William and Cora
This report was written on November 1, 1998
1. Name and location of the property: The property known as the
William and Cora Osborne House is located at 12445 Ramah Church Road,
Huntersville, North Carolina 28070.
2. Name, address, and telephone number of the present owner of the
property: The present owner of the property is:
P.O. Box 1365
Huntersville, NC 28070
Telephone: (704) 875-2105
3. Representative photographs of the property: This report
contains representative photographs of the property.
4. A map depicting the location of the property: This report
contains maps that depict the location of the property.
5. Current Deed Book Reference to the Property: The most recent
deed to Tax Parcel Number 011-181-13 is found in Deed Book 8405, page 0611.
6. A brief historical sketch of the property: This report contains
a brief historical sketch of the property by Caroline Wells and Dr. Dan L.
7. A brief architectural sketch of the property: This report
contains a brief architectural sketch of the property by Dr. Dan L. Morrill.
8. Documentation of why and in what ways the property meets the
criteria for designation set forth in N.C.G.S. 160A-400.5:
a. Special significance in terms of its history, architecture,
and/or cultural importance: The Commission judges that the property
known as the William and Cora Osborne House does possess special
significance in terms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Commission bases its
judgment on the following considerations: 1) the William and Cora Osborne
House (c. 1890) is representative of the two-story frame I-houses built in
rural Mecklenburg County in the late 1800's and is reflective of the
robust cotton economy that characterized Mecklenburg County during those
years, 2) the William and Cora Osborne House was erected by John Ellis
McAuley (1861-1929), a local craftsman who built several structures in the
Huntersville vicinity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries, including the sanctuary and rectory for
St. Mark's Episcopal Church and the Lindsey Parks House.
b. Integrity of design, setting, workmanship, materials, feeling
and/or association: The Commission contends that the attached
architectural description by Dr. Dan L. Morrill demonstrates that the
William and Cora Osborne House meets this criterion.
9. Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal: The Commission is aware that
designation would allow the owner to apply for an automatic deferral of 50%
of the Ad Valorem taxes on all or any portion of the property that becomes a
designated "historic landmark." The current appraised tax value of the
improvements on the property is $116,350. The current appraised tax value of
the 2.15 acres of land is $44,100. The total appraised tax value of the
property is $160,450. The property is zoned R3.
Date of Preparation of this Report: November 1, 1998
Prepared by:Caroline Wells and Dr. Dan L. Morrill
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Landmarks Commission
2100 Randolph Rd.
Charlotte, NC 28207
Telephone: (704) 376-9115
Summary Statement of Significance
The William and Cora Osborne House, although not on its original site,
possesses local historic significance in the areas of Agriculture and
Architecture. Built c. 1890, the Osborne House is a manifestation of the
flourishing cotton economy of Mecklenburg County during the so-called New
South era of the late nineteenth century. With the establishment of the
Charlotte Cotton Mills in 1881, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County began
to experience rapid industrial growth, especially in textiles. Mecklenburg
farmers found ready markets for cotton, both locally and regionally; and
those who had the ability and the resources to take advantage of this
expanding economic opportunity prospered. With rising incomes, successful
farmers like William and Cora Osborne were able to build impressive
vernacular farmhouses. A particularly popular house type in Mecklenburg
County was the so-called I-house. The builder of the William and Cora
Osborne House was John Ellis McAuley (1861-1929). A "country carpenter,"
McAuley erected several structures in northern Mecklenburg County in the
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In addition to the Osborne
House, these include St. Mark's Episcopal Church (his most imposing), the
St. Mark's Episcopal Church Rectory, and the Lindsey Parks House. McAuley's
buildings constitute a significant collection of vernacular rural structures
dating from the New South era in northern Mecklenburg County.
