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The 19th Century in Franklin

The 1800s were full of a number of events, perhaps most notably, the Civil War. The men of Franklin were also participants in the war.

The great grandfather of Sue Waldroop, William Morrison came to Macon County in 1832 with several black families from Burke County. Once in Macon County, he gave them land and set them free. These families included the Wests, Gibsons, and many others. Reconstruction and the building of schools for African Americans also took place in Franklin, NC.

After the deaths of their parents, Ruffin Stewart and Mary Stewart, a family of black children were bound out to different families in Franklin during the late 1860s. One child in particular, Martha Smith, was bound out to Canaro D. Smith as an indentured servant from the age of 15 to the age of 23.

The African American Experience in Franklin

Many African Americans in Franklin, NC made significant strides towards success, such as Rev. James T. Kennedy, a black minister from Columbia, SC. He came to Franklin and contributed to the building of St. Cyprian's Episcopal Church and the development of an educational system for blacks in the late 1800s. Although met with hesitation and skepticism by both the white and black communities at first, Kennedy's strict teaching style directly led to the development of the some of the most outstanding individuals in the community. He taught the community's residents vocational skills and the "three R's": reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Other members of the black community brought their skills to various businesses and trades. For instance, Grace Stewart and Viola Lenior were considered to be the best cooks in Macon County. According to Sue Waldroop, Ella Stewart made the best lemon pie in Franklin! All of these women worked at Lassie Kelly's Tea Room, a popular bakery that used to stand in Franklin, NC.

Emma England was a leader in educating the black youth of Franklin. A student of St. Cyprian's, she graduated in 1930 and soon thereafter left the town for a higher education. When she came back to Franklin, she secured a job as a teacher at a three-room schoolhouse, which eventually became the black high school in the area. During the 1950s, a newer building was built to segregate black students. The new building contributed to the increasing number of black pupils who attended public school. However, these numbers quickly dwindled as black families began to move away in order to find new opportunities under the slow-growing economy during that time period.

In about 1963, three black students, Walter Scruggs, James Stewart, and Odet Thompson approached H. Bueck, the superintendent of the white high school in Franklin, about joining the school. The transition was easier than most integrations, but it is important to note that it still occurred.

The African American community in Franklin has always been a rather small one, residing among Green St. and eventually migrating over to Roller Mill Rd. This did not stop them from getting involved in issues that were important to them. One collective in particular that was important to the community was the Frazier Community Center, a center named for W. W. Frazier of Philadelphia, a man who donated land to the black community of Franklin.

Relations between African Americans and the whites were not always pleasant in this small town. According to Emma England, the Ku Klux Klan was active in the region and was the primary cause of the burning down of the Frazier Community Center. Other tragedies occurred in the black community, including the death of Walter Scruggs, a prominent black student athlete who was killed in a car crash and the disappearance of Alden Lawrence, a two year old who was never found.

The Early 20th Century in Franklin

With the turn of the century, people were introduced to new innovations and quickly changing times. The 1920s brought about the invention of the car. During the 1930s and 1940s, mica mining was a large part of working class life in Franklin, NC. Clifford B. Lawrence in particular, worked in the dynamite business and eventually lost a leg due to the work.

Two world wars changed family dynamics and influenced the way of life in Franklin. Robert Ledford participated in World War I and James T. Stewart participated in World War II. Margaret Ramsey's brothers were both involved in World War and she vowed that she would not cut her pigtail braids until they came back.

During the 1920s, Thomas Dickey "Dick" Slagle and his mother kept in contact with Dr. George Washington Carver through letters up until Dr. Carver's death in 1943. According to Margaret Ramsey, Dr. Carver spoke at the Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, NC and her uncle, Thomas, was a UNC Chapel Hill student who was "assigned to be a student guide for Dr. Carver." From there, their friendship continued.

The Unknowns

Although this happens often during the course of perusing historical photographs, it is very unfortunate that sometimes, individuals are not remembered. The photos in this exhibit include individuals whose names were not recorded on their photos. If you know who any of these individuals might be, please contact me so I can provide them with their rightful identities!