Saturday, April 5, 2014

Prospect High Boys Basketball Team of 1927 - "The Champions"



In the late winter of 1926, N. C. State College (N. C. State University or simply “State”) created and began a high school boys basketball tournament.  It seems to have been officially called “N. C. State College Invitational Basketball Tournament” and took place over a two and one half day period.  To make it fair, they divided the participating teams into three classes: A, B, and C based on the size and classification of the high school.

The college had a purpose behind this event – they wanted better communication between the schools of the state and the college itself.  All of this is per their 1927 Yearbook, The Agromeck. 

Continuing with the yearbook’s write-up found on page 249:  “It was decided that in view of the State elimination as sponsored by the University, that a basketball tournament open to all high schools was the best chance” [for contact].

That first year was far more successful than they ever dreamed – so successful that the 1927 year’s entries doubled the 72 schools entered the prior year.  They made the decision to limit the number of entries to 58 schools. 

That year, 1927, the Class C winners were the Prospect Boys Basketball Team from Union County, North Carolina. 

In the late Mary Hinson Whitaker’s book, Prospect Community Union County, North Carolina, 1817-1994, she recounts:

In 1927 Prospect’s boys’ team rode to Raleigh in freezing cold to participate in Class C schools tourney.  They played without all of their substitutes because they could not afford to take two cars.  They won the tournament, mostly on pure determination.  Perhaps, they also played harder because they realized they were underdogs, having come from a small, rural school without many of the advantages that others had.

Only 7 players made the trip in March of '27 – they are in the photo here from page 92 of the same book.  Whitaker lists them [not the order of the photo]:  Bundy Belk, Dowd Rape, Cyrus Purser, Ray Lathan, Frank Crane, Stanley Cox, and Clayton Purser. Added note:  Turns out that Whitaker had the names in correct order except for Belk - moving Belk to the third place makes the list correct.  A granddaughter of Dowd Rape correctly identified him as the first one on the left.  Still later, right under our noses at the library, this same (original) photo was shared by The Heritage Room with the Enquirer-Journal's "A Pictorial History of Union County, North Carolina (Vol. I)" published in 2005.  The caption had the order (surnames only listed here at this blog post) as:  Rape, Purser, Belk, Lathan, Crane, Cox & Purser. 

The son of the late Bundy Belk, whose visit to the Dickerson Room led to this blog post, shared that when they arrived in Raleigh, it was the first time they had ever played indoors.  Whitaker also points out in her book that the team played and practiced on a hard-pack dirt court.

It is probable that they did play some local games occasionally indoors, as there is evidence of  area school basketball games being played on a court at Lake Tonawanda, Monroe’s amusement center of long ago.  It is most likely that court was also the dance hall known to have been there.

Whitaker notes the rest of the team was:  Hugh Nesbit, Thurman Rape, Vern Moore, Wesley Hunter; the Principal of the school was P. O. Purser; Assistant, Tommy Hoover.

There was little fanfare made about this win in our local papers.   However, in the March 14, 1927 issue of The Monroe Enquirer (p. 5) there appeared the following recognition, over ten days after their win:

Next Thursday night at 8 p.m. Prospect and Waxhaw will play the first of a series of three games to decide the county championship.  Prospect has just returned from Raleigh, bringing home with them a silver cup, eight gold basketballs, and the championship of group ‘C.”  Waxhaw has won no laurels outside the county, but her team is recognized as a strong one.  Place, Lake Tonawanda.  Admission 25 cents.

In my effort to seek out the facts surrounding this event one thing was constant in my mind.

These 7 young men from the Prospect area of Union County reached for something that probably seemed just about impossible.  They crammed themselves into a single car (or truck perhaps, a more logical choice from down our way), bore the discomforts that so many would refuse to do so today and literally played their hearts out. 

Wow – what a story!  The stuff movies are made of, yes? 