The William and Cora Osborne House was built c. 1890 about 1.6 miles
northeast of Huntersville, N.C. in rural Mecklenburg County. The original
owner was William Eldridge Osborne (1861-1930), the husband of Cora Watts
Osborne. Cora was the daughter of Thomas and Mary Cecelia Allison Watts of
neighboring Iredell County; and he was the son of William Osborne, Sr., a
farmer, and his wife, Lenora Beard Osborne. William Osborne participated and
prospered in the expanding cotton economy of Mecklenburg County during the
so-called New South era of the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries. He inherited or bought several parcels of land in the
Huntersville area and built a home commensurate with his improving economic
standing . Historian Thomas W. Hanchett notes that after the Civil War "the
Southern attitude toward industry changed radically." "The end of slavery
crippled plantation agriculture," he explains, "and the region's investors
began to work toward a 'New South' based instead on industrial development."
The expansion of the textile economy of Mecklenburg County was nothing short
of spectacular. "Cotton was not an easy crop to grow in Mecklenburg County,"
writes preservation consultant Sherry Joines. "In fact, only 6,112 bales
were ginned in 1860. However, after the discovery of the fertilizer,
Peruvian guano, the production rapidly increased to 19,129 bales in 1880.
The production of cotton peaked in 1910 with 27, 466 bales." "Thus, between
1860 and 1880," says Joines, "the image, economy, and lifestyle of Charlotte
and Mecklenburg County changed dramatically." An additional stimulus to the
local cotton economy was provided by the establishment of a substantial
number of textile mills in Mecklenburg County during the New South years.
Clearly, these developments brought new challenges and opportunities to
local farmers. Among them was the rapid growth of the city of Charlotte,
which placed greater pressure on farmers to supply the more diversified
needs of Charlotte's increasing populace and burgeoning textile industry.
Successful farmers like William Osborne learned that they had to specialize
in order to maintain a profit. In addition, the growing demand for products
meant that expensive machinery replaced beasts of burden; and as land also
grew more costly, losses were felt more intensely. Many farmers in
Mecklenburg County could not keep up with these new financial and
technological demands. Those like Osborne who could, saw their incomes
In keeping with his improving economic circumstances, William Osborne
decided to build a new and more imposing home c. 1890. The contractor was
John Ellis McAuley (1861- 1929), a "country carpenter," who had erected
several similar two-story frame I-houses in northern Mecklenburg County.
Among the houses McAuley fashioned were the Lindsey Parks House on Neck Road
and the rectory for St. Marks Episcopal Church. William Eldridge Osborne
became, as his obituary states, "one of the best-known farmers in this
section of the county." After they moved into their new home, William and
Cora Osborne had three sons, Thomas Preston Osborne (1892-1968), George H.
Osborne (1897- 1920), and Herman L. Osborne (1905-1975). In 1920 the
Osbornes lost their second son, George, at the age of twenty-three to
pneumonia. When William Osborne died in 1930, he divided his farm between
his two remaining sons. Thomas Osborne received 30 acres of land on the
south side of "home place," along with a wagon and some household items.
Herman Osborne acquired the home, farm, tractor, Chevrolet, and much of the
farming machinery, while cattle, hogs, and other livestock were divided
between the sons. Cora Osborne lived in the Osborne House until her death in
1954 at the age of 89. William Eldridge Osborne and Cora Watts Osborne are
buried in Huntersville A.R.P Cemetery.
Herman Osborne married Norma Spain Gray (1907-1954) in 1928, and from
1930 the couple lived in the Osborne House for the rest of their lives.
Norma Spain was the daughter of R. A. Gray and Mary Long Barnette of
Huntersville. She had two children, Otis Gray Osborne and George Lee
Osborne. Norma Osborne suffered from arteriosclerosis, which claimed her
life in 1954 at the early age of 45. Herman Osborne then married Mary Vance
(1906-1975), the daughter of John David Vance and Mary McAuley. Mary Vance
Osborne brought two children from a previous marriage, William Franklin and
Betty. Herman Osborne worked as a farmer until his retirement; and Mary
Vance Osborne was a housewife. Herman Osborne died in 1975 and was buried
with Norma Osborne in the cemetery of Huntersville A.R.P. Church. Mary
Osborne died less than a month after her husband's demise and is also buried
at Huntersville A.R.P. Cemetery.
