of Mecklenburg County

Queen Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz - Sculpture in Charlotte, North Carolina

The county was named for Princess Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the Queen of King George III. 

The first settlers came to the area in the late 1740s from Pennsylvania. Maryland and Delaware. They, like the explorers and traders before them, found Catawba Indian villages scattered throughout the territory. The Catawbas were a peaceful, relatively civilized people and presented no threats to early settlements.

Increasing numbers of settlers were attracted to the area, and on December 11. 1762, the Provincial Assembly creating Mecklenburg County granted a petition from a portion of Anson County, effective February 1, 1763. Settlers chose the name “Mecklenburg" for their county in hopes of gaining favor with King George III of England whose wife, Queen Charlotte, was born in a German province of that name.

The original County of Mecklenburg was considerably larger than it is today. It included portions of what are now Cabarrus, Union, Lincoln, Rutherford, Cleveland, and Gaston counties. Upper portions of South Carolina were also once in Mecklenburg.

After the creation of the new county, there was vigorous competition between the residents of the eastern Rocky River area and those who lived in the community of “Charlottesburg” or “Charlottetown” over the location of the county seat. To enhance their cause, leaders of Charlottetown on their own built a log courthouse in 1766 at what is now the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets. Their effort paid off, for on December 3, 1768, the town of Charlotte, named again after the Queen, was incorporated and temporarily chosen as the county seat, a designation that became permanent in 1774.

By the mid-l770s, strong resentment against government by the English had developed in Mecklenburg. To decide what course of action should be taken, Mecklenburg leaders from each militia district gathered at the county courthouse. On May 20, 1775, the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, a brief document formally renouncing the county’s ties with England, was signed and proclaimed to the populace from the courthouse steps - more than a year before the American Declaration of Independence was signed. Severa1 days later on May 31, the 1eaders reassembled and adopted the Mecklenburg Resolves, which outlined a new system of government for the county.

Others considered the Mecklenburgers’ actions premature in the state that still hoped for compromise with England, so the plans for a new government were never implemented. But compromise proved to be impossible. On July 4, 1776, the American Declaration of Independence was signed and the Revolution was under way.

Mecklenburgers were ardent supporters of the Revolution. Some spent the bitter winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge. When England's General Cornwallis invaded Charlotte on September 25, 1780, he encountered stubborn resistance. The rebellious Mecklenburgers made his occupation of the town a miserable experience. The local militia harassed his troops in their search for food, intercepted his messengers and hampered his communication with other English forces. Cornwallis referred to Charlotte as a “hornet's nest, " a nickname that has lasted through the years.

The end of the Revolution meant Mecklenburgers could turn their interests to their community and from 1781 to 1800 a period of rebuilding and growth took place. Several stores, a flour mill, and a sawmill were opened. In 1792, a post office was established in Charlotte and by 1794 there was stagecoach service. A major event of this period was President, George Washington's visit to the county in 1791. In the years to come two Presidents, Andrew Jackson, born in 1767, and James K. Polk, born in 1795, were native Mecklenburgers.

The discovery of gold in Mecklenburg in 1799 marked a turning point in the county's development. Hundreds of miners, engineers and fortune hunters poured into the area. Mecklenburg became the gold capital of the United States, and in 1837 the first branch of the US Mint was opened in Charlotte. The mint ceased operation during the War Between the States, but the building was used for various federal operations until the 1930s when it was moved from west Trade Street to its present location on Randolph Road and opened as the Mint Museum of Art.

The antebellum days were indeed prosperous times in Mecklenburg with gold mining, successful cotton plantations and growth of the county as a business center. The invention of the cotton gin made cultivation profitable, and Mecklenburg is said to have ginned more cotton than any other North Carolina county in this period. In 1810, the county's first brick courthouse was built, but it had to be replaced by a larger two-story model in 1845. A public school system consisting of one-room schoolhouses throughout the county was established in 1841 after a favorable vote to levy a tax for that purpose. In the 1850s, two railroads to Charlotte were opened - one from Columbia and one from Greensboro - and the telegraph was introduced to the county.

Although there was little fighting in Mecklenburg during the War Between the States, the county was an important part of the Confederacy. In 1861 the US Mint was seized and converted to confederate headquarters for the area. The next year the Confederate Naval ordnance was moved to Charlotte because the Norfolk area was threatened by Union troops. Naval weapons and munitions were made at the facility until late 1864 when it was destroyed by fire. In 1865, records of the State Department of the Confederacy and the Great Seal were stored in the Mecklenburg County Courthouse and that same year the last full meeting of the Confederate Cabinet took place in Charlotte. Union troops occupied Charlotte in June of 1865 and did not completely withdraw until 1872.

Reconstruction times were hard, but as they had after the Revolution, Mecklenburgers began rebuilding their lives and their community. Gold mines were reopened on a limited basis and new stores and shops established. Although Meckienburg would never again be a major producer of cotton, the county became a processing center and at one point had seventeen cotton mills within its boundaries. Charlotte emerged as an important transportation and distribution center because of its railways and systems of roads.

Community development accelerated in other areas too. By 1880, there was a private hospital in Charlotte and the beginnings of a public health service were in evidence by the late 1890s. What was to become the public library was started and a graded public school opened in Charlotte. Communications improved with the appearance of several newspapers, telephones and electricity. The towns of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, and Pineville were also established during this period.

In 1900, Mecklenburg had a population of 55,268 and life was leisurely. But with the beginning of World War I the pace of both life and population growth quickened. Camp Greene, an Army training camp, was established west of Charlotte and recruits from across the country poured into Mecklenburg. Many of the so1diers later returned to make the county their home. A period of general expansion followed the war, and by 1930 Mecklenburg's population was more than double the count at the turn of the century.

