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August 18, 2011 / Gaston Today Magazine

Gaston Town Spotlight: Stanley, NC

Stanley, NC


History: Stanley is a small town, but one of the oldest in Gaston County, actually beginning in the early to middle 1700’s. An elusive prospector named Stanley panned for gold in a creek that came to bear his name. Mr. Stanley left the area and his exact identity was lost to time, however, a community sprang up along the creek which became known as Stanley’s Creek Community. During the Civil War years, the town’s railroad depot, Brevard’s Station, named for the original landowners, the Alexander Brevard family, was a major departure point for soldiers leaving for the war, and also for sending provisions to soldiers in the field.

Where To Go: The Brevard Station Museum seeks to present and interpret for the public its collection of interesting stories, facts, recollections, pictures and tidbits relating to the history of Stanley, Gaston County, North Carolina. The Brevard Station Museum was created to collect, exhibit, and store items particularly pertaining to the past of Stanley. The museum seeks to stir the memories of the older residents while teaching newcomers and passers-through something about what evokes pride in the town of Stanley. Of special importance to the Brevard Station Museum is to make a contribution to helping Stanley’s school children develop an interest in local history.

August 16, 2011 / Gaston Today Magazine

McAdenville: Christmastown, USA


Christmastown, USA


Geography: Located on the South Fork Catawba River,is centered around a small lake which was formed by a dam on the river.

History: McAdenville was incorporated in 1881. It was named after Rufus Yancey McAden, president of McAden Mills, the town’s textile mill. McAden had served in the North Carolina House of Commons from 1862 to 1867, and was Speaker of the House in 1866. He came to Charlotte in 1867 to become president of the two-year old First National Bank.

Where To Go/What To See: A Christmas tradition in the town for many years have been the decorating of the entire town in Christmas lights. The event is called Christmas Town USA. The lights attract visitors from all over the country and is one of the biggest light shows in the US. Begun in 1956 with the assistance of Pharr Yarns, the largest employer and land owner in the town, virtually every square inch of the town is covered in Christmas lights and some form of decoration. More than 300,000 vehicles visit each year.[3] The lights are entirely maintained by volunteers from the community and no admission is charged. Pharr Yarns even goes to the extent to pick up the electric bill for the event.

Business/Industry: McAdenville is the headquarters of Pharr Yarns. The company has operated a yarn manufacturing plant in the town since 1939. It is the town’s largest employer and the 7th-largest employer in Gaston County.

August 11, 2011 / Gaston Today Magazine

Gaston Town Spotlight: Dallas, NC”Gaston’s First Town.”

Dallas, NC


Old folklore tells of a popular saying that “All roads lead to Dallas.” In the heart of Gaston County in North Carolina’s Piedmont region, you’ll find the small, residential town of Dallas. As a family-oriented, quiet town close to numerous big city amenities, Dallas has the best of all worlds. Dallas is approximately three miles north of the City of Gastonia, and within 20 miles of the Queen City of Charlotte.

Geography: Dallas
It is approximately three miles north of the City of Gastonia. lies within the Long Creek watershed. Long Creek is a right tributary of the South Fork Catawba River.

History: The community was named for Vice President George Dallas under James K. Polk.

Dallas was officially incorporated in 1863 and is the oldest incorporated town in Gaston County. It served as the original county seat for Gaston County from 1846 until 1911. The old Gaston County courthouse, renovated in 1868 after a fire, still stands in the main square of the town and serves as the Dallas Police Department.

Dallas began to decline in importance when the town commissioners refused to appropriate money for construction of bridges over several creeks for theAtlanta and Richmond Air-Line Railway in the 1872. The commissioners said the reason was because residents thought that trains would wake them during the night and frighten their livestock. After this the county seat was relocated to Gastonia in 1911.

The Dallas Historic District, bounded by Holland, Main, Gaston and Trade Streets, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The District consists of eight buildings, including the former Gaston County Courthouse (built in 1848), former Gaston County Jail (1848), the Smyre-Pasour House (1850), Rhyne Store (1850), and the Hoffman Hotel (1852). The Hoffman Hotel is now home to the Gaston County Museum.

