Column: Yoder Draws a Window on Catawba County | Columnists


Tammy Wilson

Few things intrigue me as much as old maps, and the 1886 map of Catawba County is no exception. Recently I came across the copy I purchased from the Newton Museum of History.

The poster-size drawing was made by Reverend RA Yoder and sponsored by the county school board. They wanted a good visual of the boundaries of the new school districts. So, according to the story, Yoder attached an odometer to his buggy to determine the mileage between points on the map. He would become most famous as the founder of Lenoir College in 1891. We know it as Lenoir-Rhyne University.

Yoder’s map offered much more than school boundaries. The legend listed the population of the towns: Hickory, 2,000; Newton, 1200; Keeverville, 700; Conover, 400; Catawba, 300; and young girl, 200.

So where was Keeverville?

This metropolis, located in the southwestern part of the county, was renamed Plateau. In 1886 it housed a mill, a woolen spinning operation, Keeverville High School, a pharmacy, a post office, and the Methodist Episcopal Church. A fairly lively town. The place was bubbling until 1907.

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A fire took the wind out of the Plateau’s sails, but it didn’t help that the place had no railroad service. And then, to add insult to injury, the state of North Carolina decided to run Highway 10 through Propst Crossroads a few miles north.

By the way, the western section of Route 10 was known as Chestnut Hollow Road on the Yoder map.

Highway 1007, which bisects Mountain View south to the Lincoln County line, is now known as the Hickory-Lincolnton Highway. One hundred and thirty-five years ago, the War of Independence still played out in its name: Kings Mountain Road. I’ll venture a guess that men used this road to meet Patrick Ferguson’s British forces at the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1781. Island Ford Road, the road once used by Native Americans, settlers and later soldiers of the Revolutionary War, crossed Lyle Creek at Bunker Hill Bridge. The bridge and surrounding property are now owned by the Catawba County Historical Association.

The hub we call Highway 16 used to be known as Beaty’s Ford Road southeast of Newton.

North of Hickory, near the US 321 bridge, was Horse Ford and Horse Ford Toll Bridge, a business that collapsed with the 1916 flood.

A second toll bridge carried traffic to and from the Monbo cotton mill in eastern Catawba County. East Monbo was once a prosperous village nestled up to the mill until Lake Norman claimed the riverbed with Long Island and its cotton mill. Just thinking about these abandoned places under the lake gives me shivers.

Where there were no bridges, people in the 1880s would have crossed the river using fords and ferries. Among them were Moore’s Ferry, the name of a housing estate on Lake Hickory, Bowman’s Ferry and Sherrills Ford.

A close examination of Yoder’s map shows the western approach to Newton by a winding street which we call West C Street past the library and post office, to a dead end on College Avenue.

Newton was home to Catawba College on the south end of town in 1886. Conover was home to Concordia College. Other educational landmarks were Hickory’s Claremont College, located where the Arts & Science Center stands today; Highland Academy and Mount St. Joseph’s College in the southwest quadrant of the city.

Dotted across the landscape depicted by Yoder, crosses mark the properties of ancient Catawba families with familiar surnames: Shuford, Whitener, Anthony, Wilfong, Cline, Propst, Seitz, Sigmon, Drum, Huffman, Setzer, etc.

Yoder also gave a nod to flora, noting stands of forests with the words “walnut,” “oak and hickory,” “pine,” and “chinquapin,” a native name for a small chestnut tree. Curiously, “Kaolin” is noted in a southeastern part of the county. The natural white clay had medicinal qualities.

High elements were noted: Baker’s Mountain and Anderson’s Mountain, certainly, but also Hog Hill in the current Vale, and Lookout Knob along the river,

Methodist campgrounds were in full swing. No less than three are mapped: Balls Creek, of course, but also Wesley Chapel and Mount Zion AME.

The county had a gold mine along Sherrills Ford Road; the site is now marked with a historical plaque.

Throughout the county were post offices, including six that still operate, Hickory, Conover, Newton, Sherrills Ford, Maiden, and Crossing (now Claremont), and a number of places we would be hard pressed to locate today. today: Edith, Participation of Younts, Hayseed.

Country shops also dotted the map, named after their owners, the shops came to identify areas of the county to date: Bandy’s, Blackburn and Propst Crossroads to name three,

To study this map is to learn about the place where you live.

The golf course and community we call Catawba Springs was a resort promising health benefits in the 1880s, complete with its own post office. The road to the attraction would become known as Springs Road.

Tammy Wilson is a writer who lives near Newton. Contact her at [email protected] A collection of articles in this column was published by Red Hawk Publications. “Going Plaid in a Solid Gray World” can be ordered from the publisher or on their website. A portion of the proceeds benefit The Corner Table soup kitchen.


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