Leadership Rowan [Artistic & Historic Perspectives] ~ November 2011

November’s Leadership Rowan class was on artistic & historical perspectives in Rowan county.


Seal of Rowan County, North CarolinaRowan County Seal


Our day started with a talk by Catawba Colleges history professor, Dr. Gary Freeze.  He gave us a brief overview of the history of Rowan County.  He did a fantastic job stringing cause and effect together from the county’s first charter to the present.  “Salisbury has been old since it’s been young,” states Freeze, commenting on the early established control the aristocracy had on the county residents.  Fortunately, the aristocratic class in Rowan county has always been very generous and seen the need and logic in investing in the county.

One very intersting thing that Dr. Freeze brought up is that the children of the ‘old money’ families are no longer staying in the area.  They are going off to college and moving elsewhere.  Freeze suggested that Salisbury is going to have to find a way to retain these residents or attract new ones if it is to remain a prosperous city and not have to board up its downtown like so many other small towns in North Carolina have done.

The next activity that really caught my attention was a visit to the Rowan Museum.  It was full of artifacts and information, a feast for the eyes!  Here are some of the pictures I took.

Leadership Rowan looking at the medical equipment of the Civil War

Medical needs for performing an amputation.

Washing “Machine”

Collar worn by a slave.

Wagon used to carry good to market.

Very old telephone

Mechanical Piggy Bank



And all of this can be seen at the museum here in Rowan County!  It’s housed in the old courthouse on Main St.

I wondered how they got the covered wagon into the small museum room (it takes up over half the room).  But there was an adjacent display showing how the wagon was disassembled and reassembled inside the room.  It was quite astonishing to see all of the artifacts so close.  The slave collar was accompanied by sale slip showing the who, what, why, where and when of the sale.  Very poignant.

McCanless House, from the Whettest & Wickedest Book, Photo by Jon Lakey

After the Rowan Museum we did an abbreviated version of the Ghost Walk (via the town trolley).  Karen Lily Boyer explained some of the most haunted locations in downtown Salisbury.  I think my favorite is the McCanless House.  Before I knew it was haunted I would drive by there and wonder why it remained empty. Such a fantastic looking place should surely be used.

Rowan County boasts a number of locations with reported paranormal activity, like the Wrenn House, the Hall House, the McCanless House, The National Cemetery (formerly the Confederate Prison area), the Chambers house, the County Adminstration Office Building, the Meroney, the Empire Hotel, Coopers and Salisbury Square (just to name a *few*).  I had no idea there was so much paranormal activity in Salisbury! I also can’t say I’ve ever witnessed such activity myself (and thus can’t claim to be 100% convinced), but I sure do know people who swear to it.  A friend mentioned recently, after I told her I went on this tour, that she had worked at the McCanless house a long time ago and on the 20th of every month they couldn’t keep the doors locked or unlocked and windows would open and close by themselves. Weird.

In all honesty, hearing the stories made me want to go hunting….with my camera. Karen Lily Boyer compiled all of the stories into a book called The Wettest & Wickedest Town, and there are some autographed copies at the Literary Bookpost here in town.

1963 Chevrolet Corvair Van (Rampside Pickup)

Another one of our visits was the NC Transportation Museum in Spencer.  I had never been there, and always wanted to go.  Going with the Leadership Rowan group was pretty fantastic.  Our guide, Brian Mofitt, gave us a ride on the Roundhouse!  The museum displays everything from covered wagons to skiffs, to a model of the Wright brothers plane to trains to a hollowed out canoe.

Brian told us about when the railroad came to Spencer, in 1900 (also briefly mentioned by Dr. Freeze) creating a halfway point between Atlanta and DC.  The Spencer shops (across from the railroad station) were built by the railroad for their employees.  Smartly enough too, as their employees ended up pouring their money back into the company.

On the arts side, we got to visit the Looking Glass Artists Collective & Lee Street Theatre, the Railwalk Gallery, the Meroney Theater and heard from someone with the Salisbury Symphony.  Now how many towns of 30,000 people do you know that can boast all of this?  Not to mention the recently build Norvell Theater (kids only!).  And numerous other artist galleries.

Really what I’ve been gathering from my Leadership Rowan classes is that I should have appreciated school field trips more. 😀  ~That, and I often ponder about the histories of places I used to live.

To see all of the pictures I took from the historical/artistic perspectives day, check out my gallery.  And takes some time to visit some of your local museums!  You’ll learn something interesting about your town.  I guarantee it.



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