Now that we have the order of the names confirmed, if you have anything else to share about this event, you can reach me at the Dickerson Room of the Union County Public Library in Monroe, NC.  704-283-8184 x224. 


Sources:

- Mary Hinson Whitaker’s “Prospect Community” (complete title in blog post)
- North Carolina State University 1927 Yearbook – accessed online a transcript of the page cited above at
http://www.e-yearbook.com/yearbooks/North_Carolina_State_University_Agromeck_Yearbook/1927/Page_249.html
NOTE:  On this same page was given the winners for both 1926 & '27:  Prospect won against a school listed as "Everetts". 
- Conversation with Michael E. Belk, April 4, 2014 at the Union County Public Library
-Amanda, granddaughter of Dowd Rape, visited The Dickerson Room to id her grandfather in the photo.
-A Pictorial History of Union County, North Carolina (Vol. I) - http://opac.union.lib.nc.us:8080/?config=pac#section=resource&resourceid=231591766&currentIndex=1&view=fullDetailsDetailsTab
For newspaper articles collected during research for this post please ask for:  UCVF: Union County Schools History - Prospect (at the Union County Public Library).
This post revised/tweaked several times over the course of April 5-6; Information about the team beaten for the win was added April 7, 2014.   This post was again revised on May 13, 2014 to update the seven names of the winning team and to add a link to catalog record of the book that contains a better copy of the original photo owned by The Heritage Room, not to be confused with The Dickerson Room.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Col. Walkup's Map

For years I had pondered over poor black and white copies (and poorly cited too) of this map.

Along the side is written "Made by Col Sam Walkup".  A year is attributed to the map:  1866.  (none of this is seen on this image, which is only the center portion of the map)

To write about Col. Walkup would require another post (and yes, maybe I'll do that one day) but suffice it to say that Samuel Hoey Walkup (1818-1876) was a "Renaissance Man" - he played the flute, was a lawyer (graduate of Chapel Hill), statesman (elected to the State Legislature), soldier (a general in the State Militia, later a Colonel in the Confederate Army - 48th N.C.), a diarist and letter-writer of his day.  But this post was to be about the map!

I once made an effort to find the real map and I contacted the wonderful folks at Chapel Hill, knowing that they had at least one of his diaries.  I figured they had the map and that they would scan it and post it at their map site.  They did their very best to find the map but it wasn't there.  And then I remembered that one of the books that used the image (again, very poor quality) had noted it was from the State Archives.  I apologized and then scoured the N. C. State Archives' catalog online and came up empty-handed.

In short, I gave up.

The image shown here was shared by researcher David McCorkle.  He found it just inside a Union County Court Minutes book at the North Carolina State Archives. (CR 097.311.3 Union County Superior Court Minute Docket 1866-1877 - the map is drawn on the very first page)

Imagine the shouting (yes, of joy!) when he sent me a recent email saying, 'hey, look what I found drawn in an odd place!' (or something like that - sorry David, I do not have your email in front of me).

Long story short, I ordered a scanned image of the map for the Dickerson Room of the Union County Public Library.  We hope to be able to print it out large enough for study.

We are, well, at least I am, excited!

And I continue to ponder about the 'why' of the map.  If Col. Walkup were here today I would like to know was this for his own purpose?  Did he just want to keep track of his neighbors?  If you look at the image here, Walkup's home is drawn in blue and labeled with his initials "SHW".  (he also  takes the time to actually give his home a roof)

That alone has led me to believe that his home, later in the way of Belk's new building (built around 1904 but don't quote me on this - it would be the first time that Belk built a building for his store in Monroe though), was turned and moved to face Franklin Street.

Walkup would be long dead by that time but his half-sister, mother of [William] Henry Belk and married to a Simpson at the time, was probably living in the house.  I say "probably" as I have no real proof of that.  If you study the Sanborn Maps of Monroe, you will  find that a house appears behind the Lee Department Store building in 1908 (who would deliberately build a house behind a department store???) - it is my belief that this was Col. Walkup's former home -- turned and moved.  And there is proof that the house behind the Lee Building was Mrs. Sarah Walkup Belk Simpson's!

