Attractive Statesville

Local History Notes

Notes about the history of Iredell County by Joel Reese, Local History Librarian.

Mar 28

The Beginning of the Library, Part 1

Posted on March 28, 2022 at 3:37 PM by Shellie Taylor

The Iredell County Public Library recently noted a historic milestone. It was 100 years ago on Feb. 22, 1922, that what we now know as the Iredell County Public Library began.  It can trace its beginnings to the Statesville Woman’s Club which organized in October of 1921 with Mrs. B.F. Long (Mary Alice Robbins Long) as the first president. Their first civic project was the creation of a permanent public library for the city of Statesville. The Statesville Woman’s Club Library formally opened on Saturday, Feb. 25, 1922.

The founding of a permanent library for Statesville had not come easy though efforts were being made almost from the county’s creation in 1788. The Jan. 4, 1822 issue of the Weekly Raleigh Register on page one announced “A LIST OF ACTS,” Passed by the General Assembly of this State at the Session of 1821.” Act No. 27 was “To incorporate the Union Library Society in the county of Iredell.”

Dr. Phillip F. Laugenour reported in The Sentinel, April 27, 1916, that “The people in this section took great interest in educating the young and the diffusion of knowledge. For this last purpose there was an association with a library, kept at the house of J.P. McRee, where the books were distributed every three months. The association was dissolved in 1825 and the books were sold out.” 

The March 31, 1882, issue of The Landmark reported that “in 1841 a public library was established in Statesville. A number of valuable books were bought and the library did a vast amount of good in educating and developing the literary tastes of the people.” The article reports that Rev. Prof. Elisha F. Rockwell is attempting to locate the books from the original 1841 collection to start a new library. 

On Sept. 4, 1885, The Landmark reports on a “Circulating Library” being operated by local bookseller, Mr. T.M. Mills who for a one-dollar subscription will provide access to a whole year’ worth of reading. The problem for these early attempts at establishing a library was a lack of public funding. This changed on March 9, 1897, when the N.C. State Legislature passed, “An act to permit the establishment of public libraries.” 

Tax laws prior to this act did not allow the spending of tax payer money for public libraries. The 1897 Act established “That it should be lawful for the board of alderman or the board of commissioners of any city or incorporated town in the state of N.C. having more than one thousand inhabitants, to provide for the establishment of a public library in said city or town.” Despite the change in tax law no move was made on the part of Statesville to establish a library. 

I sometimes wonder if the newspaper made Edith Ausley cry that day. I wouldn’t be surprised. She had worked on it for so long and had everything planned out. She probably could see it when she closed her eyes. It would be white marble with tall columns to the right and left of the entrance. You would ascend from ground level up steps to large prominent double doors. The steps would symbolize a person’s elevation by learning while the lamps on either side of the door would symbolize enlightenment. 

It must have been particularly painful as the vote wasn’t even close. The results were given in the May 9, 1913, issue of The Landmark. “The Carnegie Library proposal was defeated in the municipal primary Tuesday by a majority of 80 votes. The total vote for the library was 164 and the vote against it was 244.” 

The municipal election to authorize the Statesville Board of Aldermen to levy a special tax to support a Carnegie Library was held on Tuesday, May 6th, 1913. The election was in accordance with an act of the N.C. State Legislature requiring that such an election be held if 25 percent of the voter’s petition for it. It was Edith Ausley who led the campaign to gather the signatures of the voters to present to the Alderman. There would be no beautiful Carnegie Library in Statesville. 

Edith Louise Fawcett Ausley profileEdith Louise Fawcett was born March 16, 1872, in London, Ontario. She moved to Mount Airy, N.C. with her parents when she was sixteen where her family started the First National Bank. On April 20, 1898, she married Daniel McNair Ausley from Lumber Bridge, N.C. Edith had met Daniel after he became the Railroad Agent for the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad Co., in Mount. Airy. The couple later moved to Newport News, Va., where Daniel went into the bank business with the City Bank. 

In 1900 Edith and her husband moved to Statesville where Daniel started the Statesville Loan and Trust Company which later becomes the Commercial National Bank. He built the bank building on the north-west corner of South Center St., and Court Street. The building with its huge granite columns is still there today beside the old court house. 

