Prepared by: Bill Jeffers with assistance from Dr. Dan L.
purpose of this endeavor is to complete a reconnaissance inventory of
properties of special significance in Matthews, N.C. and its environs.
This document explains the principal socio-economic forces that led to
the founding and evolution of the town of Matthews, N.C. and its
surrounding areas. The
ultimate intent is to identify which properties in Matthews, N.C. and its
environs contribute to the historical context of the area and should
therefore be preserved to keep the historic character of the town
and its surrounding areas intact.
Bill Jeffers, the principal investigator, worked under the supervision
of Dr. Dan L. Morrill to conduct a comprehensive inventory of the
historic elements of the built environment of Matthews, N.C. and its
inventory includes determinations of which properties
prospectively have special historic significance and contains photographs and brief descriptive information
for those properties judged
to be potentially eligible for historic landmark designation as set
forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-400. The principal investigator conducted research,
consulted archives, and perused relevant public documents which aided in the
identification of properties with potential special historical
significance. The principal investigator, when possible, consulted
with individuals who had knowledge about specific properties in the area
or who possessed knowledge of the history of Matthews, N.C. and its
The principal investigator recognizes that some historically significant
properties might have been inadvertently excluded from this inventory
and welcomes public input into this process. Also, the principal
investigator understands that in the future some individuals may come
forward with information that will augment or detract from these
findings. The surveying of historic properties is a process, not a
Historical Context of Matthews, NC
many small towns in the South, Matthews, N.C. can trace its
early origins to farming and its associated agrarian enterprises. In the early
1800’s, farmers began clearing land in the southeastern corner of
Mecklenburg County. “As more land was cleared for planting, so
many tree stumps were left standing that the early settlement became
unofficially known as ‘Stumptown’”
Cotton was the main crop of antebellum Mecklenburg County and was
initially transported by wagon to markets located at the fall line of
nearby major rivers, such as Fayetteville on the Cape Fear, Cheraw on
the Pee Dee, and Camden on the Wateree.
became a congregating point for local farmers when a post office was
established there in the 1820s. “Postal department
records show that on July 12, 1825, John Miles Fullwood was appointed
postmaster in the “Stumptown” area.”
The Fullwood home would ultimately serve not only as a store and post
office for the area but would also be the focal point where locals came
to get mail and to find out what was going on in their community.
As a result the community of “Stumptown” would eventually become known
as “Fullwood.” The area would continue to go by that name until
After the Civil War,
"Fullwood" began to resemble more of a town with the
construction of a small number of houses and a general store.
According to the Charlotte News, “ . . . Soon after the
Confederate guns quit looming, Wylie Knowles chose this spot for a saw
mill and with Arthur and Watson Reid at the headblocks, and a slave
negro, Dic McCain, driving the ox log cart, he sawed enough lumber to
build a half dozen crude houses which formed the nucleus of the town.”
A general store was also erected. The store shelves “ . . . were
stocked with merchandise covering a variety of needs, with tin wares
being a principle (sic.) line of goods. Whiskey and spirits were sold
along with agricultural supplies necessary to support the farmers and
While the origins of the “Fullwood” community can be traced to farming
and its associated enterprises,
the area also became an important stop for stagecoach transportation.
The stagecoach further encouraged economic development in the area and “
. . . by 1870, the town began to take shape." "Building lots,"
writes local historian Paula Lester, " were
surveyed and streets were mapped out. Soon businesses and homes
began to appear in increasing numbers. With cotton and timber
fueling the expansion, 'Fullwood' had evolved from a community and
emerged as a town.” However, the area was still in transition. Not until the arrival
of rail transportation would the community begin to resemble the
Matthews of today.
According to Richard Mattson in his survey of the small towns of
Mecklenburg County, “it was along the railroads that several of the
small county towns were established.”
This was true for Matthews. Indeed, the arrival of the railroad
was a transforming event in the history of Matthews and its environs,
giving greater impetus to what farming and the stagecoach
had begun. “The stagecoach era ended in
1874 with the completion of the railroad which the Carolina Central
Railway Company built from the Pee Dee to Charlotte as part of the line
from Wilmington to Tennessee." "The railway officials," states the
Charlotte Observer, "gave
the station the name of Matthews, probably in honor of two directors of
the company, Watson Matthews and J. Bronder Matthews, both of New York.”
Local legend, however, credits the name to a resident with the last
name of “Matthews” who donated the lands for the town's commercial building sites and
the station and the station master's house. “Beginning in 1875,"
writes Lester, "incoming
mail arriving by train was addressed ‘Matthews Station’, and the name
‘Fullwood' became less popular.”