Herman and Mary Osborne bequeathed the house and one acre of land and 1/3
of the Osborne farm on the north side of Ramah Church Road to their son Otis
Gray Osborne in 1975. George Lee Osborne received the remaining 2/3 of land
(except the one acre homesite). In 1976, the brothers exchanged the parcels
of land. The William and Cora Osborne House now stood empty. Farming
operations had ceased. George Osborne and his wife, Marie Elizabeth Primrose
Buxey, a native of Great Britain whom George had met while serving in the
United States military, resided in Huntersville with their son, Martin Lee
Osborne (b. 1963). George and Marie Osborne granted to Martin Osborne a
tract of land near their own in 1995-1996. In 1996, Martin Osborne moved the
two-story frame "home place," from a wooded area approximately 500 yards
south to a narrow tract of land in the open fields along Ramah Church Road.
The William and Cora Osborne House, built by his great-grandfather, William
Eldridge Osborne, is the home where Martin Osborne now resides.
Will of W. E. Osborne (Record of Wills, Book V, page 283):
To Preston Osborne: 30 acres on south side of home place, second best
wagon and reversible disk plow, best broom set, one walnut table, bookcase,
grandfather's shotgun, the "note that he holds against him".
To Herman L. Osborne: all of the remainder of home farm, tractor, the
best wagon, woodsawing outfit, Chevrolet, blacksmith tools, grain drill,
kitchen equipment, best iron bed, a sofa, chairs, bureau, glass, bookcase,
folding walnut table, tools, grandfather's clock, all leftover money.
Both sons should divide the rest of the farm tools and cattle, hogs and
other stock equally .
Will of H. L. Osborne (Record of Wills, microfilm roll 578, frame 1468)
To Mary Vance: all personal property, bank accounts, moneys, bonds,
household goods; 19 acre; home place north of Ramah Church Road
To William F. Alexander and Betty Privette: fee interest in 80 acres on
property north of north of Ramah Church Road, except for 8 acres which goes
to Mary Vance
To Otis Gray Osborne: House and one acre of land; 1/3 of land on north
side of Ramah Church Road
To George Lee Osborne: 2/3 of land on north side of Ramah Church Road,
except 1 acre to Otis as above
1. William Eldridge Osborne Book 36, page 205
Born: 1-13-1861, Mecklenburg County
Age: 69 years, 6 mos., 23 days
Father: William Osborne
Mother: Lenora Beard
Informant of death: T. P. Osborne, Huntersville
Buried in Huntersville
Cause of death: Diabetes?? (Not legible)
2. Listing for the death of George H. Osborne in 1920, son of William E.
Osborne (Book 14, page 215)
3. Listing for the death of Mary Cora Osborne on 4-18-54 (Reg. 534) at
4. Thomas Preston Osborne
Died: 12-11-1968 (Reg. 2690) at Memorial Hospital
Cause of Death: cerebrovascular accident
5. Herman L. Osborne
Died: 10-17-75 Huntersville Hospital
Born: 12-20-1905 North Carolina
Occupation: retired farmer
Father: William E. Osborne
Mother: Cora Watts
Informant of Death: George L. Osborne
Cause of Death: Parkinson's Disease (advanced-20 years); massive intestinal
Buried in Huntersville Presbyterian Church Cemetery
6. Mary Vance Osborne
Father: John David Vance
Mother: Mary McAuley
Informant of Death: George L. Osborne
Cause of Death: Acute Thrombosis (instant)
Burial in Huntersville ARP Cemetery
7. Norma Spain Osborne
Died: 3-24-54 Mercy Hospital
Age: 46 (less 5 mos. 3 days)
Born: 10-21-1907 Mecklenburg County
Married to Herman L. Osborne
Father: R. A. Gray
Mother: Mary Long Barnette
Cause of Death: cerebral hemorrhage due to arterio sclerotic disease (10
The William and Cora Osborne House is set well back from the northern
side of Ramah Church Road on a treeless lot that rises slightly from the
road to the house. A gravel driveway traverses the eastern edge of the lot
and terminates at a parking area just to the right rear of the house. The
Osborne House faces south toward Ramah Church Road. The only outbuilding is
a spring house at the immediate left rear of the house. Every effort was
made to approximate the original setting of the Osborne House and the spring
house when they were moved approximately 500 yards south to their present
location to prevent their being demolished.