In 1903, Edith Ausley starts a free public library in Statesville called the “Reading Room Library” in rooms given freely in a building on West Broad St., owned by Dr. John J. Mott. Edith is member of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs and serves as the librarian. She contacts the” Lend a Hand Library” in Boston to start the library’s book collection. To raise funds for materials and operation she creates an “Everybody’s Day” celebration in Statesville. 

On Aug. 25, 1903, The Semi-Weekly Landmark announces, “Everybody’s Day, next Saturday, promises to be of unusual interest. “Everybody” is talking about it and “everybody” is expected to be here.” Since the library is to be open to everyone Mrs. Ausley creates a holiday for everyone as a fundraising event to benefit the new library. Everybody’s Day became a Statesville tradition for a few years.

The holiday was a huge success as The Semi-Weekly Landmark reported on Sept. 1, 1903, that between 2,500 and 3,000 people attended the event and $85.15 was raised for the library fund. Contests held included a fat man’s race, a bicycle race, a wheelbarrow race, a bag race, a parade through downtown Statesville and a contest for the best decorated vehicle. Prizes were awarded for the family with the most children and to the oldest person in attendance (Louis Moore from Bethany, age 94). 

There was a fiddle contest (old style), a greasy pole-climbing contest, a bicycle race, and a wheelbarrow race. A wedding was held in the show window of the Statesville Housefurnishing Co. store with an admission fee of 10 cents. The ceremony was performed by Squire W.C. Mills, who married Mr. Louis Franklin Carpenter and Miss Bettie Gant. The happy couple received a bedstead as a wedding gift. 

A large board was erected with painted pictures of a baby and raccoon and holes where their heads should have been.  People would stick their heads through the holes and other people would pay to throw at their heads. Mr. J.S. Fry won, but was disqualified for having previous practice. He had bet policeman J.N. Morgan that he could hit his head from a certain distance with a rock the day before. Morgan was game, but Fry missed and instead hit a ten-year-old boy standing nearby. Fry gave the kid 10 cents to keep quiet about it, but he squealed and Fry was disqualified. 

The Nov. 20, 1903 issue of The Landmark reports that Mrs. Ausley has asked philanthropist and steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie for $5,000 to build a Carnegie library in Statesville. Books from the Reading Library are also being circulated among the rural schools as they have no libraries. The Landmark reports on March 9, 1906 that Carnegie has agreed to give $5,000 for a library in Statesville once the conditions are met and a site selected. Shortly thereafter on March 27, 1906 a fire destroys the “Reading Room Library” though many of the books are saved. 

The library is then moved to the D.V. Mills building for a year and a half and then to the W.L. Heller store. There is a photo of the interior of the Statesville Reading Room Library on Mulberry Street in 1907 on display now at the entrance of the library. A site for the Statesville Carnegie Library is found when Mrs. S.A. Sharpe offers to donate a lot on the corner of Meeting and Sharpe Streets for the library, but the May 10, 1910 Landmark reports that the Statesville Board of Aldermen have rejected the proposed library citing the costs. To receive the Carnegie donation the city must appropriate 10 cent per year for maintenance which would have amounted to $500.

This brings us back to 1913. Edith Ausley has over the past ten years established 42 rural libraries in Iredell County with 1,288 volumes, but she is still pushing for a Carnegie Library in Statesville. She is now chairwoman of Statesville’s Women’s Twentieth Century club and has 1,750 books to put in the library. She has the site being donated for free on the corner of Meeting and Sharpe Streets near downtown Statesville and only two blocks from the graded school. 

She leads a campaign to gather enough signatures on a petition to allow the Board of Aldermen schedule a referendum to allow voters to accept a library tax of $500 per year. She gathers support from the community. The newspaper quotes Mary Charles who says, “Build your library before it is too late. The interest on the capital invested in this building may not come back to you in dollars and cents, but it will be repaid, it will be doubled, even tripled, by the many strong-hearted men and women that will emerge from its doors in future life.” 

The Carnegie Foundation does not give money to build libraries in small towns, but with Statesville they have made an exception. In fact, they have offered to give the city $10,000 if they will support it with $1,000 per year, but Ausley seeks only a $5,000 building. The results given in the newspaper in her hands means there will be no beautiful white marble Carnegie library with columns in Statesville.  