The railroad had a sustaining impact upon economic development in
southeastern Mecklenburg County, including Matthews. “By the 1870’s
the merchants and other businessmen who had established enterprises in
the immediate vicinity of the Matthews Depot constituted a settlement
which contained approximately two hundred people," states the
Southeast News, a local newspaper. "In 1879 they
secured a charter of incorporation from the legislature of North
Carolina, creating the town of Matthews and empowering the citizens
thereof to exercise their authority as residents of an incorporated
town, as noted earlier, had always occupied an important place in the economic development
of eastern Mecklenburg County. Prior to the 1870’s,
farmers had used the settlement as their most accessible source for supplies.
With the arrival of rail transportation, Matthews’s importance
began to escalate. "The railroad became the lifeline of Matthews"
proclaims a Matthews website. "Five
passenger trains and eight freight trains came through the town each day
and the depot did thousands of dollars in business. By 1901
Matthews’ (sic.) downtown boasted two cotton gins, three general stores, a
bank, two doctors, a pharmacy, a grist mill, a blacksmith shop, a livery
stable and a hotel.”
twentieth century Matthews’s place in Mecklenburg County began to
change once again. “Matthews passed a milestone in 1926 when
electric power came to town," states an article in the Charlotte
Following World War II the town started to lose much of its rural setting
due to rapid suburbanization and the expansion of Charlotte. By the 1980’s Matthews, while still serving
as a supply location for farmers in the area, had essentially became a suburb of
Charlotte, which by then had expanded into most of unincorporated
Mecklenburg County between it and Matthews. Rail and
farming would eventually give way to corporate interests. Today Matthews
is home to the corporate headquarters of various companies such as Conbraco Industries, Family Dollar, and Harris Teeter.
The Built Environment
built environment of Matthews is a testament to its history. While
modernization and suburbanization have destroyed or significantly
altered substantial portions of the townscape of Matthews and its
environs, many of the structures and places that document Matthews's historical
rural and small town setting remain. Buildings in the commercial core of
Matthews, such as the Heath and Reid General Store and the Funderburk Brothers Building,
serve as reminders of the importance of farming and
transportation in the economy of Matthews in the late 1800's and well
into the twentieth century.
Heath and Reid General Store
Funderburk Brothers Building
Founded by Everard Jefferson
Heath and Edward Soloman Reid, the Heath and Reid General Store, built
in 1888, was a supplier of dry goods and farming supplies.
Heath was regarded as a very adroit businessman and known throughout
the county. With the arrival of rail transportation, his store
took on an even greater presence in the town. Situated beside the
railroad tracks, the store attracted even more business thanks to the
arrival of new commerce that the railroad brought. Thereafter farmers
could come to Matthews to get a good price for their crops, as opposed
to traveling "all day" to Charlotte or Monroe. As the town's economy expanded,
more merchants began to take advantage of the new and increasing
Near the turn of the last century B. D. Funderburk acquired a building which was constructed by his father,
Ellison James Funderburk. The elder Funderburk had acquired the
land and erected the structure around 1878-1879. With this building, the
younger Funderburk opened another general store and with it brought economic
competition to Matthews. With competition came eventual expansion
as Funderburk purchased the lot next to his and erected an extension of his
store. Funderburk also expanded his buildings to include not
only a general store but also a two story structure that would house a
bank as well as apartments on the second floor.
In 1900 the Renfrow General Store also opened its doors. Owned and operated by
Thomas Jefferson (T. J.) Renfrow, the store represents continued economic
expansion in Matthews. Today, while the buildings that housed both
the Heath and Reid and Funderburk General Stores are still standing,
they are no longer general stores. However, the Renfrow building
continues to serve the needs of the town as a
hardware/general store. One of the primary reasons that is a
significant example of the evolution of Matthews is not that it is an
old structure, but rather that it has the served the same function
since its construction of being a farming supply and general store for
the farmers of the area. Also, the building is important because
it serves as a physical link to the past of rural east Mecklenburg
County and because it has remained essentially intact. Even today, as
farmland in Mecklenburg County becomes ever more scarce, the store
continues to do
a brisk business.
Renfrow Hardware & General Merchandise Store
commercial expansion came newfound wealth to many in Matthews.
Most notably were those who ran the commercial enterprises in the town
or those farmers who stood to make a bigger profit thanks to the
convenience of rail transit. The McLaughlin-Bost House on West John St.
is an example of how merchants prospered in the town. Joseph
McLaughlin, son of Charlotte businessman Charles McLaughlin, partnered
with J.T. Barrnett to open the first general store in Matthews.
His home holds an important position in the history of the built
environment of Matthews. The reasons being that: 1) It was
larger than many of the homes in the area at the time it was built; and
2) While being a larger home and thus an important one, the
house is not ostentatious in design or in decoration. This ensured
that the house would not detract from the rural setting of the town.
An example of new wealth in farming can be seen in the Grier-Furr House
which is located on West John St. The two story farm house at what was
considered the edge of town when it was built is an example of the
wealth that cash crops brought to the area. It also highlights the
fact that as the economy expanded, so did the size of the town.