The William and Cora Osborne House is a two-story, three-bay wide by
two-bay deep, clapboard- sided building with a one-story kitchen ell
projecting from the right rear. A one-story porch with a
shed roof covers most of the southern or front facade, which contains
the front entrance at the center. The front door is flanked by
gable roofs of the house and rear ell were originally wooden shingle but
are now tin. The end chimneys on the main block of the Osborne House are
replacements, as are the handrails leading to the front porch, the porch
balustrade, and the porch posts. The Osborne House originally sat on brick
piers. Except for the front and rear porches, it now rests upon a continuous
brick foundation. The predominant window type is 6/6 double hung
sash, except for 4/4 sash on the side elevations of the house. An
original porch with a sold wooden wall at the edge and attenuated wooden
pickets supporting the roof is at the left rear of the house. The spring
house is located to the immediate rear of the house in roughly its original
orientation to the main house. It too is a clapboard-sided building with a
gable roof covered in tin (original).
The interior of the William and Cora Osborne House has been changed. The
center hallway has been closed off about half way to the rear. A new
bathroom with shower and an updated kitchen have been added. Otherwise, the
interior is largely in-tact. The floors are heart pine. The ceilings are
beaded board. In detailing and overall feel the house reflects the lavish
tastes associated with Mecklenburg County farmhouses of the late nineteenth
newels of the main
stairway, which rises toward the front of the house from the original
center hall, have extravagant detailing, as do the mantels in the house --
LEFT: Main Stairway RIGHT: Mantel
For discussions of the rise of industrialism and the concept of the New
South, see C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877-1913
(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1951), hereinafter cited as
Woodward, Origins of the New South; Paul M. Gaston, The New South
Creed: A Study in Southern Mythmaking (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
1970); Holland Thompson, The New South: A Chronicle of Social and
Industrial Evolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1919),
hereinafter cited as Thompson, The New South; Broadus Mitchell,
The Rise of Cotton Mills in the South (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press,
For an account that challenges the interpretation of Woodward and others
about the men who led the industrialization movement in the New South, see
Dwight B. Billings, Jr., Planters and the Making of a "New South": Class,
Politics, and Development in North Carolina, 1865- 1900 (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1979), hereinafter cited as Billings,
Planters and the Making of a "New South. "
Southern urbanization is surveyed in David R. Goldfield, Cotton Fields
and Skyscrapers: Southern City and Region, 1607-1980 (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1982).
Mecklenburg County Record of Marriage Licenses N-S.
Thomas W. Hanchett, "Charlotte's
Textile Heritage: An Introduction" (1984). Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Historic Landmarks Commission.
Sherry L. Joines and Dr. Dan L. Morrill, "Historic
Rural Resources in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina" (1997).
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.
"For a description of the textile mills established in Charlotte and
Mecklenburg County in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see
Dr. Dan L. Morrill,
"A Survey of Cotton Mills In Charlotte In Charlotte And Mecklenburg County
For The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission" (1997).
Charlotte- Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.
Edgar T. Thompson, Agricultural Mecklenburg and Industrial Charlotte
(Chapel Hill, 1926). According to some sources, I-houses derive their name
from the fact that they were prevalent in states like Iowa, Illinois and
McAuley also built St. Mark's Episcopal Church.
Charlotte Observer, August 8, 1930, p. 10.
Index to Deaths, 1910-1926, Mecklenburg County, Book 14, p. 215.
Record of Wills, V 283.
Mecklenburg County Deed Book 1331, page 318. In 1916, he bought a 60 acre
tract from G.M Riley, a salesman with Wilson Motor Company, for $2410.
Marriage Bonds of Mecklenburg County, 1924-1934.
Records of Deaths, Mecklenburg County, Reg. 2591.
Mecklenburg County Deed Book 3897, page 958-959; earlier deeds were
granted from Herman Osborne to George L. Osborne (see Deed Book 1775, page
195) and to Herman's nephew William E. Osborne, the son of Thomas P. (see
Deed Book 1863, page 357).
Mecklenburg County Deed Book 8405, page 609-611 and 8431, page