Thomasville, N. C.

Thursday, July 28, 1921


Thomasville During the Reconstruction Days of 1865---1876

By Mrs. George Thompson, Grand-daughter of the Founder of the Town

A Paper Read Before the Briarfield Chapter of the U. D. C., May 10, 1921


            First, before I tell you of the years between 1865-1876, let me go back and tell you of some of the incidents of the founding of the town that my father and, only this past winter just a few weeks before his death, my uncle, Ped Thomas, told me, for I am sure they will interest you, the daughters of these our forefathers.

            In 1838 John W. Thomas, my grandfather, the founder of the town, bought a tract of 1500 acres from a Mr. Goldsberry, paying for this land a four-horse load of bacon.  This property began at the Elliott homeplace, which is the oldest house in town, and extended to the present site of the Thomasville Chair Company office building.

            In 1844 or 1845 the English government needed copper very badly, copper selling then for 25 cents a pound, so several representatives were sent to this country to purchase copper mines.  Two of these gentlemen came to North Carolina to see his excellency, Governor John M. Morehead.  The governor knew of the copper mines near here, on the present Cedar Lodge Farm where my grandfather then lived, so he made the trip here through the country in his fine state carriage, bringing these two English gentlemen with him.

            My grandfather agreed to sell them the mines for the sum of $30,000, a third of which they paid down, but he was to retain the title to the land until the full amount was paid.  The Englishmen, much pleased with the transaction, returned to England, but hardly had they reached there when copper fell to 10 cents a pound.  My grandfather never heard from them again.

            With this money he bought more land here, enlarging the tract to a mile square, making this last purchase from Johnathan Winston.  But he continued to live on his farm for a number of years, and worked the copper and gold mines thereon.  He weighed over two hundred pounds, and one of his favorite stories was the fact that he mined more than twice his weight in gold during his lifetime.  His sons helped him, and they, my uncles, use[d] to tell of how they worked at the “chillie-mill” until they would almost drop from sheer exhaustion.  This mill operated somewhat like the molasses-grinder, a mule going round and round to turn it.

            The mines, which lie about two miles from town later came to be known as the Eureka Mines, and some 45 years ago a thousand hands worked them.  Also a smelting works, one of the town’s chief industries at that time, was operated where the Amazon Mill now stands.  But the owners of the mines went to such an expense for machinery and general operation that no money was ever made out of the project.

            But I must hurry on.  Later John W. Thomas built a home here, which was called in those days “The Mansion,” and moved his large family here.  He was responsible for the North Carolina railway coming through here, and himself supervised the building of the road-bed in this section of the state.

            But I am to tell you of the years from 1865 to 1876, the reconstruction days following the Civil War.

            Thomasville, in the year 1865, was a small village.  The war had given her a setback, as all the able bodied men had to go, but things again began to move on, nor was Cupid idle, and attending to his business soon many weddings came off.  The first couple was Miss Bettie Carmalt and A. L. Grimes, then Miss Jennie Thomas and J. T. Cramer, Miss Eliza Shelly and P. C. Thomas, Miss Della Kennedy and Henry Newby, Miss Jennie Loftin and Cap. Sumner, and many more later.

            The female college was under Prof. L. W. Andrews, who had a good school for several years.  His brother, Prof. C. C. Andrews, then took up the work, and had a splendid school quite a while.  The postoffice [sic] was in the J. W. Thomas store with Ed McCutchin postmaster.  He moved to Green H. Lee’s store, now Elliot’s store.  Miss Augusta Cates was next appointed postmistress and moved the office to the cottage next to M. E. church.  Another enterprise was J. W. Jones’ tan yard, must back of his home, where leather was made for the shoe shops.

            A very eccentric old man named Nance had a hat shop back of Elliot’s.  He made men’s felt hats and reblocked hats.  The children shunned him at all times.  He wore a little old beaver and long curls on both sides of his face.

            In front of the college a flour mill owned by J. W. Thomas made splendid flour.  Mr. Burrel Lambeth was the miller and took care that everybody got flour from their own wheat.

            The Lines Shoe Shop was the largest business in town and furnished work for a great many men and girls.  They made many kinds of shoes, especially children’s copper toes.

            A tobacco factory owned by the Pinnix Bros. was near the depot.  They made plug tobacco and worked negroes.  Their singing is remembered by the older people.

            Mr. John McRary, now of Lexington, was the undertaker and furniture dealer, later selling out to Mr. William Foster, who enlarged the business and made good as the town grew.

            Another enterprise was a government still run by Mr. Cramer with Mr. Ped Thomas, guager; this did not exist long.

            May 14, 1871, the town lost her founder, Mr. John Thomas, one of the greatest losses the town has ever had.  He was head of everything and helped build up this beautiful town, the pride of his life.  His was the largest funeral ever held here.  Hundreds of people from many parts of the state came to pay their respects to this honored man.  His old slaves stood with bowed heads, anxious to take the last look at their old master.  Drs. Reid and Craven conducted the services from the Methodist church.  D. Thomas, administrator of his father’s estate, sold the college to Prof. H. W. Reinhart, gave the ground for the cemetery and two acres for the depot.

            Major Hambrick had a studio on Salem Street and made those beautiful daguerreotypes in cases, also the tin types, as they were called.

            Soon after the war, for the protection of women, children, and property the Ku Klux Klan was organized in town with Capt. Tom Moore as first captain.  These men bound by oath to protect, at any cost, made many an indolent fellow work and made respectable citizens out of them.

            Two doctors settled here, Rounsaville and Thomas, and both had a large practice.  Dr. Thomas worked for 54 years and many of the older people call him “the Old Doctor” yet.

            Mr. Joe Delapp was the butcher.  He sold the best cuts of steak at 7 and 8 cents per pound; later when he asked 10 cents it was considered outrageous.  Frying chickens sold for 10 and 12 1-2 cents apiece.  Messrs. Foulckt and Hoffman had the first market.  They lived at Glen Anna.

            Many houses began to be built all over town. On Randolph Street 5 houses stood from the Baptist church to Glen Anna.  They were the homes of Mr. Quilla Jones, Capt. Harris, Mr. Westmoreland and Mr. Clinton Johnson.  On Fisher Ferry only Evan Welborn’s house, now Skiles Heights, stood.  On Salem Street, west side, were the studio, shoe shop, and Major Hanner and Whitaker’s homes.  On the east side, Rev. J. W. Lewis’, Mrs. McCutchen’s and Major Hambrick’s.  On Main Street, south side, there were 12 residences and one store; on North Main 15 residences and one store.

            The Methodist church had as preachers during these year, Rev. D. R. Bruton, D. Reid, Revs. C. M. Pepper and P. L. Hermon; the Presbyterian, Mr. Dalton, of High Point; the Baptist, Revs. John Jordon and J. B. Richardson.

            The Masons held their meetings in their lodge room in P. C. Thomas’ residence until the present building was erected.

            The young folks enjoyed life very much, candy stews, horse-back riding and dancing being their pastimes in those days.

            In 1869 the total eclipse of the sun came, alarming the people very much, the sun being dark for half an hour, then coming out brighter than every, to the delight of the colored folks especially.