McLaughlin - Bost House
Grier - Furr House
this increase in size came an increase in population. While
farmers and merchants were the first to set up residence in Matthews,
economic prosperity also brought the professional or middle class to
Matthews as well. The Nancy Reid House on West John St. was built
by Edward Soloman Reid of the Heath and Reid General Store in 1890.
The style of the house is called Queen Anne Style Cottage which was an
offshoot of the Queen Victorian Style. This style of architecture
is representative of the turn of the century but it was a rarity
considering its location. In a time in the south where function
would usually trump form, the house is a beautiful aberration.
With a growing population there came a need for a town doctor.
Eventually the house was owned by Dr. Thomas Neely Reid who was a
doctor, counselor, and friend to not only Matthews but much of the
surrounding area. After the Second World War, the middle class
population boom would be more evident as Matthews became a commuting
suburb of Charlotte. These professionals would drive to the city
to work and drive back to Matthews to escape the "urban jungle" in favor
of the rural tableau.
Nancy Reid House
Renfrow - Lemmond House
twentieth century, the Renfrow-Lemmond House shows this shift
towards automobiles. Built in 1924 by John Renfrow, he would
ultimately lose the house during the Great Depression. The
property was subsequently purchased by S.R. "Rea" Lemmond in 1942.
This house sits along West John Street, where most of the well to do
residents of Matthews settled. What is important to note here is
that the house is oriented towards the driveway and the street.
This reflects the influence that automobiles would have and have had on
Crestdale: The Forgotten Matthews
Until the latter half of the twentieth century, there was a forgotten
community just outside the original town boundaries. This area
today is known as Crestdale but in the 1870’s had the moniker of “Tanktown”.
Founded by free blacks and freed slaves the name of “Tanktown”, “ . . .
referred to the railroad water tank that originally stood at the heart
of the district, near the train tracks. The men who operated the
tank and lived nearby made up the settlement’s earliest residents.”
They would come to settle along Tank Town Road, which is known today as
E. Charles St. This was one of the first all African American
communities in the area. “Tanktown” would become “Crestdale” in
1963 but the obvious disparities between it and Matthews were readily
visible to anyone who bothered to look. A Charlotte Observer
article from May 13, 1968 only highlights the inequality: “Most of
Crestdale’s 250 people use wooden privies. Only about 10 houses
have septic tanks. Everybody uses well water, three or four
families often draw from a common well, and you can see women trudging
wearily with buckets . . . one hundred yards away is a housing
subdivision. It’s inside the Matthews city limits, with water and
sewer lines for all homes. The residents are white.”
Differences such as these continued to highlight the inequity between
predominately white Matthews and predominately black Crestdale. As
late as 1982, nearly two thirds of Crestdale’s residents still had no
running water or sewer service. A former member of the
Matthews Board of Commissioners, Vicky Baucom remarked that, “nobody
knew anything about it. And I think that’s the problem with
Crestdale in general . . . it’s sort of like, ‘out of sight, out of
Baucom was ultimately responsible for spearheading the effort to get
Crestdale annexed to Matthews so the residents cold get needed sewer and
water lines. In her own words, “I don’t think anyone should live
in conditions like that today, not in southeast Charlotte.”
Her efforts would bear fruit and with infrastructure improvements made
to the area, Crestdale officially became part of Matthews in 1988.
As with most southern communities of the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries, regardless of color or ethnicity, religion played
an important role in Crestdale. There are two churches in the area
constructed in the early 1950’s with origins that in once case go back
to the community’s founding. Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church
was organized in 1879 and the United House of Prayer for all People can
trace its origins back to 1928. Also, there is another structure
off Matthews Chapel Rd., which may have been a church at one point.
Today the building is vacant and boarded up but a sign above the door
reads: “Crestdale Community Center.”
Crestdale Community Center
Crestdale does not have many historic buildings still standing.
Most of the buildings or structures built before 1900 have been
destroyed. The one exception is the Alice Thompson House.
“Not much is known about the home’s history except that it was built and
occupied by the Thompson family.”
Matthews, NC is a town that has done much to embrace its history.
In the central business district of the town many late nineteenth or
early twentieth century buildings that had not been lost to fire, or
demolition, have already been afforded protection. However, there
are still some houses in the town proper that could be eligible for
preservation. In the extra territorial jurisdiction there are also
several structures that could merit designation, for they tell the story
of Matthews agrarian roots.
It is also important to recognize what few remaining structures of
historical significance remain in Crestdale. This is because there
are only a few buildings remaining that could merit historical
significance, and if they do have significance, then they tell the story
of Matthews from the African-American perspective. Regardless of
when the area was annexed, Crestdale played an important role in the
development of Matthews and therefore its contributions to the town’s
evolution should be recognized and preserved for future generations.
For List Of
Identified Properties Click Here.