Oakboro Regional Foundation marks 25th anniversary

In observance of its 25th year preserving the town’s history, the Oakboro Regional Foundation sponsored open hours at four sites on May 11.

The foundation, initiated by a trio of Oakboro natives (Robert P. “Bob” Barbee, Jane Hatley Barnhardt and the late Claudette Brooks Love), started in 1999 in an effort to establish a town museum.

Since then, the group has grown and has been instrumental in developing the Oakboro Museum of History and the Oakboro Railroad Museum. The two most recent projects identified for preservation are the Coble-Teeter House at 516 N. Main St. and the former Oakboro Presbyterian Church at 623 N. Main St.

All four sites were open to the public on May 11, with visitors receiving badges and refreshments while viewing the historic sites.

Oakboro Museum of History
231 N. Main St.

The museum, in downtown Oakboro, opened in 2000 and houses a hearty collection of permanent and rotating exhibits, as well as a genealogy room. Current displays include a World Communications exhibit, with a number of items that, according to the exhibit information, “were state of the art decades ago.” These include a 1923 radio, typewriters, phones and a binder of letters from the 1800s and 1900s.

Olivia Rangell checks out one of the typewriters on display at Oakboro Regional Museum. (Photo by Toby Thorpe)

Veterans are honored in another exhibit, numerous pieces of factory and farm utensils and equipment are featured in another, and photos and memorabilia from Oakboro High School and West Stanly High are also included. A video on the town’s history is also available for viewing.

Brooks Barnhardt examines a display of old farm implements at the Oakboro Regional Museum. (Photo by Toby Thorpe)

Museum hours are 2-4 p.m. Sunday and Monday and 10 a.m. to noon Thursday.

For personalized guided tours with groups of eight or more call 704-485-8795 or 704-485-4568.

Oakboro Railroad Museum
128 Aquadale Road

Located on the southern end of Oakboro, a restoration of the town’s former railroad depot houses artifacts from the town’s history as a stop along the Norfolk-Southern railroad line.

“The railroad came to Oakboro in 1913, and is responsible for the growth of the town,” said Barbee, whose ancestors were railroad employees.

Oakboro Railroad Museum is at 128 Aquadale Road. (Photo by Toby Thorpe)

“At one time, Big Lick (two miles to the north) was the primary settlement,” Brooks Barnhardt, another member of the Foundation and husband of Jane, said. “When the railroad came through, businesses located near it.”

The museum includes the original telegraph, desks and chairs from the time it was in operation, and includes items relating to the history of local workers. Notably, a Norfolk-Southern caboose is located on the site and serves as a focal point. In addition, a shelter at the site houses the town’s farmers market.

Oakboro Regional Foundation is currently accepting donations for restoration of the caboose.

Coble-Teeter House
516 N. Main St.

“The Coble-Teeter house dates to 1927, and is one of only two old-style houses with a wrap-around porch in Oakboro,” says Barbee, who added that the house was built by Gifford Coble and later bought by the Teeter family.

“Grover Teeter lived in Stanfield but was the railroad depot agent in Oakboro,” said Barbee. “There were no paved roads between Stanfield and Oakboro, so he moved into the house to be closer to his job.”

Oakboro Regional Foundation is working to restore The Coble-Teeter House. (Photo by Toby Thorpe)

The Teeter family lived in the house until 2009, after which it was passed on to the Oakboro Regional Foundation.

“We’ve had no funds to restore the house until now,” said Barbee, who noted that Adam Miller of Concord, who has restored several historical properties there along Union Street, is currently involved in plans to renovate the house, which will be funded by grants and sponsorships.

Mike McClain, who led a tour of the house, added that in order to bring the structure back to its 1920s condition, the first step would be to stabilize its foundation.

“Where the house sits is in a wet area,” he said. “The house has good bones, but the problems are underneath it …. We need to take care of that first.”

Persons wishing to help in funding restorations may contact Kristi Burris at 704-485-2229.

Oakboro Presbyterian Church
623 N. Main St.

Less than a block from the Coble-Teeter house is the former Oakboro Presbyterian Church.

“The church was the first brick church in the town,” said Barbee, who added that the church membership dwindled, leading the denomination’s leaders to decommission the church in 2004.

“We (Oakboro Regional Foundation) approached the denominational leaders and asked to acquire and preserve the building,” said Barbee, who related that eventually two siblings of the Ross family donated half the negotiated price each in honor of their parents, who were founders of the original church.

“The Lord made that happen,” said Barbee.

The former Oakboro Presbyterian Church was another historic site on the tour. (Photo by Toby Thorpe)

The building houses services for Centre Point Church on Sundays at 10 a.m. and is available for rentals for weddings and family events. Those interested in renting the facility may contact David and Betsy Heath at 704-985-2905.

Toby Thorpe is a freelance writer for The Stanly News & Press.