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Local History Notes

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

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Dec 30

O.C. Stonestreet on Iredell's History

Posted on December 30, 2019 at 3:54 PM by Jenny Levins

Did you know that a citizen of Iredell County was the first North Carolinian to have a book of poetry published? Or did you know that a Mulberry Street School graduate went on to become a great writer of novels and short stories? Perhaps you’ve heard of the Statesville High School girl who had a four octave voice and became a famous singer. Surely you must have heard of the Iredell native son who had one of our nation’s leading airports named after him.

If not there is a newly published book you might want to check out for your holiday reading. “They Called Iredell County Home: Interesting People Who Were Born Or Lived In Iredell County, N.C.” is the latest published work by Iredell County historian and “Record & Landmark” columnist O.C. Stonestreet.  This Saturday on Dec. 14, from 12 to 2 p.m. Mr. Stonestreet will be speaking and holding a book signing at the Iredell County Public Library in Statesville. 

The book is a collection of biographies of Iredell County citizens from colonial days to the present and the stories are complimented by 55 illustrations.  Among the 64 people included in this volume are seven educators, six soldiers, five public servants, four aviators, four poets, four medical people, three athletes, three ministers, three entertainers, two writers, two sailors, two scientists, two newspaper editors, a merchant, a farmer, a pioneer, a judge, and a salesman.

Stonestreet who also wrote, “Tales of Old Iredell County: Historical Mysteries, Legends, Murders, and Stories of the Unusual and Unique” says that Iredell County has its fair share of famous and interesting people. “None of these people are really nationally known like a movie star, but I would guess that Doris Betts would be well-known as a writer of fiction. Many, many people have heard the name "Douglas" as part of "Douglas Airport," but they wouldn't know his name was Ben and that he was from Iredell. Drs. Eustace and Mary Sloop may have done the most to have helped others with their work at Crossnore.”

Not everyone discussed in the book were born in Iredell County, but all were citizens here at one time and became prominent here. Mr. Stonestreet has a special name for his subjects, “Iredellians" is my word for those with strong ties to our red clay home. Would "Iredellers" be more correct? I went through the articles I  have published since 1988, particularly the columns I have had in the R&L since becoming a regular columnist seven years ago, and looked for people that were unique and basically good people. The nut cases--as well as some good people--were in "Tales from Old Iredell County," my first book.  I have made a tentative list of some 50 people who would rate going into a second "They Called Iredell ..." book. For instance, Andy Barker is not in this book, but perhaps should have been. He'll be in the second one.

Several of the names in the book will be unfamiliar to most people. Mr. Stonestreet says, “I think there are several in "They Called..." that were and are under-appreciated. Monroe Nathan Work, whose parents were slaves, basically invented the field of Black Studies at Tuskeegee. The Rev. and Mrs. A. S. Billingsley were shunned for helping black people after the Civil War. At the very least there should be an elementary school here named for them. Mary C. Holliday is another person who gave her life to educating Iredell's children. There should be a local school with her name on it, too. The Rev. Dr. Alexander Means was probably the most intelligent and the most interesting person. He was a minister, a scientist, a physician and hob-nobbed with the top scientists of the day. Mooresville calls itself "Race City USA" but no one there has ever heard of Gray Sloop, who raced motorcycles at national events and died young”

This interesting and entertaining book is an excellent resource for those interested in Iredell County history and an important addition to the library’s North Carolina reference section. Mr. Stonestreet will also be holding book signings at the Harmony Library on Tuesday, Dec. 17, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., the Troutman Library on Thursday, Dec. 19, from 6 to 7 p.m., the Mooresville Library on Friday, Dec. 20, from 6 to 8 p.m. and Classic American Antiques, 106 North Broad Street, Mooresville, on Saturday, Dec. 21, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Joel Reese, Local History Librarian

Iredell County Public Library

This article was published in the Statesville Record and Landmark in Dec. 2013