By Joel Reese, Local History Librarian

Iredell County Public Library

This article was published in the Statesville Record and Landmark on March 25, 2022 as “Iredell County Library began 100 years ago”, p. 1 & 3A. 

Mar 25

Notable Women of Iredell County: Edith Ausley and Mary Long

Posted on March 25, 2022 at 12:58 PM by Jenny Levins

2 Ausley 2Mary Alice Robbins Long (2)

The Library Ladies

Edith Louise Fawcett Ausley (1873-1923) and Mary Alice Robbins Long (1857-1947)

This year, the library will celebrate its 100th anniversary. To wrap up Women’s History Month and to get us ready for National Library Week in April, we are ending our Notable Women of Iredell County series with two very important ladies to whom we can send all of our gratitude for the existence of the Statesville Library. Although we mark our beginnings in 1922 with the latter of the two ladies, the library’s history goes even further back. In can perhaps be said that no one fought harder than Edith Ausley to ensure the creation of a library in Statesville.

At the turn of the 20th century, Scottish-American steel tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was erecting free public libraries across the United States, many of which still stand today. He Carnegie Library, Indianawould give $5,000-10,000 for the building as long as the city or town could supply the land and would commit to $500 per year in support of the library staff and building maintenance. Communities around the country were lining up for this amazing deal, and who could blame them? Edith Ausley brought Carnegie’s attention to Statesville and in 1903 he was seriously considering it. At that time, Statesville was, and maybe would have been, the smallest town under consideration of Carnegie’s donation. In 1905, Carnegie agreed to fund a library in Statesville. It just needed local approval.

By 1913, a decision still hadn’t been made regarding the Carnegie library at the local level, but Edith Ausley had collected over 1750 volumes of books for the forthcoming library. They were housed at the location on Mulberry Street where she managed and catalogued the collection. A generous land donation had come from Mrs. S.A. Sharpe who gave land on the corner of Mulberry and Sharpe Streets, only blocks from the main school in the city which would have provided students with easy access to the public library. According to an article in the Statesville Sentinel, Sharpe provided the land with absolutely “no strings attached.” She was literally giving a free gift to the City of Statesville in order to build a beautiful Carnegie library. By this time, Ausley and other Statesville women had raised $142.97 to go toward new library equipment in the new facility. The great Carnegie library of Statesville was in the bag; all that needed to happen was for the Statesville citizens to vote “yes” in the upcoming 1917 election to an additional tax that would fund the $500 per year requirement.

Location 1 Old Mulberry Street Library about 1907 StimsonFor those familiar with the layout of Statesville, you know that there is no such beautiful building in this town. The 1917 vote was turned down. Yes. Statesville residents turned down a remarkable and mostly FREE gift from one of the most generous philanthropists in the country. All of Ausley’s hard work was lost. The library remained in the Mulberry building until another Statesville woman stepped up to give the town what it definitely needed.

Mary Alice Robbins Long was the daughter of the U.S. Congressman William McKendree Robbins, and she married Judge Benjamin Franklin Long. To say that she was a prominent lady in the affluent, elite social circles of Statesville would have been an understatement. But for all her name and pedigree, Mary Long was never afraid to get involved and do what needed to be done for the city of Statesville. She served as head of the Women’s Missionary Society in 1889, organized the first local chapter of the United Daughters of Confederacy in 1894, and she launched the first Women’s Club in Statesville in 1920. The club’s first task was to realize Mary’s dream of a public library in 1922 when the club moved the Statesville Library into a small building on East Broad Street.

In the 1930s, the library partnered with the Garden Club of Statesville which was led by Grace Anderson. This collaboration resulted in the beautification of the library building on the outside to create curb appeal. The club continued to operate the library until 1939 when the library was given to the City of Statesville if they provided a new building. The new library was moved up Broad Street and would serve as home to the city library until it merged with the county library in 1968.

In addition to her role at the Women’s Club and Daughters of the Confederacy, Mary Long would go on to be president of several organizations including the Women’s Auxiliary of the First Presbyterian Church and the Alumni Association of Mitchell College.

