News of Museum Openings.

 

Recently Lynn Spada, a former docent at Historic Rosedale, took a tour of Rosedale now that it is open again.  Here are her impressions:

 

Finally,  Rosedale  is open for afternoon tours and the “Welcome” is obvious.  The tour complimented the displays — I would say perfect — just right — thank you Amanda.   The furniture and displays have been rearranged and several rooms repurposed.  It shows off the grand home of Archibald Frew, the antebellum life of the David Caldwell family, and the hospitality of the Davidson sisters, without overwhelming the visitor with information,   It is beautiful, there is life there now; maybe it just needed a rest.

The Gardens are so inviting — my walk among the different areas left me with an overwhelming sense of beauty and peace — and a desire to return to see them in the different seasons.

Many thanks Rosedale,

 

 

After this History News you will find the usual short history lesson.  This one is about Our Region’s Smallest Museum.

 

The Bible and Gaston County, Exhibit Open from September 15 to November 27, Gaston County Museum.

The Bibles and documents presented in the exhibit come from the museum’s permanent collection, and on loan from Belmont Abbey College, and St. Helen’s church in Gastonia. This exhibit includes some of the oldest Bibles in Gaston County.

 

 

Kings Mountain Historical Museum is now open Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 3 pm.  Masks required.

 

 

The Schiele Museum in Gastonia is Open with Regular Hours.  Masks Required.

 

 

Site Status
All Sites Almost all sites are open now.  Visitation is limited with masks and social distancing.  Check their web sites for information.
Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Open for pick-up of holds only.
President James K, Polk State Historic Site The visitors center is open.  Tours of the historic structures are given Tuesday through Saturday. at 11 am and 2 pm.  Masks are required.
Latta Plantation The site is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4:30 pm and Sunday from 1 to 4:30 pm.  The House is open daily from 1 to 4 pm.
Gaston County Museum Open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 am to 5 pm, Masks required.
Historic Rosedale Plantation

 

House Tours: Saturdays and Sundays only at 1:30 pm, by reservation only. Purchase tickets in advance at the web site.

Gardens and Grounds open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 am to 3  pm. Reservations not required.

Haunted History Tours, September 25 at 6:30 and 8 pm.  For more information and reservations, go to https://historicrosedale.org

Mint Hill Historical Society

 

The museums are closed, but progress continues at the 1880s timber frame barn. Doors are being built, windows are going in, and all the while social distancing and masking continue.
Andrew Jackson State Park The grounds are open from 9 am to 9 pm daily.  The museum is open on Monday through Friday from 11 am to noon and 2 to 3 pm.  On Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to noon and 1 to 5 pm.  Masks and distancing required.

Live internet events and videos can be found https://www.facebook.com/SC.State.Parks/

 

 

 

And now for a short History Lesson.

 

Our Region’s Smallest Museum, Preserved for the Ages

MHA Docent Lisa Tappy

Edited by Jim Williams for length

With assistance from Bill Halsey, Lawrance Mayes

and Polly Paddock, Charlotte Observer

 

Located in south Charlotte is one of the smallest museums in our state.  Smithfield Church Road, off Park Road, leads past two churches and two schools to the cemetery of the former Smithfield Baptist Church. The tool shed located on the cemetery grounds holds a wonderful surprise, a tiny museum that tells the story of the church and the cemetery.  It tells of its restoration by one teenager and her family and the rededication ceremony by The Reverend Lawrance Mayes,

 

Editor’s Note:  This article was written by MHA Docent Lisa Tappy and published in the MHA Docents Dandelion Newsletter for September 2007.  In preparing this article your editor visited the site which is kept up in remarkable shape.  The metal fence has a gate which is latched, but open.  The museum shed is likewise latched but open for visitors.  The cemetery has tombstones and statues, a number of sunken areas marking old graves and a number of white stakes indicating where the unmarked graves are located.  Signs mark the original brick foundations of the church.

This old graveyard is completely surrounded by housing developments, churches and schools.  As I stood taking this all in, a young deer bounded into the clearing.  I stood perfectly still.  The deer knew there was something out of the ordinary.  She stared at me for a long time, looked all around, wandered a bit and finally walked off into the woods.  A magical moment in our metropolis.

