EARLY HISTORY OF GASTON COUNTY

Posted courtesy of The Historical News, P.O. Box 1068, Hiram, GA 30141

Early settlers in the area which is now Gaston County were principally Scotch-Irish, Pennsylvania Dutch and English. They found a few of the Catawba Indians still remaining, but this tribe soon moved to South Carolina. However, in anticipation of attack by the Cherokees, who were then engaged in border warfare, a fort was constructed at the junction of the Catawba and South Fork Rivers. Friendly relations were maintained with the few Indians in the area, and there is no indication that the fort was ever necessary.

On December 21, 1846, the Act creating Gaston County was ratified by the State Legislature. The area which comprises Gaston County was formerly a part of Lincoln County. Originally, all the area was in a grant designated as Carolina and included all the land between the 30 and the 38 north latitudes from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The original grant was made in 1663 by Charles II. Gaston County is named for the Honorable William Gaston, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The Act of the Legislature creating Gaston County also named Dallas as the county seat. The proposal to move the county government was defeated twice in elections; but the third time it carried and in 1911, the county seat was moved to Gastonia.

Early Gaston County never knew the agricultural prosperity which some of the other counties of the state enjoyed. Normally, the small farms were self-sufficient, but the crop yield was relatively low. Corn, one of the more abundant and prosperous crops, was quickly converted into whiskey by one of the forty-eight licensed distilleries in the county. By 1870, Gaston was known as the "Banner Corn Whiskey County of Carolina." In addition to distilleries, mines in various parts of the county yielded in caring quantities--gold, lime, sulfur, tin, and iron. Furnaces for smelting ore were founded early around Mount Holly, Bessemer City, and High Shoals.

Between 1845 and 1848 (historians disagree), the industrial boom in Gaston County had its origin. During this three-year period, the three first cotton mills in the county were formed. Some authorities say that the first one was established on Mountain Island, by Thomas R. Tate. Other sources say that the first mill was established by Linbergers 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 Point Section near Belmont.

BELMONT, the second largest city in Gaston County, was incorporated in 1895.

MOUNT HOLLY, which saw the beginning of Gaston's Textile empire, was first called Woodlawn, since the post office was designated that way. When the town was incorporated in 1889, however, it was named Mount Holly after the mill which had been established there.

CHERRYVILLE, located in the northwestern or panhandle section, of the county, was incorporated in 1881.

BESSEMER CITY, located in the western section of the county, at the foot of Whestone Mountain, was incorporated in 1892. Prior to the War Between the States, mining of iron ore was a profitable enterprise here. Now, a hundred years later, history has repeated itself. The Lithium Corporation of America has erected an impressive $7,000,000 plant to process the rich vein of spondumene found in abundance in this area.

DALLAS, incorporated in 1862, is the oldest incorporated town in Gaston County. Designed originally as the county seat, it remained so for 64 years until 1911. The old courthouse, renovated in 1868 after a fire, still stands in the main square of town.

STANLEY, located in the northeastern section of the county was originally known as Brevard Station, the last stop on the Seaboard Railroad. In 1911, when the town was incorporated, however, it was named Stanley Creek after the cotton mill which was established there in 1891. It was not until 1920 when the charter was revised that the town officially became Stanley

LOWELL is on North Carolina Highway No. 7 just east of Gastonia. Prior to its incorporation in 1888, an engineer was employed to lay out a planned community. Even with this foresight, however, Lowell failed to reach the size anticipated. Today it is a small, neat community with paved streets and substantial, well-kept homes.

McADENVILLE was incorporated in 1883 and named after the mill-owned village, McAden, and was later acquired by Pharr and Stowe interests in Belmont. Although, there are many privately owned homes, to a large extent, McAdenville. is still a small mill community. Today this community has become known as "the Christmas City."

DELLVIEW is the most unusual of the incorporated towns in Gaston County. Chartered in 1925, it is the smallest incorporated town in the world. It was chartered by the Dellinger family in order to control stray dogs which were preying on their poultry farm. Although the 1960 census recorded only 2 residents, Dellview has water, sewer, lights, and police protection. It is located just beyond Cherryville in the most northwestern part of the county.

RANLO is east of Gastonia on N.C. Highway No. 7 and near I-85 and is served by the Piedmont and Northern Railways. With the incorporation of Ranlo, Gaston added to its claims of having more incorporated towns than any other county in North Carolina. Ranlo was born with several large industries, manufacturers of textile machinery and various yarns. Ranlo was incorporated in 1965 along with Spencer Mountain.

In 1772, Zachariah Spencer settled at the foothills of a mountainous ridge in Gaston County and the neighboring height was called SPENCER MOUNTAIN. An early business was Hoffman's Grist Mill and later Spencer Mountain Mills, as they were known, began operation in 1874.

CRAMERTON was incorporated in 1967. Cramerton is considered a mill community as Burlington Mills is located in this vacinity.

HIGH SHOALS, once totally owned textile community, was incorporated by a two thirds majority vote of the people on November 6, 1973, making it Gaston County's newest municipality.


Derick S. Hartshorn - 2008
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