Thursday, September 26, 2013 —
In the early days of Stanly County, there were dusty, unpaved roads, temperamental gas lamps and a saloon at either end of Main Street.
It’s an image more suited to a western film than “A place to visit, a place to live, a place to love,” which is the county’s slogan.
The Stanly County Historical Society and the Stanly County Museum will present “The Changing Landscape of Downtown Albemarle- Part One,” at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Central United Methodist Church in order to take a look at how, as the museum puts it, “brick buildings and asphalt streets” sprung up from “sun-baked, weather-boarded storefronts ... and stepping stones that aided pedestrians in avoiding, well, horse pies.”
Stanly County Museum Director Jonathan Underwood will guide the session.
By detailing not just the histories of its buildings but also the stories of its people, Underwood hopes to color the history of downtown Albemarle.
“Oh this place is nuts,” Underwood said.
“In the best way.”
Albemarle had quite the wild-west past, Underwood said.
“They played poker, people got thrown in the street.”
Underwood even has a letter detailing, “the last great fist fight of Albemarle.”
“I believe it involved the sheriff, the coroner and, I think, the register of deeds... I’m trying to find photos of the people,” Underwood said.
After combing through photographs, newspaper articles, diaries and letters, Underwood has stories for just about everything.
“There’s this one instance, in the Lutheran church, the floor gave way... people had to crawl out the windows because they couldn’t reach the doors... Another time, the courthouse had to be pinned to the road. It’s all fun stuff like that.”
Underwood graduated from UNC Greensboro and NC State with degrees in history, public history and classical studies and has now been with the museum for seven years. His office is a veritable treasure trove, with a calvary sabre in one corner, a mannequin sporting an old uniform by the bookcase, and an old typewriter on the shelf.
“[The museum] is kind of the county’s attic,” Underwood said.
He pulled out some yellowed papers, crumpled at one end.
“I just found this today,” Underwood said.
“It’s the original petition to build a library.”
Underwood said he’s always finding things like that.
“Our job is going through everything, cataloging it, making it available to the public.”
While Underwood did not grow up in Albemarle, he’s still adamant about its past and sharing it with the public.
“My dad’s parents lived here,” Underwood said.
He said his ancestors were actually the first to have an operational, hot shower in the area.
“I was always fascinated by the stories they told about this place. My grandpa would tell these, almost fairy-tales about it, just fantastical stuff... I love being down here.”
Underwood is already preparing notes, pictures, and a powerpoint for the presentation.
“I’ve given this talk before, but never really had a presentation with a power point and all that.”
The presentation is free and open to the public. Anyone interested is asked to call the Stanly County Public Library at (704) 986-3755 to register.
To submit story ideas, contact Shannon Beamon at (704) 982-2121 ext. 24 or at shannon@stanlynews press.com.