 

Smithfield Baptist Church was organized in 1881 by a group of African American tenant farmers who lived nearby in the Sharon Township Community. The church building, a small frame structure painted white, was abandoned when the congregation moved to another  location. The Rev. Lawrance Mayes who had attended services at the church as a child, is a descendant of some who are buried in the cemetery,  He was the principal of the nearby Smithfield Elementary School when this article was written.

 

Sometime in the early 1970s the church was burned by vandals, and after that it became a gathering place for young people who came there to party and called it “The Devil’s Church”.

 

In the summer of 1989 a tombstone was discovered in the woods near Freedom Park in central Charlotte with the inscription “Ester Wallace, Aug. 5, 1885–Dec. 1, 1950, Age 65 years – Resting in peace.”  Historical researchers found that the stone was from the Smithfield Church Cemetery and had been  located next to the grave of Isaiah Wallace who had died in 1974 at the age of 99. The empty granite base next to his headstone had a footstone reading “E.W.”

 

A search was begun for the Wallace’s relatives and Henrietta Wallace Wilcox and Annabelle Wallace Price, ages 81 and 87 respectively, were located. Henrietta was the daughter of Isaiah and Ester, Annabelle was her cousin. When the tombstone was returned to its original location, they visited the cemetery with Polly Paddock, Charlotte Observer staff writer, who recorded their memories in an article in the paper. The ladies were heartbroken to see the damage and the overgrown conditions at the final resting place of their loved ones, but they were too advanced in years to take on the project of restoring the place of their childhood memories. Another 13 years passed and the cemetery languished in its neglected state.

 

Young Ashley Halsey and her father Bill, noticed that there was a cemetery marked on a map of the land near where they lived.  They found it and were saddened by the sight of the sunken graves and the damage done by nature and vandals with the headstones jutting from a jungle of weeds and debris. Ashley had recently lost her grandmother and aunt and the thought of their burial places being neglected was hard for her to imagine. She told her dad that they had to do something about this cemetery to return it to the place of tranquility it should be. They began to restore the cemetery in February of 2002.

 

Many people, including descendants of those buried there, were involved in this project.  The cemetery was rededication on March 8, 2003. For her work Ashley received the Girl Scout Silver Award, the highest honor for a cadet level Girl Scout and an award from the Kohl’s Kids Who Care youth volunteer recognition program. Her sister Brittany received the Silver Award in  2004 for her creation of three meditation areas with benches, a birdbath, angel statues, and plantings of bulbs and flowers. The sisters, along with their parents, Bill and Marcia, and a host of volunteers brought a neglected place to one of tranquility for meditation and peace for many visitor.

 

The cemetery was rededicated in a ceremony by The Rev. Lawrance Mayes at which a large crowd learned how services had been conducted when he was a child.  The original cornerstone of the church had been found and preserved by Ruth Stewart, whose family had owned much of the surrounding land, hoping someday to return it to its rightful place. After she learned of Rev. Mayes appointment as principal of the Smithfield Elementary School, she gave him the cornerstone, and he passed it along to the Halseys who had it cleaned and polished for its return to the cemetery.

 

The burials, traditions, and stories about the church were collected by the Halsey family and are documented in the museum along with artifacts found during the restoration and photographs of the site. Grace Memorial Missionary Baptist Church has now taken responsibility for the upkeep of the cemetery.

 

The beginning of this small museum was simply a yearning one teen-ager had to see things put right and her dedication to seeing that accomplished. Through her inspiration the little museum at the Smithfield Church Cemetery tells the story of a once nearly forgotten place while the surroundings provide a pleasant spot, a quiet retreat for all who wish to visit.

 

Bill Halsey tells of a visit to the cemetery:

One Sunday in August  I went to the cemetery just to look around. Five minutes after I arrived relatives of the Wallace family came by with family members visiting from New York. They told me that members of the church were buried in the cemetery with the graves going to the east, towards the rising sun.  Those that had sinned, were buried on the church property, not in the cemetery, facing north. There are three or four burials along the edge or the property, facing north.  Two of them were brothers James and Walter Wallace. They went to a bar near South Tryon & York Road named Red Egypt. James got into a fight, and Walter was killed trying to help his brother in the fight.  These sinners were buried outside the cemetery grounds, facing north.