Walkup's home can be seen in Sanborn Maps for 1885, 1892, 1897, and 1902.  Not to mention the 1882 Gray's New Map (see http://dc.lib.unc.edu/u?/ncmaps,1003) which has "S. H. Walkup" written over the house in question (I believe the exact same house seen here in McCorkle's image).

I have gone on long enough at this time - but suffice it to say that maps are fascinating and I look forward to having a high quality image of Walkup's map and finally knowing where the original truly is!

To learn more visit the Dickerson Room of the Union County Public Library (Monroe, NC) and ask for:  Civil War file, Walkup, Locked File 3, Drawer 1.  Within this file has been assembled images of the various maps for pondering over the home and articles/information found on Samuel Hoey Walkup.

A nice bio was written by Mike Elliott about Col. Walkup and his wife, Margaret Pamelia (Minnie) Reece Price.  It can be found in "The Heritage of Union County, North Carolina" Volume I, pp 444-445.

You should also be able to find information about him on the Internet.

Feb. 28, 2014 - A jpg image of this map is now at the library's web site.   Go to 1.) http://www.union.lib.nc.us 2.) Seek Local History; 3.) Find "Map of Monroe, NC by Samuel Hoey Walkup c1866".  Currently you will need to rotate it one turn clockwise to see it in the right direction (see under the double arrow at right hand corner for those tools).

-Patricia Poland, January 8, 2014 (tweaked a bit 1-9-14, revised 1-16-14 to clarify location of map in court minute book, give the year as 'attributed' and to not imply that the map was 'stuck' in the book)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Aaron Perry: A Slave in the Civil War

In the January 18, 1946 issue of The Monroe Journal (Monroe, NC) an obituary appeared for a man named John Perry.  Perry owned a large farm out on the Charlotte Road (near the Sun Valley High School area).  He was an African-American who once was the president of the Colored Farmers Association yet during those times, it was rare to find a death notice for a 'person of color' in either of the two local newspapers.

However, it was what the editor of the paper wrote at the end that held the most significance:  "John was the son of Aaron Perry, a man who was well known in his day."

It had been sixteen years since Aaron had died.  Who was this man "well known in his day"?

His descendants describe him from the memory of an old photograph at the end of his days, a photo currently misplaced, as tall and with a long, white beard...that he often rode a donkey or walked wherever he wanted to go.

One great-granddaughter said she was told that in his old age he loved to walk into town and hang out at the courthouse, talking with the other men.

Census records list him as a farmer.  Family round out with more details - that he helped start a church, Philadelphia Baptist on Canal Road in the Lanes Creek township of Union County, NC.  Other researchers found his name as a trustee for the Robinson Chapel of Marshville (in 1892).   He also helped supervise the school at Philadelphia; the church and school, like many such buildings in rural areas of long-ago, made use of the same building - you can view a photo of the old church/school by going to the Horace Mann Bond papers at the Special Collections and University Archives of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries - Bond took a photo of it while touring the south for the Julius Rosenwald School Fund (Philadelphia was not a Rosenwald School). www.library.umass.edu/spcoll/story/bond.htm

Aaron Perry, c1870, rephotographed by Rick Crider
His great grandson, also named Aaron Perry, loves to tell the story of his mother and her best friend as young girls. It seems they had begun to get a bit rowdy, and their grandfather, the elder Aaron Perry, decided to pay a visit to the schoolmaster in the hopes of getting them under control.  While Aaron was inside discussing the matter, one of the girls decided to let his donkey go and then they hid in the bushes.  Upon coming out of the schoolhouse and finding his transportation gone he commenced to running off down  the road looking for his donkey which had the girls in fits of giggles.  It is not known if perhaps they were "taken to task" for this later.

