Mint Hill Was Mecklenburg County’s First Town
By Carol Timblin
Originally published Mint Hill Times November 9, 2016
Did you know that Mint Hill – not Charlotte – was Mecklenburg County’s first town? Author John Hood writes in Clear Creek and Rocky River: A Carolina Family History that “the Queen City didn’t become a sizable community until well into the 1800s. It wasn’t even the first town created in Mecklenburg County. That distinction belongs to Mint Hill, a community founded around the year 1750 by Scots-Irish pioneers.
It wasn’t until 1768 that Charlotte Town, as it was originally called, got its charter and was designated the county seat – quite against the wishes of the settlers who lived in the eastern part of the county…The Scots-Irish of Rocky River and the Germans of Buffalo Creek…accepted the unwelcome outcome for the time being. But by the 1790s, they succeeded in convincing the North Carolina legislature to separate their communities into a new county.
It was named after the speaker of the house at the time, Stephen Cabarrus…The Scots-Irish and the Germans finally compromised and created a new town in 1796 they named…Concord.” The early leaders of Clear Creek (the community that became Mint Hill) – Captain Adam Alexander, John Foard (Ford), and John Query – signed the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on May 20, 1775, and later took up arms against the British Crown.
Adam Alexander served as a magistrate, John Foard as a judge at the Salisbury court, and John Query as a constable and tax collector. Other constables were Samuel Gingles, William Lemmonds, John Biggers, Sr., and Samuel Harris; other tax collectors were Robert Rogers, John Rogers, and Matthew Stewart.
During the 1800s four Clear Creek citizens – Matthew Bain, Evan Alexander, Jon Hart, and Williamson Wallace — were elected to the State House of Representatives; while elected Mecklenburg County officials from Clear Creek included R.R. King, commissioner, and William R. Maxwell, clerk of court and register of deeds. William Wilson of Clear Creek served as the sheriff of nearby Union County for two years (1841-1843).
“It is not known exactly when Mint Hill received its first charter, but it is common knowledge that the town officials gave up their charter in 1910, so that Mecklenburg County would build a road through Mint Hill,” notes a historical abstract dated 1983. “The county refused to build roads through incorporated areas. Sixty-one years later, in 1971, Mint Hill decided to become incorporated again.
Spurred on by the threat of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg consolidation and two bitter zooming battles with the county commissioners, the citizens of Mint Hill pushed for and received their new charter to become incorporated on Mar. 11, 1971.” Robert B. Long was elected mayor, along with Commissioners Jim Harper, Jerry Mullis, Ann Davis, and John McEwen. Sue Lemmond Helms designed the official town seal. The group met in several locations, including the building that also housed Portia’s Beauty Shop (now the site of CVS Pharmacy).
Between 1910 and 1971, Mint Hill ran on its own without elected town officials. However, six citizens – D.A. Henderson, A.M. McDonald, Z.B. Morris, R.E. Henderson, Carl J. McEwen, and John M. McEwen – served terms as commissioners of Mecklenburg County. H.B. Forbis held the position of assistant register of deeds for many years. During those 61 years, the town hummed along quietly. The success of two country stores, operated by John M. McEwen and R.J. McEwen & Sons, caused the town center to shift from Fairview Road to Lawyers Road, its present location.
People looked to the country store for all their needs – even in death. R. J. McEwen & Sons sold caskets to families and then added embalming as a service around 1918. McEwen Funeral Service, founded by Carl J. McEwen in 1926, grew to be one of the biggest operations of its kind in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area and even provided air service for a while.
The McEwen family eventually replaced the old store with a new one with ample space for an expanded hardware store and furniture store, plus a men’s store, pharmacy, dinner theater, and other businesses. The McEwen-Thompson Dress Shop, located in what is now The Hill, offered top-of-the-line clothes for savvy shoppers.
John McEwen and his wife Scottie ran their country store, which housed a contract post office, until they sold it in the late 1970s. It was located on the corner of Lawyers and Matthews-Mint Hill Roads. In 1982, they donated over five acres of land for a town hall (now the Mint Hill Police Station).
The Mullis family opened Penny’s Place on the corner of Fairview and Matthews-Mint Hill Road in 1936 and ran it for over 80 years. Geneva’s Flowers on Matthews- Mint Hill Road provided floral arrangements for funerals and other occasions. Various beauty and barber shops sprang up around town. In the 1960s American Bank opened on the site that’s now occupied by Fifth Third Bank.
Between 1910 and 1971, community life in Mint Hill revolved around Philadelphia Presbyterian Church, Bain Academy, and various civic organizations. Basketball became a popular sport, with Bain High School teams (boys and girls) winning championships from time to time.
Families continued to farm the land, and some operated dairies. Homemakers were active in the Agricultural Extension Service and boys and girls in 4-H. During that time the Piedmont Area Development Association, an outgrowth of the Extension Service and led by Bain School teacher Robert Quillen, encouraged citizens to take pride in the community through various projects.
Before a branch library was established in Mint Hill in 1958, a bookmobile from the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, delivered books to residents on a regular basis.
Several local families, who owned horses, showed them off at special events. Men of the community, along with a few women, joined U.S. military units and served their country during World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War. The Earp-Williams Post #4958 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars provided services to returning soldiers and became something of a social center via community events such as fish fries and barbecues.
The Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1954. Other organizations such as the Mint Hill Athletic Association, Mint Hill Business Association, Mint Hill Junior Chamber of Commerce, Mint Hill Masonic Temple, and Mint Hill Historical Society also took root.
“A page from the past…Mint Hill” by award-winning journalist Carol Timblin.