Cabarrus County (1792)

Written By Jonathan Martin

Cabarrus County earned wide acclaim in the late-eighteenth century when the first gold rush in the entire nation occurred at Reed Gold Mine. In 1799, Conrad Reed, the son of a German settler, found a nearly 20-pound nugget at the Little Meadow Creek. Just four years later in 1803, the first gold mine in the U.S., Reed Gold Mine, had been constructed, and it sparked the gold rush in North Carolina. Some of the largest nuggets of all southern mines came from the Reed mine, and it remained the leading mine of the gold rush until California took over at the beginning of the 1850s.

Textiles became the main industry of Cabarrus County after the gold rush in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Coleman Manufacturing Company near the county seat of Concord, Cannon Mills in Kannapolis, and mills in nearby Mecklenburg became the leading textile mills in the North Carolina in the late nineteenth century. The Coleman Company, the first textile mill operated by an African American, produced textiles from 1896 until 1904. By the end of the 1900s, North Carolina textiles, along with those in Cabarrus, started a downward trend due to cheaper textile manufacturers in cheap labor nations. In 2003, Pillowtex, a large company that had bought out Cannon Mills, released almost 5,000 employees; among these were 1,500 residents in Cabarrus County.

Despite the economic recession of the early 2000s, Cabarrus remains one of the fasting growing areas in North Carolina.  Located near Mecklenburg County, a growing metropolitan area, Cabarrus County serves as a “bedroom community” for many who work in the banking center of Charlotte. In addition to the suburban traits of Cabarrus County, Canon Mills transformed into a biotechnology research facility, and several auto racing businesses and NASCAR teams were established in Cabarrus. One reason for attracting race companies is that Kannapolis was the home city of accomplished racecar driver, Dale Earnhardt; Earnhardt’s racing corporation, Dale Earnhardt Incorported (DEI), is located in Kannapolis.

Annexed by the North Carolina Assembly in 1792, the southern Piedmont county was named in honor of Stephen Cabarrus. Stephen Caburrus was the Speaker of the House of Commons in North Carolina during the early 1790s. The Catawba were the first to inhabit the land, and they thrived off of what John Lawson detailed as a “delicious country.” The pine forests along with the buffalo, turkey, and pigeon game allowed the Catawba a safe community in modern-day Caburrus County.

Scotch-Irish and German settlers drove away the Native Americans in the 1750s and 1760s. The northern immigrants used the Great Wagon Road to travel and move into Cabarrus County. The first families in the area constructed farms where they raised cows, horses, and hogs along with the necessity crops of corn, barley, and indigo. The county, Concord, was formed in 1798. In his Encyclopedia of North Carolina, William S. Powell wrote that the name Concord “celebrates the settlement of long-term disputes between ethnic groups and agreement over the town as the site for the courthouse.” Other townships outside of Concord, include Harrisburg, Stanfield, Mount Pleasant, Georgeville, and Kannapolis.