During the war bond effort of World War I, Aaron was listed as a speaker for this effort at the Gulledge School.  The long list of schools and speakers, mostly ministers and teachers, published in The Monroe Journal (Feb. 15, 1918) indicate the importance of this task.  It would be safe to assume that only those with a good speaking ability coupled with the respect of their community would have been asked.

In "Memoirs of John Peter Parker:  Experiences of Growing Up on a Union County Farm in the Early 1900s" it is learned that Aaron was referred to as "Lawyer" in his later years "because of his distinguished look and judicial manner."

It is the first 20+ years of Aaron's life -- what little bit that we know of it -- that may reveal the strength of his character -- the mold of the man he was to become.

Born a slave about 1838, the family was told he was "born to a Green and sold to a Perry".  At this time we have no research to prove who originally owned Aaron but proof was uncovered of William Perry, aka Captain William Perry, as being the owner of Aaron during the Civil War.

This proof appeared in the October 1864 court minutes, page 375, Vol. D (1852-1867 Union County, NC, Court Minutes):  Ordered by the Court that the County trustee pay D. Rushing [sheriff] Ten Dollars to be paid over to a Slave of Capn Wm Perry by the name of Aron for meritorious Conduct in arresting Some Yankeys and forty Cents for this Order.  (transcribed as is, brackets indicate added information for clarification)  You can see the original from microfilm by going to Aaron's Find A Grave record at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Perry&GSfn=Aaron&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSst=29&GScntry=4&GSob=n&GRid=45344044&df=all&

How or why Aaron accompanied John B. Ashcraft into war is not known but William Perry's 1870 estate papers showed that his lands did border the Ashcraft family.  Census research reveals that William Perry was in Union County by the 1860 census - the slave schedule shows that he owned only one slave, a 22-year old black male.  It is most probable that the 22-year old male listed is Aaron.

After the war, a record of cohabitation was taken from Aaron, that he and Charlotte [Ashcraft] lived as man and wife beginning about 1859.  (Records of cohabitation were recorded for a brief time during 1866 for former slaves who wished to make their unions legal and binding marriages in the eyes of the law)

His Feb. 4, 1929 pension application (N.C.) for his service during the Civil War tells us that he was "property of Col. John B. Ashcraft [should be Lt. Col.]; that he accompanied his master, Col. John B. Ashcraft into the service of the Confederacy, Col. Ashcraft having been commissioned in the 37th N. C. Reg't [Co. D] of North Carolina Troops...".

Aaron was Ashcraft's body servant but also from the pension:   "on one occasion he was engaged upon building fortifications at Fort Fisher, N.C." This would have been after Ashcraft mustered out in 1863 due to a disability.

Aaron's death notice from April 1, 1930 (Monroe Journal, page 1) revealed that the family sent a "petition" to the "command" of Ft. Fisher asking for the return of Aaron as he was needed at home.  Per the obituary, published in conjunction with another pensioner of color, Weary Clyburn, Aaron was "an honorable and truthful man...solid, sober, and would have made a good New England Puritan had time and circumstances fitted."

We must "read-between-the-lines" about Aaron and his former master on the battlefields, John B. Ashcraft.  The family agrees that most likely there was a relationship of mutual respect and friendship between the two - they do not believe that Aaron would have named a son John if he disliked his former master.   

His death occurred on March 14, 1930 and his grave remained marked with a rusted stake and a few bricks for 82 years.  Only his great-grandson knew the exact location in the Philadelphia Baptist church yard.

Revealing to the family their ancestor's service during the Civil War set into motion:  doors opened for dialogue, family members rediscovering each other, a different view of the past, and a grave marker that would have his name upon it and his time in the war.

Who was Aaron Perry?

He was a slave, husband, farmer, father, advocate and supervisor of a school, church trustee, a Civil War survivor -- "a man well known in his day".