What To Do/Where To Go: North Gaston High School in Dallas was the location for filming of the 1999 movie Carrie 2.

August 10, 2011 / Gaston Today Magazine

Dwight Frady: The Voice of the Little Man

Dwight Frady

Dwight Frady:

BY: Darryl Warren

The death of Dwight Frady will surely bring out a groundswell of emotion from everyone who grew up in Gaston County.  For those lucky enough to have known him, his death leaves a void that can never be filled.  Before the internet, before cell phones, dot.coms, and laptops, Dwight wrote stories about the things that were important in life.  He wrote about our community, its everyday people, and what it means to be from North Carolina’s heartland.  He did it not for money or fame.  He was offered those things many times by large newspapers, yet never left the home he so loved, Gaston County.  He chose to stay with “his people,” and write stories about, for lack of a better term, “the little man.”

In 1980, I moved to Myrtle Beach, SC and, on a crazy, delusional whim, decided to set the Guinness World record for “Water-Sliding“for 100 hours.  After setting the record, Dwight was the first person to call and congratulate me.  We spoke for over an hour, chatting about God, family, sports, our community, and South Point High’s perfect 16-0 1980 state championship.  I shared with him how proud setting the world record made me feel.  As a kid, I was a little man.  I was small, geeky, and not very good at sports, yet Dwight’s call made me realize how important this accomplishment really was.  Thought yellowed and wrinkled, the article that made the front page of the Belmont Banner  is stuck inside my Bible, giving me comfort and encouragement when I feel alone and a failure.  It reminds me that I can accomplish anything if I set my mind to it.

I saw Dwight a few months ago.  He was frail and his memory was fading.  I had not seen him in thirty years, yet as I knelt down beside his wheelchair to introduce myself, he said, “Hey aren’t you Jimmy and Shirley’s son?  Didn’t you slide down a slide or something?” His body had long ago failed him, yet his mind was sharp, and I saw how happy he was to see a familiar face.  I gave him a copy of my magazine, and the book I wrote a few years ago.  I told him that he is the reason I became a writer.

During our visit, we spoke about God, family, sports, community, and South Points perfect 16-0 1980 State Championship.  We spoke about the important things in life.

Dwight Frady set the bar for local journalism.  He is the reason I continue to write stories about the “little man.”  Dwight taught me that a good story is rarely about the famous.  A good story is usually about the little man.

As I continue my quest to develop a local magazine about the GOOD things in Gaston County, I take measure in the fact that, though I have little of his skill or talent, I understand what it means to be the little man.  His writing style can’t be duplicated, but it can be a blueprint for those of us who still believe in the “little man.”

August 9, 2011 / Gaston Today Magazine

Gaston Town Spotlight, Belmont NC: “The Beating Heart of two Rivers.”

Belmont, NC


Geography: Located about 15 miles west of uptown Charlotte, NC, and flanked by two rivers, the Catawba and South Fork Catawba. Adjacent to Belmont, the rivers make up two arms of Lake Wylie and form a peninsula on which the city is situated.

History: Once known as Garibaldi, the city named in honor of August Belmont, a prominent New York banker. Settlement in the Belmont area began around the colonial-era Fort at the Point, built in the 1750s by Dutch settler James Kuykendall and others. The fort was built because of ongoing hostilities with the Cherokee, but it was apparently never attacked. The South Point Community, located about 2-1/2 miles south of present-day downtown Belmont, was the site of Stowesville Mill. Founded by Jasper Stowe and Associates in 1853, it was one of the first three cotton mills in operation in Gaston County.