Mary died in 1947 at the ripe age of 89. She would have known a lot about so many people and events in this town. She probably knew all the juicy gossip too. Her obituary called her a “born Mary Alice Robbins Longleader,” a trait which she passed to her daughter Marie Long Land who succeeded her as president of the Women’s Club and who would go on to sit on boards at the state federation level. Mary Long had high hopes for what a library would look like in Statesville. Although we can all agree that the 1917 vote was a huge loss for the community, Long rallied women once again and planted the seed for what is now the Iredell County Public Library. She began our history 100 years ago and we look forward to another 100 years and beyond of serving this great town.

Mar 23

Iredell County News

Posted on March 23, 2022 at 10:04 AM by Shellie Taylor

Mason McCullough made it a point to be early at 505 S. Center Street on March 29, 1985. The auction was set to start at 12 noon in front of what had previously been an adult book store near downtown Statesville. The IRS had seized the building for back taxes and it was to be sold to the highest bidder.  

At 12 noon the only ones standing on the sidewalk in front of the building that now houses J & J Beauty Supplies was the IRS official conducting the auction and Mason. At the appointed time the official turned to Mason and announced the auction was going to be delayed by twenty minutes or so. He explained that a businessman from Charlotte who purchased and sold properties in the surrounding counties had called to say he had a flat tire on the highway and would be arriving late. 

Mason looked back at the official and said, “Would you wait for me?” The man from the IRS looked at him for a few seconds and said, “Let’s have the auction. Who wants to start the bidding?” Mason bid $15,500. “Sold,” was the immediate reply. 

 Mason McCullough, owner and publisher of the Iredell County News, had a new home for Iredell County’s only African American newspaper at 505 S. Center Street.  McCullough had researched the property before the auction and knew the IRS wanted at least $15,500 for the building. He had also arranged a line of credit with the Iredell Credit Union and NCNB Bank. 

He paid the IRS with a cashier check later that same day. 

Mason was born on Oct. 29, 1943 in Kannapolis, N.C. He grew up during a time of segregation and graduated in 1961 from George Washington Carver High School where he was team captain on both the basketball and football teams and played in the Shrine Bowl. “People today don’t remember it, but there used to be an East versus West Black Shrine Bowl that was played at N.C. A&T University in Greensboro before it was moved to UNC-Central.” 

After graduating he studied business and real estate at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte and opened The Beauty Center, a beauty and hair products shop in 1970. “It was the first African American business in downtown Kannapolis,” he recalls. In June of 1972 he relocated to Statesville and opened The Beauty Center at 503 S. Center St., next to Louise Flower Shop. Mason worked for Hunt Manufacturing and sought other business opportunities operating McCullough Furniture and Upholstery and serving as vice president of Reach Development Corporation while his wife Inez served as a reporter for the Iredell County News and worked as a teacher’s assistant at Pressley Elementary School.

In 1980 Mason went to Charlotte to talk with Bill Johnson publisher of the Charlotte Post, an African American newspaper, in hopes of getting more coverage of Black owned businesses in Statesville. To his surprise Johnson decided to open a second newspaper in Statesville called The Iredell County Post and hired Mason as the paper’s general manager. The first issue appeared on Thursday, April 24, 1980 and proclaimed itself to be “The People’s Newspaper.” The paper was published by The Charlotte Post Publishing Co., Inc., and maintained its Statesville office at 226 S. Center St., in the Vance Hotel as its only occupant.  

 Johnson appealed to the African American community to bring Church, sports, education, human interest, entertainment, community and general information to the paper’s attention telling citizens, “The Iredell County Post is YOUR NEWSPAPER, so use it!” Mason McCullough proclaimed, “Statesville, TRULY is the city of progress.”

By August of 1980 Johnson sold the paper to Mason McCullough who changed the name to The Iredell County News and with help from investors formed the Iredell Publishing Company, Inc. The paper continued to operate first out of the Vance and later at 235 East Front St., before finally finding a permanent home at 505 S. Center St. Early staff at the paper included, LaFonda Blair, Office Manager, Donald J. Bailey, Advertising Manager, Bernard Robertson, Sports Editor, and Charles H. Roman, Church News Writer. The paper was a member of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and the North Carolina Black Publishers Association. 

