Attractive Statesville

Local History Notes

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

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Dec 30

Go West, Young Man

Posted on December 30, 2019 at 3:33 PM by Jenny Levins

“Go West, Young Man!” is a familiar phrase from the mid 1800’s that we have all heard.

The phrase is often attributed to Horace Greeley who used it in an 1865 editorial.  The original author though is John B.L. Soule who used it in the title to his own Terre Haute Express editorial in 1851.  Soule’s original quote was “Go West, young man, and grow with the country.”

My nephew Jonathan recently got out of the Marines and went to Minnesota to visit a girlfriend he had there.  He had bought a round trip ticket, but called back after a few days saying he had decided to stay and make his post military life out there. Needless to say, my sister, his mother, who had got him back safely from Afghanistan less than a year ago, was not too happy with this decision. 

It has happened before in my family.  My Grandpa Price and his brothers went west as young men in the early 1900’s looking for work.  They labored in the early auto industry in Detroit, herded sheep in Idaho, worked in Chicago, and one named Ervin Price even disappeared heading to Texas and was never heard from again.

My Grandpa Verner Price came back home after receiving a pleading letter from his mother Margaret saying that the crops were waiting to be harvested and the cattle and horses were loose with no one to tend to either.  He came back home, set his bag down, and kissed his mother, before heading straight to the barn to start work.  There he found his brother Alva hitching up a team.  She had sent the same letter to each of her sons.

I came across a book recently that mentioned an Iredell County native son who went west seeking his fortune. “The History of Calhoun County, Michigan: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People, and its Principal Interests” by Washington Gardner was published in 1913.  A section of the book has a description and photo of Clifton L. Corpening, described as the prominent hotel manager of the Post Tavern in Battle Creek, Michigan. 

Clifton L. Corpening was born in Statesville on December 5, 1873.  His parents were Dr. Thomas J. and Susan (Boyd) Corpening. In the “History of Calhoun County” his father is described as a dentist living in Statesville who died in Morganton in 1891.  His mother was born in South Carolina and died in Statesville in 1900.   

Clifton was one of eleven children and attended the Male Academy before going into the hotel management business as a clerk in Statesville, Durham, Omaha, Council Bluffs, and finally in Battle Creek.  He was the chief clerk of the Post Tavern at its opening on January 1, 1901.  On January 1, 1910, he leased the Tavern and became the manager of what later became a 200-room hotel with rates running from three to four dollars a day.

On April 29, 1908 he married Miss Bertha L. Wheaton of Battle Creek, who was a vice president of the Ellis Publishing Company.  They made their home at the Tavern described as one of the finest hotel structures in the country and a landmark in Michigan.  The Tavern sat directly across the street from the Post Theater and performers such as Sarah Bernhardt, Lillian Russell, the Marx Brothers, and the Barrymores stayed at the hotel while performing there.

In 1939 Corpening and his wife returned to Statesville where he leased and managed the Vance hotel until he retired in 1947.  The Post Tavern was originally a six-story hotel built by C.W. Post that received a ten-story addition in 1913. It was finally torn down in 1960.  Articles about the Post Tavern hotel that Clifton L. Corpening helped make famous still appear occasionally in newspapers in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Joel Reese, Local History Librarian

Iredell County Public Library

This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “Going West proved fruitful for some of these young men” on Nov. 15, 2006