The Iredell County Historical Society will be having a special program on “Early 1800s Liquor Stills in Iredell County” at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 6th at the Ebenezer Volunteer Fire Dept., on US Hwy 21 in north Statesville. The program will be a community presentation and discussion about the government distilleries that operated in Iredell County along with local history on the Bethany Church and Dunlap Gate communities and Ebenezer School. Retired educator and local historian Steve Hill will have photographs on display from the Statesville Historical Collection showing many of the early legal and illegal stills and the destruction of many of them by revenuers.
Tuesday night’s program is part of the Historical Society’s “Quarterly History Road Show” series. The Iredell County Historical Society meets on the first Wednesday of each month at either the Iredell or Mooresville Public Library at 7 p.m. All meetings feature a historical presentation and discussion that is open to the public, but once a quarter the Society goes to different parts of Iredell County to hold programs of special historical interest to that local community. Local citizens are welcome to bring show-and-tell items and share their own history related stories. For more information contact Sam Hall at 704-880-0846 or Mike Trivette at 704-402-4942.
There have been other types of Historical Societies in Iredell County through the years. On March 31, 1909, The Evening Mascot newspaper announced that “the Iredell County Historical Society is now a permanent thing.” Dr. Philip F. Laugenour was the acting president of the group which stated a special interest in collecting copies of the Iredell Express newspaper. It is not known how long this early historical society lasted, but on Sept. 12, 1948 Statesville’s own William S. Powell led 50 members of the N.C. Society of County Historians on a tour of Iredell County’s historical sites starting at Mt. Mourne and ending at the “Chamber’s Place” just west of Elmwood. Statesville’s early aviator Virginia Dietz Malcolm wrote about another such tour in Iredell by the Association of Local and County Historians in the Iredell Morning News on Aug. 13, 1956.
The Statesville Record and Landmark reported that Miss Rachel Morrison, vice regent, Fourth Creek Chapter of the DAR, was named chairman of a steering committee for the organization of an Iredell County Historical Society on May 10, 1962. Another group of local history buffs met on October 18, 1967, to form yet another Iredell County Historical Society. The group was led by history teacher and author Louis A. Brown and James O. Stradley. Their first actions were to appoint a committee to work on the restoration of Fort Dobbs and to designate member Homer Keever to make preparations for writing a history of the county. The group was chartered on Jan. 29, 1968 with the motto “The Future Belongs to the Past.”
Homer Keever published Iredell-Piedmont County in 1976 with the help of the Iredell County Bicentennial Committee itself an outgrowth of the Fort Dobbs Chapter of the DAR. Historic Iredell Foundation, Inc. was organized in August, 1975. The foundation was instrumental in helping to create the Historic Iredell Properties Commission in 1976. The Iredell Historical Properties Commission was a joint effort of the N.C. State Archives Dept. and the cities of Statesville and Mooresville and Iredell County. The Commission conducted a survey to locate historically valuable homes, buildings, and sites and to make their owners aware of their importance to help insure their future survival.
Gary Freeze, now a noted history professor and author, and Ruth Little-Stokes led the survey taking photos and conducting research which led to the publishing of the book, An Inventory of Historical Architecture, Iredell County North Carolina in 1978. The Genealogical Society of Iredell County was formed on May 17, 1977 and has been the primary historical group here over the last 40 years conducting research and publishing both books and a journal. Both volumes one and two of The Heritage of Iredell County were published by the Society. Their office is located on the bottom floor of the Iredell County Public Library and is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
One might be tempted to say that many of these historical groups were failures since they gradually ceased to exist. The truth is though that often these groups ceased after they accomplished their main goals of conducting research, publishing their findings, preserving historical sites, and conducting historical celebrations. Declining membership due to age was probably a factor, but what has not declined is the interest that people still have today in learning about and preserving our past. Today’s Iredell County Historical Society is inviting people to join them and continue to learn, share and preserve our history.
By Joel Reese, Local History Librarian
Iredell County Public Library
Published in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “Program to spotlight Iredell’s liquor stills” on Feb. 5, 2018