Where To Go: The Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is a 450-acre  world-class botanical garden located on New Hope Road southwest of Belmont. The Downtown Belmont Historic District has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1996. Roughly bounded by the former campus of Sacred Heart College, the Norfolk Southern Railway line, Main, Glenway, and Bryant Streets, Keener Blvd., and Central Ave, the district covers 1,700 acres It contains 264 buildings and 2 structures built between 1850 and 1949, including examples of Tudor Revival, Bungalow/Craftsman, and Colonial Revival architectural styles. It includes the Colonial Revival-style former US Post Office at 115 N. Main Street, now the Belmont City Hall. The Belmont Hosiery Mill at 608 S. Main Street is also listed on National Register. Stowe Manor, at 217 South Central Avenue, is the 1920’s mansion built for textile magnate S.P. Stowe. The campus of Belmont Abbey has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an Historic District since 1973. The Abbey Basilica of Mary Help of Christians is the central feature of the campus. The Belmont Historical Society Cultural and Heritage Learning Center, believed to be the third oldest home in Belmont. The property also contains a free-standing kitchen, a mill house, and a garage. Displays include furnishings, artifacts, and pictures which tell the history of Belmont from the time of its Native Americaninhabitants through the textile age.

Recently, the downtown area of Belmont has been expanding and adding new attractions like restaurants, bars, and comedy clubs. There also is a coffee shop in the downtown part of Belmont called “Caravan,” that hosts an open mike night on Thursday and Friday nights. With coffee being enjoyed by those in all aspects of life, Caravan attracts all different types of people in Belmont, some you may not have known lived in Belmont before and then again, you might see an old friend. Since it is right beside Stowe Park, it is a good rest area to get a cold drink during the summer or a hot cup of coffee during the colder parts of the year.

There is a general store by the name of “Stowe Mercantile Co.” that provides everything you need from fixing things around the home to toys for the children. Belmont is home to “Bills Belmont Drive-In”, more commonly known just as the “Drive-In.” the drive in stays busy during the warm summer nights when students are out of school for the summer. These have both been a part of Belmont for a long time, but they still are a major part of the community. 

August 8, 2011 / Gaston Today Magazine

Town Spotlight: Bessemer City…”The city with a Heart.”

Bessemer City

Bessemer City

Geography: Bessemer City
Settled in 1756 and founded in 1893, the city’s motto is City with a Heart. The community was named for Henry Bessemer, inventor of steel-making process.

History: Bessemer City is named for Sir Henry Bessemer who created the Bessemer Process for smelting iron. Bessemer City was founded on land purchased from the Ormand family, near the Sloan-Washington-Ormand Iron Furnace. Ironically, it was the Bessemer Process which made Bessemer City’s early iron smelting industry obsolete.

European settlement in the Bessemer City area dates to 1754, when King George II of England granted adjoining 350-acre (1.4 km2) tracts to James Ormand and Adam Meek. Ormand established the Ormand Mining Company to extract iron ore. It is unknown when a furnace was built on the land, but it is mentioned in a deed after 1786 when it was called the Washington Furnace. The Old Ormand Furnace was used to process some of the iron ore that was mined in the area and today is one of the oldest remaining furnaces in the country[4]. Despite a local tale that cannon balls were made during the American Revolutionary War, there is no proof the furnace was built that early. The furnace made iron implements for local use and was in operation until the mid 1800’s (when the Bessemer process made small furnace operations uneconomical). The “Old Furnace” is still owned by the Ormand Family Foundation and the site is used as a gathering place for the Ormand Family Reunion, one of the oldest family reunions in America, held annually ever since 1897.

During the late 1840s, corn and cotton were the region’s two main crops. Whiskey production was also profitable. Gaston County had more licensed whiskey distilleries than any county in North Carolina.

In 1871, the Atlanta & Charlotte Division of the Richmond & Danville Railroad Company built through Gaston County. Laying the track through Whetstone Mountain, located west of modern-day Bessemer City, was considered a great engineering accomplishment. John Wooten built a general store next to the railroad on the site of present-day Bessemer City and called the store and depot “Wooten’s Station”

In 1891, John Askew Smith, previously of Reidsville, North Carolina, moved with his wife Fannie and brother-in-law, John A. Pinchback, to Gaston County. Smith purchased 1,700 acres (6.9 km2) and wanted to establish a town on to the east of Whetstone Mountain. By 1893, Smith and other residents petitioned the North Carolina legislature to incorporate the town. On March 6, 1893, Bessemer City was officially chartered. Smith hired W.R. Richardson, an engineer from Guilford County, North Carolina, to lay out the town. Smith’s “Highacre” house, built in the early 1900s, is now occupied by the Eury family.