Mason McCullough was now owner and publisher of a newspaper, but lacked a newspaper background. Help came in the form of two local men who came to work at the paper. Don Bailey helped bring Morningside High School retired sports coach Herman Horne on board. Horne had newspaper experience and supervised the publication of the Morningside student newspaper, The Oracle. Horne became the papers Senior Editor working with articles and creating the papers layout. 

George E. Joye was a local musician publishing the Carolina Bluegrass Review out of Alexander County when Mason was introduced to him by Lee Sharpe publisher of the Taylorsville Times. Joye had been typing up his articles and taking them to the Taylorsville Times which would print his paper. Mason offered to let him use their typesetting equipment to print his Review if he would help at the County News. George Joye became the papers managing editor and designed the prototype for the paper’s annual February Black History Month supplement. 

The Iredell County News Black History Month issues were special in that they not gave a history of notable African Americans, they also focused on people living right here in Iredell County. The Feb. 19, 1998 issue featured Stamey and Effie Steele who ran Steele’s Café and Cynthia Carson Turner who ran Mr. Quick’s Convenience Store which had previously been Carson’s Service Station both on Depot Hill. Carson’s Service Station was first operated by Roosevelt Carson and later his son Thomas Samuel Carson. 

Ads were featured in that same issue by local businesses who saluted their African American employees. J.C. Steele & Sons saluted William Wesley (West) Summers while Belk saluted Mary Haynes. Larry Hedrick Motorsports saluted Black NASCAR driver Wendell Scott for “his courageous endeavors in paving the way” for future minority drivers. Other advertisers included Hawkin’s Appraisal Service, Starrette’s Office Equipment, Statesville Roofing & Heating, G.L. Wilson Building Co., Walker Insurance, Bartlett Milling Co., Statesville Brick, and Pless-Haire Insurance. 

After taking over the paper McCullough gave the paper a new slogan, “The Other Point of View.” He often wrote editorials which like all editorials were liked by some and disliked by others. In 1999, Mason’s friend Rep. Cass Ballenger, who also paid for an ad in that Feb. 1998 issue, got in hot water over a poor choice of words in describing Rep. Cynthia McKinney from Georgia. People were quick to accuse Ballenger of being racist, but McCullough disagreed and wrote a front-page editorial in The County News in April 1999 titled, “Ballenger racist? No Way!” Mason who knew both Cass and his wife Donna stated, “I have never known him to be racist.” Mason also worked for former N.C. Governor Jim Martin’s campaign and was later appointed to a state Ethics Board. 

Mason McCullough is proud of the paper he and his staff put out. Under Mason’s leadership the paper tried to serve as a support to the African American community in Iredell County. He is particularly proud of the special issues they put out on Black History Month and Women’s History Month.  He made a special effort to bring awareness to Black health issues like the March 8, 2001 issue that focused on “Piecing together the puzzle of Diabetes” and the Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation campaign which sponsored the “Miss Ebony” pageant. In 1997 the papers name was changed to The County News as they expanded their coverage to the surrounding counties of Cabarrus, Catawba, Mecklenburg, and Rowan. 

The Great Recession forced McCullough to sell the bi-weekly paper on August 25, 2008 the same year that The Iredell Citizen was forced to close down. It was Record and Landmark publisher Tim Dearman who suggested he sell the paper to Fran Farrer whom he knew from the N.C. Press Association. Fran Farrer was a former advertising and marketing director at the Charlotte Post. McCullough continued to work at the paper for another year to help in the transition. “I worked in the newspaper field for 29 years total.” He later sold the building at 505 S. Center St. in September of 2010. The J&J Beauty Supply operates out of the building today. 

Melissa Smith, in the library’s Youth Services Dept., worked as a reporter for The County News for Mason from 1991 to 2008. The County News still publishes today as “The Other Point Of View” both in print and online at http://countynews4you.com/

Joel Reese, Local History Librarian

Iredell County Public Library

This article was published in the Statesville Record and Landmark on March 12, 2022 under the title, “Mason McCullough and his Iredell County News served the Black community for 20 years”