Donations from members of SCV groups & the family provided for this marker.  The family chose the wording and installed it at Philadelphia Baptist Church on Canal Road in Marshville, NC, in Feb. 2012. (photo by Patricia Poland)
For further information researchers may wish to visit the Union County Public Library of Monroe, NC and ask for the "Civil War:  Perry, Aaron" file in the Locked Files.  Some limited information can also be found in the public family files (see "Perry").   Recent newspaper articles about the grave dedication ceremony were published in:  The Charlotte Observer ("New marker honors slave's service in Confederate Army", Adam Bell, Feb. 17, 2012, p1B); The Enquirer-Journal ("A marker for Aaron Perry", Heather J. Smith, Jan. 29, 2012, p1A); follow-up article also in The Enquirer-Journal by Lacey Hampton, Feb. 21, 2012.
Research on the other (local) men who served as body servants, teamsters, etc. during the war can be found in two booklets at the library:  "Union County's Confederate Pensioners of Color" Volumes 1 & 2, R 973.7415 Union
This post revised with quote from John Peter Parker and the approximate year of Aaron Perry's portrait changed on 12-31-2012; this post has been revised yet again to correct a wrong date with the grave marker photo above, add slave owner information (William Perry), add Aaron's 'meritorious conduct' reference from the Un. Co. court minutes and add a couple of links as well.  Research is never-ending! -P. Poland

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Freedom Riders in Monroe!

On February 14, 2010 an obituary for Genora Covington Marsh ran in the Enquirer-Journal (Monroe, NC).

With little notice by the general public, the woman who as a young girl became an iconic symbol in the struggle for Civil Rights, was laid to rest at Hillcrest City Cemetery in Monroe, NC.

Genora  and other local youth walked with a group of Freedom Riders that came to Monroe the third week of August 1961.  They were known as the “Monroe Nonviolent Action Committee”.

The photo you see here is a postcard reprint made years later – it was a semi-famous photo in its day but Genora’s name was often left off or misspelled. 

Snapped by Declan Haun, a photographer working for the Charlotte Observer & Charlotte News, the photo was taken about 24 hours before the "racial flare-up" on Sunday, August 27th, 1961.  This was the last day of the picketing around the Union County Courthouse protesting the injustices of racial segregation.

Our local youth participants had undergone quick training on how to be passive in the face of insults, possible physical violence and to not resist arrest while walking on the picket line. 

We are in the 50th anniversary ‘season’ of the Freedom Riders’ journey into history.  The first freedom rides began in May of 1961 and would continue through December.  Mixed-race groups, mostly college students, under the guidance of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) and some veterans of the 1947 “Journey of Reconciliation” bus ride, began their journey in two buses from Washington, D.C. on May 4th . Destination:  New Orleans.  Their goal at all times was to be and act non-violent in any confrontations that might arise.  Half of them would make it to Birmingham and face an angry mob.  The first group would be halted in Anniston, AL (where the fateful burning of that bus occurred, but thankfully no casualties).  The rides would continue…

Why were they taking these rides?  They were trying to force the bus stations throughout the south to comply with the 1946 U. S. Supreme Court ruling concerning interstate travel which simply said, you cannot segregate or discriminate passengers based on their race as it may impede interstate travel.  (the catch being– it had to be interstate travel, you could not be traveling from Charlotte to Raleigh – you had to be going through the state to another state.

So why come to Monroe?  Our official bus station was at 300 W. Jefferson Street – but this was not the focus for the trip here.  They didn't even arrive by bus and The Freedom Riders themselves had varied and different reasons for coming.

One reason is offered here in the next several paragraphs. 

The racial incidents and discrimination in Monroe had received nationwide attention among the African-American community.  Some newspapers would run small stories but for the most part the black media such as “The Afro-American” newspaper and Jet Magazine were doing the reporting.  There was also a small local newsletter that was being mailed to persons outside North Carolina--“The Crusader” was written and published by Robert Williams, a local Civil Rights activist and NAACP leader.  