The population of Bessemer City at the time of its charter was very small, with only a few families, but by 1900 it had grown to between 500 and 600 people. In 1895, Stonewall Jackson Durham and John M. Odell incorporated Southern Cotton Mills and as their first venture completed and opened the failed Smith/Pinchback Mill. A series of textile mills opened by Smith and Pinchback; Durham and Odell; Frank, Robert and Max Goldberg; as well as the Ragan Spinning Company, gave Bessemer City its industrial foundation.

Business and Industry: One of the largest industries in Bessemer City is FMC Lithium, Inc., the largest producer of lithium in the Americas. Lithium is used in many products including pharmaceuticals, batteries, ceramics, and construction products. Advanced Drainage Systems, the largest polyethylene pipe and fittings manufacturer in the country, operates a 50,000-square-foot (4,600 m2) facility in Bessemer City employing 100 people. Other manufacturers include Hunter Douglas (Designer Shades Division) and Dole. There is also still some agriculture in the form of Kiser’s Dairy Farm, among others. Mr. Kiser is a descendent of one of the founding families of Bessemer City and he has about 200 animals.

August 7, 2011 / Gaston Today Magazine

History in our backyard: Spotlight on Mt. Holly, NC

Mount Holly, NC

Mount Holly, NC

Mount Holly

Geography: The city is situated on the western bank of the Catawba River north of I-85 and south of NC 16.

History: King George II of Great Britain first issued land grants for the Mount Holly area around 1750. A few years later in 1754, James Kuykendall of Holland was issued a grant for an area known as Dutchman’s Creek. By 1875, Mount Holly finally received the name it has today and was named after the Mount Holly Cotton Mill. The name “Mount Holly” was used in recognition of the famed yarn made at a spinning mill in Mount Holly, New Jersey.

A.P. and D.E. Rhyne and Ambrose Costner originally owned the Mount Holly Cotton Mill. It was the fourth mill to be built in Gaston County and is the oldest surviving mill today. The mill’s success and the prosperity of the area as a whole led local residents to petition the North Carolina General Assembly for incorporation of Mount Holly in 1879.

The first railroad in Gaston County, the Carolina Central Railway, began serving Mount Holly in 1860. The line, which runs parallel with North Carolina State Highway 27, is still in service and operated by CSX. In 1911, construction began on the area’s second railroad known as the Piedmont and Northern Railway. On May 20, 1912 it made its first run from Charlotte to Gastonia.

Electricity became available to homes and businesses around the turn of the twentieth century. The Woodlawn Mill, located on Woodlawn Avenue, was built in 1906 and was the first mill in Gaston County to be served with electricity.

August 4, 2011 / Gaston Today Magazine

The Towns of Gaston County

Rocks Spotlight:  Gastonia, NC


Geography: The largest city of Gaston County Gastonia is also considered a part of the Charlotte metropolitan area and occupies 13% of the total area of the County. Centrally located in Gaston County, I-85 and Rt. 17 intersect in Gastonia.

History: Gastonia received its name from congressman and state Supreme Court judge, William Gaston who named it after the county. Gastonia is the county seat for Gaston County

Where To Go: Located east of downtown on Garrison Blvd. is the Schiele Museum of Natural History. Across the street is the main branch of the Gaston-Lincoln Regional Library System. Another attraction is The Gastonia Grizzlies part of the Coastal Plain League (CPL) play baseball at Sims Legion Park. The team is featuring players at the collegiate level. The season runs from the end of May to August.  Gastonia also features 2 public golf courses as well as several parks for family fun.

Gastonia has for years attracted shopping-minded visitors and presently feature 4 major shopping centers; Westfield Eastridge a large regional mall, Franklin Square is the other one of Gastonia’s premier shopping centers. The complex is divided into for Phases. Phase I features a The new Shops at Franklin and The Gaston Mall, which is currently in the process of a redevelopment that will possibly include a houses a large and popular fabric store called Mary Jo’s, and one of the oldest operating Harris Teeter grocery stores in the chain.