Although the Depression of the '30s brought economic hardship, steady growth continued and by 1940 the county population had increased to 127,971. World War II again made Mecklenburg a military center. In 1941, Morris Field Air Base was built around Charlotte's Douglas Municipal Airport and served as a training center. A giant Quartermaster depot was opened on Statesville Road and a large naval munitions plant was constructed on York Road. Although the war dominated the decade, other significant events took place in the 1940s: Charlotte Memorial Hospital, the first public general hospital in the county, was opened in 1941. Charlotte College, the forerunner of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, was established in 1946.

The decade of the 1950s was a period of exceptional growth. New homes and shopping centers were built to accommodate the increasing number of people attracted to the area. Industry and business also expanded, bringing more jobs to the community.

New facilities were built to keep pace with the growing population: Douglas Municipal Airport was expanded (1954); Ovens Auditorium and the Coliseum were opened (1955); a new Public Library was dedicated (1956); a new Health Department was built (1959); and construction was started on the County Office Building (1959). Another significant event of the decade was voter approval of consolidation of city and county school systems in 1959.

By 1960, more than one-quarter of a million people (272,111) lived in Mecklenburg County. Educational facilities were greatly expanded through the establishment of Central Piedmont Community College (1963) and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (1965). Growth in the business sector of the community was impressive, with more than 500 new firms locating in Mecklenburg and creating some 70,000 new jobs. During the decade Lake Norman was also built, and the beginnings of the Governmental Plaza were seen with the completion of the Education Center and the Law Enforcement Center in 1969.

The census count in 1970 again reflected Mecklenburg’s expansion-a total of 354,656 people lived in the county.

With the increased urbanization of the county, an effort was made to consolidate the governments of the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Voters, however, defeated the consolidation proposal by a 2-1 margin in a referendum held March 22, 1971. City-county cooperation, under way long before formal consolidation was proposed, has continued in an effort to avoid duplication of services. Approximately a dozen govemmental operations, including water-sewer service, tax collection and purchasing, have been merged through the years.

As Mecklenburg moves into the new millennium, the outlook for continued growth and prosperity is excellent. Mecklenburg is the center of a six-county Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes more than 1.4 million people. In addition to Mecklenburg, the counties are Gaston, Union, Cabarrus, and Anson Counties in North Carolina and York County, South Carolina. Development is taking place in all areas of the county and in a variety of forms.

Growth, however, is not taking place haphazardly. Steps are being taken to see that development occurs in a manner that will enhance rather than detract from the community. The environment is being safeguarded; land use is being planned; and attention is being given to improving the quality of life. All this is being done so that Mecklenburg will continue to be an exciting, quality orientate place to live.

Charlotte is named for Queen Charlotte Sophia, wife of King George III, ruler of Great Britain from 1760 to 1820. Mecklenburg County, in which the City of Charlotte is located, is named for Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a duchy in northeastern Germany where Charlotte was born in 1744.

The princess was 17 years old when she married the king in 1761. George, who had only been king for a year, was 24. The king and queen had 15 children-six daughters and nine sons. Two of her sons, George IV and William IV, later governed as kings of England. Queen Victoria, who ruled England longer than any other monarch, was Queen Charlotte's granddaughter.

Queen Charlotte was described as a small woman, "easy, genteel, and agreeable." She played the harpsichord and loved gardening. According to one legend, it was Queen Charlotte who introduced the Christmas tree to England, bringing the custom from her native Germany. She had several pet dogs. One of her favorites was named "Presto."

A statue of Queen Charlotte, holding her crown aloft (shown above), greets visitors in front of the terminal building at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport. It is the work of Raymond Kaskey, who also created the four statues at Independence Square in uptown Charlotte. Another statue, by sculptor Graham Weathers, is located in front of the International Trade Center at College and Fifth Streets. An oil portrait of Queen Charlotte in her coronation gown, by the 17th century artist Allan Ram say, flanked by a matching portrait of King George, is displayed at Charlotte's Mint Museum of Art. A representation of Queen Charlotte's coronation crown is used as a city emblem and appears on the city flag.

Why was the city named for Queen Charlotte? Although North Carolina was a royal colony, most of Charlotte's early inhabitants were of Scotch-lrish or German descent. Many believe the name was chosen to gain favor with the king. Or perhaps the early settlers were simply enchanted with the young German princess, whose regal wedding occurred only a year before Mecklenburg County was created. Queen Charlotte died in 1818 at the age of 74. But her memory lives on in the city that bears her name. Because of her, the city of Charlotte today is known as "The Queen City."

- Source: J.D. Lewis - Little River, SC


More Information

As of the census[5] of 2000, there were 695,454 people, 273,416 households, and 174,986 families residing in the county. The population density was 1,322 people per square mile (510/km²). There were 292,780 housing units at an average density of 556 per square mile (215/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 64.02% White, 27.87% Black or African American, 0.35% Native American, 3.15% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 3.01% from other races, and 1.55% from two or more races. 6.45% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race .

There were 273,416 households out of which 32.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.70% were married couples living together, 12.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.00% were non-families. 27.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.06.

In the county the population was spread out with 25.10% under the age of 18, 9.70% from 18 to 24, 36.40% from 25 to 44, 20.30% from 45 to 64, and 8.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 96.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.60 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $50,579, and the median income for a family was $60,608. Males had a median income of $40,934 versus $30,100 for females. The per capita income for the county was $27,352. About 6.60% of families and 9.20% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.50% of those under age 18 and 9.30% of those age 65 or over.

- Source: Wikipedia