Williams believed in armed self-defense and was often quoted from his impassioned "violence meets violence" speech.   He was "at odds" with the NAACP and CORE and had publicly debated (in print) Rev. Martin Luther King on "Violence vs. Non-Violence" (The Liberation, September and October 1959).

Two fellow Civil Rights activists took notice of all of this:   Paul Brooks, a Freedom Rider and divinity student who, for a time, became a field representative for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC, Martin Luther King’s organization) and James Forman, who would rise as a leader within this era and was most noted as turning around the struggling organization, SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). 

Intrigued by Williams and after an initial visit here in early August, they wanted to form a group and show their method of demonstrating in a non-violent way.

The Union County Public Library will be featuring a month-long poster display in the month of August 2011 that will lay-out the events of that tumultous week.  On August 27th, 2:30 pm, a brief program will be given to be followed by a commemorative walk -- a symbolic walk to honor and remember those who marched for "freedom for all".  For more information please contact the Dickerson Genealogy & Local History Room at 704-283-8184 x224.

For more information about the Freedom Riders (and their rides) please visit the PBS site:  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/freedomriders/

For more information about August 1961 in Monroe, NC  - please visit us at the library and ask for the vertical files:  UCVF:  Williams, Robert - Freedom Riders and/or read James Forman's "The Making of Black Revolutionaries" (Chps. 19-28); Raymond Arsenault's 2006 "Freedom Riders:  1961 and the struggle for racial justice" (Chp. 10) 

Note:  The library's extensive vertical files of newspaper clippings/articles and the two texts mentioned here were used for this posting.

To read the words to Pete Seeger's "The Ballad of Old Monroe" go to: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/MALVINA/mr211.htm

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ghost Horse

A favorite ghost story of Union County, North Carolina is
"The Ghost Horse". 

“Last Wild Horse in Union County Killed by Bad Shot” was the headline in the April 15, 1927 Monroe Journal.  According to the writer, T. W. Secrest, the incident happened “more than one hundred years ago”.  This would date it around 1827, pre-Union County (our county was formed in 1842).

It appears there was a certain white stallion of medium size with a heavy mane.  He had a favorite roaming territory “from Monroe to Indian Trail and from Wesley Chapel to Unionville”. (pretty big territory!) 

It was said that he could be found about 1 ½ miles “west of Bakers” (near Rocky River and
Old Charlotte Highway
area) near “Vern and Carl Helms’ home” most every morning on a hill in a “thick clump of lofty pines”.  (around the current Monroe Airport and yes, this hill of pines is long gone)

Well the men of the town decided he would make a mighty fine riding horse.  So they built traps and lanes to drive him in but they realized he was too smart for that.  About 20 men, set themselves up in different places, with a bell on each of their own horses to run and tire him out. (this plan already sounds like it has problems)

Each would take up the chase as the wild stallion would run by.  (he must have thought this was a great game!)

They did this until late in the evening.  Then they decided the best shot should “crease the horse’s neck” which meant to nick the horse’s neck near the mane and the horse would fall down and remain unconscious long enough to be roped up.  (huh?)

Andrew ‘Andy’ Secrest won the toss of the coin for this task.  Alas, he shot too low and killed the horse. 

The end, right?  No.  After sharing this story with a Secrest researcher she asked an elderly relative about it.  Turns out that the Helms and Secrest families (& others) swore they saw the horse standing in the cluster of pines for years afterward. 

So, before the airport came along and cleared the land, Union County had a ghost horse.

Who knows, maybe it still roams to this day. Hey out there in Unionville, ever see a streak of white flying by?

Interested in other ghost stories of Monroe or Union County?  Come to the Union County Public Library http://www.union.lib.nc.us/ and ask for the vertical file, UCVF:  Ghosts.