August 2, 2011 / Gaston Today Magazine

The Southern Point: Gaston’s County’s first fort

About Gaston County, NC


The Thomas Rhyne House, Gaston County NC

The earliest European settlers of Gaston County were principally Scots Irish, Pennsylvania Dutch, and English. In the 1750s, Dutch settler James Kuykendall and others constructed the Fort at the Point at the junction of the Catawba and South Fork Rivers. The fort was built because of ongoing hostilities with the Cherokee, but it was apparently never attacked. Tensions between the settlers and the Native American inhabitants (primarily of the Catawba tribe) were eased considerably when the boundary dispute between North Carolina and South Carolina was settled in 1772, after which most of the Catawba settled on a reservation near Fort Mill, South Carolina.

Most early farms were small, cultivated primarily by white yeoman farmers. North Carolina’s colonial policy restricted the size of land grants, and in Gaston County they tended to be about 400 acres (1.6 km2) each. One of the earliest grants in the area was given to Captain Samuel Cobrin, commander of a local militia company, on September 29, 1750.

Between 1845 and 1848, Gaston County experienced an industrial boom. During this three-year period, the first three cotton mills in the County were established. Some authorities say that the first one was established by Thomas R. Tate on Mountain Island, near the present site of Duke Energy’s Mountain Island Dam and Hydroelectric Station. Other sources say that the first mill was established by the Linebergers and others on the South Fork River near McAdenville. Most sources agree that among the first three mills in operation in the County was the Stowesville Mill, founded by Jasper Stowe and Associates in the South Point Community south of Belmont. Gaston County still leads all other counties in the country both in the number of spindles in operation and in the number of bales of cotton consumed.

July 29, 2011 / Gaston Today Magazine

Wounded Warrior Project: Corporal Villarreal’s story…..

Anthony Villarreal

“Henry V” Act IV, Scene III – King Henry, in disguise, rallies his troops before the Battle of Agincourt with these famous words: “For he today that sheds his blood with me shall forever be my brother.”

Corporal Anthony Villarreal cites that quote as his favorite. It’s a personal drama he’s lived during three tours of duty – two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. And those inspiring words continually gained meaning for Anthony when he returned from Afghanistan and endured more than 70 surgeries.

“My recovery and rehab was long and painful,” says Anthony. “Having skin grafts, where they take a piece of your good skin and place it on an area that was burned, is physically and emotionally stressful. But my family helped me through it all.”

The injury happened to Anthony on June 20, 2008 in Afghanistan’s Helmand province – three and half months into his third deployment. Anthony was leading a supply convoy when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated.

“There was a big flash and a loud bang. I crawled out of the vehicle as another Marine came to my rescue and dragged me off. That’s when a rocket in the back of the vehicle exploded.”

Three of Anthony’s “brothers” were with him in the vehicle. Two Marines were severely injured, and a Navy doctor was killed.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” says Anthony. “At some point I was placed into a drug-induced coma. I woke up three and a half months later at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas.”

Anthony says waking up from the coma was “a very emotional experience” because he didn’t believe he had survived the explosion.

“My wife and my family were there at my side. But I had had surgery to replace my eyelids, so it was hard for me to look. I was just trying to remember all the faces and recognize everyone’s voice.”

Anthony received third degree burns over 30 percent of his body. Surgeons also amputated his right hand and left fingers. And the muscle and nerve damage he sustained caused Anthony to be unable to lift the ankle and toes of his right foot – a condition doctors call “foot drop.”

“I spent two years at BAMC. When I got out, I struggled with the looks I’d get from everybody. You know, people staring. Sometimes children would see me – this person who’d been burned – and they would get scared. Getting over the fear of people’s reaction to me was a big thing for me going back into civilian life.”

Today, with courage comparable to King Henry, Anthony steps front and center in a very public way as a member of Wounded Warrior Project’s National Campaign Team.

“I want to help wounded warriors in their recovery process. And I want to give insight to civilians that these warriors are out there. Ask us and we’ll tell you our story. We’re so much more than something to stare at.”

Helping his fellow warriors is a mission Anthony also carries with him in his private life. Each June 20 since the incident, he calls the guys – those who shed blood with him – to reflect on their “Alive Day.”

“And then I call the mother of the guy who was killed, and I talk with her. We talk about his life. And we really just leave it at that. He will forever be my brother.”