Mecklenburg County (1762)

Written By Jonathan Martin

 

Created from parts of Anson County in 1762, Mecklenburg County includes the largest city in North Carolina. Charlotte is named after Charlotte Sophia, wife of King George III. Mecklenburg County is named for Queen Charlotte’s homeland, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a northern German realm of the Holy Roman Empire.  Mecklenburg County has several other communities, including Cornelius, Mint Hill, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Allen, Paw Creek, Pineville, Newell, and Caldwell.

 

The Catawba were the first Indians to settle in the Mecklenburg area.  James Lederer, an English explorer, initially discovered the Catawba in the early 1670s. In the mid-1750s, several European families and settlers eventually established a town at an Indian trading path between the Yadkin and Catawba Rivers, and the crossroads, commonly referred to as “the Square,” would later become modern Charlotte’s downtown hub.

 

During the Revolution, the people of Charlotte and the surrounding area stirred up resistance to the British crown, and despite the namesake and heritage of the original Charlotte Town, the area became disgruntled with King George III. After two weeks of indecisive skirmish at the Battle of Charlotte, Lord Cornwallis was quoted as saying, “Let’s get out of here; this place is a damned hornet’s nest.”  Mecklenburg citizens gladly accepted the “Hornet’s Nest” nomenclature and the city’s official seal later portrayed it.  On May 20, 1775, the “Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence” and it officially severed the area’s ties with Britain.  Even though the North Carolina flag proclaims the May 20th date as the state’s institution, historians continue to debate the veracity of the Mecklenburg Declaration (or “Meck Dec”).

 

In 1799, Conrad Reed, a young boy who lived several miles north of Charlotte, found a large, 17-pound stone in a stream.  For two years the Reed family used the glistening stone as a doorpost.  They soon learned its value.  By 1803, the surrounding population heard about this golden doorstop, and the first gold rush in America transformed Charlotte and the Mecklenburg area. By the 1830s, the region flourished as more miners and merchants settled in the area, and a branch of the U.S. Mint would later be established in Charlotte.

 

By the late-19th century, Charlotte continued to grow and its trajectory centered on industry and distribution. The many textile plants, combined with corporations such as Charlotte Chemical Laboratories, the Lance Corporation, and the Allison-Erwin Company, had strong influences on Charlottes pre-bank economy.  During the World Wars, the Charlotte area economy stagnated. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg area began to flourish, however, during the 1980s and 1990s as the county evolved into a financial powerhouse.  In 1991, the merger of National Bank and C&S Sovran created NationsBank—and soon after, Bank of America and Wachovia Corporation–made Charlotte home as well. Today, Charlotte is second only to New York City as the leading financial-banking capital of the United States.

 

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg area is home to several historical, cultural, academic, and entertainment centers. Some history locales include the Charlotte Museum of History, the Latta Plantation, and the Hezekiah Alexander House. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Queens University, Johnson C. Smith University, and Davidson College are the four academic universities in the county. The cultural attractions of the area include the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, the Mint Museum of Art, Opera Carolina, and the Charlotte Repertory Theater. Two professional sports franchises, the Charlotte Bobcats (NBA) and the Carolina Panthers (NFL), are in the Charlotte downtown area, and NASCAR’s Lowe’s Motor Speedway is within the district as well.

 

Mecklenburg County is the birthplace of several important North Carolinians. The 11th president, James K. Polk, was a native of Mecklenburg County and the world-renowned evangelist, Billy Graham, was born in Charlotte. Other notable entertainers from the area include Ric Flair, Anthony Hamilton, and Shannon Spake.