(sketch courtesy of author of blog, Patricia Poland, this means, don't steal it!!!!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kidnapper's Foil: Hollywood Comes to Monroe

In June of 1941, movie producer Melton Barker rolled into town to make a little film using local children.

Barker traveled the country making this "Our Gang"-type comedy, using the same script and upwards of 100 local children in the roles.

Wheeler Smith, manager of the Center Theatre, sponsored Monroe's production though a small fee was often collected from participants as well.

Local news articles, apparently Barker's press releases, announced it wasn't necessary to be able to sing and dance as "all types are needed to fill the cast".

In spite of information found in the Monroe Enquirer (July 21, 1941, page 1) the week it was premiered that "around 75 children" were used, only 56 names were in the article that also gave a synopsis of the film:

The story begins with a little girl being kidnapped and carried off to a
hideout and held captive by the kidnappers. A large girl, playing the part
of her big sister, reports the kidnapping and the local gang gets busy at once
trying to find the kidnappers. A little boy, leader of the gang, is told
that he is too small to go on the hunt, so he organizes a gang of his
own--but you should see the picture yourself and see how the gang rescued the little girl and dealt justly with the kidnappers.

Whatever happened to the print? It possibly could be deteriorating in someone's basement or attic somewhere but few of Barker's films survived given that only one print was made for each production.

Monroe's production of "Kidnapper's Foil" premiered on July 25, 1941.


Some Sources (including Barker site listed below):

"Interest in Local Movie Increases", Monroe Enquirer, June 16, 1941, p 4

"Monroe Children to Act in Movie Filmed Here", Monroe Journal, June 20, 1941, p 3

"Monroe Girl 'Kidnaped' [s.i.c.] 'Released' When Found", Monroe Enquirer, July 21, 1941, p 1


Newspaper articles pulled from microfilm available at the Union County Public Library http://www.union.lib.nc.us/

More information about Melton Barker can be found at www.meltonbarker.com/index.html





Friday, May 23, 2008

Rev. Robert James McIlwaine of Union County, NC

Reverend Robert James McIlwaine ("Bobby") was born March 16th, 1860 in the Marvin community of Union County, North Carolina. Educated at Hopewell Academy in Huntersville, NC and Union Theological Seminary at Richmond, VA, he was ordained in 1895 as a Presbyterian minister. After marrying Della Shields in 1898 he first served near Kings Mountain, NC. He later led churches in Florida and Alabama before returning to his native state and county in 1910.

McIlwaine was an evangelist/missionary, planning and building new churches. He also served as a "supply" minister for area churches including Walkersville Presbyterian.


Faithful to his calling, he continued to preach and counsel after retiring in 1934, honing his gardening and well-known storytelling skills.


He first purchased the house at 204 Lancaster Avenue in Monroe, NC in 1925, making a home there with his wife and youngest son, Robert E. "Tug" McIlwaine. He is pictured here in his garden with Dahlias that matched his long frame. The photo was taken in October of 1936 by a fellow minister, Reverend Frederick Drane (1890-1982) who was the priest of nearby St. Paul's Episcopal Church for a number of years.


Aggravated by rheumatism in his later years, he fell at his home on December 13th, 1944. He died two days later at a Charlotte hospital.


He was buried at Banks Presbyterian Church cemetery in Marvin, almost in sight of his birthplace and childhood home. Wife Della died in 1957. Son Robert continued to live at the Lancaster Avenue property until about 1961. By 1962 the house had been sold and made into a duplex as it is today. This current photo of the house was taken in December 2007 which is now occupied by Alice Jules coffeehouse and the Pack Rat Antiques store.





Some sources used: Monroe, NC newspapers - Monroe Journal and Monroe Enquirer; Federal Census Research at Heritage Quest (on line); Miller's Monroe North Carolina City Directories; The photographic collection of Rev. Frederick Drane. (these and more available at the Union County Public Library, Monroe, NC)