Cat lovers and those Iredell County residents living in the Cabinsville area will take interest in an article that appeared in the Landmark newspaper on May 26, 1882.
“For some years it has been the habit of the inhabitants of Cabinsville, whenever they found themselves overstocked with cats, to carry them in sacks over to this side of the creek and dump them out. The cats came to Statesville and domiciled themselves, and for some years past we have had more cats than people. But lately a county bridge has been built across the creek this side of Cabinsville and the Cabinsville cats, temporarily residing in Statesville, having found this out, have gone back to resume residence on the other side of the creek. Not themselves alone, either, but most of them have carried back with them large and interesting families which were raised in the days of their banishment, and sister’s, cousins, aunts, and neighbors not a few. Cabinsville has been completely overrun and the citizens thereof have enlisted in a war of extermination. Their situation is deplorable but Statesville cannot help but laugh at them. The cats which they emptied out on as before the bridge was built, we have returned with interest,”
What’s that? You don’t know where Cabinsville is? Why everyone knows where Cabinsville is. It’s just uh, up, uh, over, uh, well everyone knows where Cabinsville is. Well, not exactly. To be honest there is no Cabinsville in Iredell County and never has been. Cabinsville was a creation of Joseph Pearson (J.P.) Caldwell, the owner and editor of the Landmark newspaper from January 1880 to February 1892. In January of 1880 Caldwell purchased the Landmark, and it was in Statesville- probably on a slow news day- that he created the town of Cabinsville to pick at a small group of citizens living about 2 miles west of Statesville in the area around Buffalo Shoals,
J.P. Caldwell served as mayor of Statesville from 1886 to 1889 and it is Thomas F. Drumwright referred to as, “His Honor Mayor Drumwright” who supposedly was giving the monthly report on the happenings in his town. The Landmark reported on June 22, 1882, that “Our readers know something of the infelicities that the estimable mayor of Cabinsville has had aforetime with that prolific growth, the multiplying onion. A lady correspondent in the major’s dominion, however, informs us that his garden was never so complete a failure, when the onion was in its healthiest and most aggressive state as it is this summer. He has sixteen head of cabbage size of an ink stand, eleven feeble looking bean stalks, two emaciated cucumber vines and a consumptive-looking tomato plant. The devastation of the mayor’s once promising garden is attributed to the black cats, which, having already eaten up his bacon and young chickens, are believed to have fallen back on his garden sass for a change of diet.”
Mayor Drumwright once reported that he had sheared his dog Tyro who lived entirely on vegetables and tobacco worms due to his old age and got 15 pounds of wool, more than on a sheep. Scandal rocked the Mayor’s office in Cabinsville on July 20, 1883, when the Landmark reported that, “There is a good deal of indignation out of Cabinsville on account of the fact that the mayor was recently found plowing in the middle of a twenty-acre field one day without any breeches on. The statement is that he had on nothing at all except a hat and a long shirt which reached below his knees and was secured at the top by a draw string around his neck; and the anxiety of some ladies driving by, lest he should, in swelling and puffing and cussing the little mule, burst the string and be left, before they got out of sight, with nothing on except his hat, was so great that they nearly fainted.”
The problem for modern researchers of Iredell County history is that when they see Cabinsville in the old newspapers they think there really is such a place in Iredell County. The people Caldwell places in Cabinsville were real. Among them were R.D. (Bob) Sherrill, Jacob Bostian, Dr. John F. Long, James W. Parker, Giles Nicholson, Frank Hall, and Thomas F. Drumwright all of whom show up in the 1880 census living in the same area. One must assume that Caldwell and Drumwright were friends and that the ribbing was all in good nature with the entire town of Statesville in on the joke.
In January, 1892, Caldwell and D.A. Tomkins bought the Charlotte Chronicle; successor to the weekly Observer, which was later, renamed the Charlotte Observer. Caldwell went on to make the Observer the most prominent newspaper in the state and became one of the South’s leading news editors. He is described as having a sense of humor, and in the fall of 1890 another story came out in the Landmark of a mysterious beast prowling the streets and back alleys of Statesville. The creature soon had a name when locals began calling the wampus-like animal the “Santer.” Caldwell even printed a picture of the creature, the Landmark’s first cartoon, showing a four-legged critter with a long tail. The tale of the Santer took on a life of its own though, and unlike Cabinsville, which has been forgotten, reports of people seeing Caldwell’s beast have continued on up to present times.
Joel Reese, Local History Librarian
Iredell County Public Library
This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “The Strange Case of Cabinsville” on June 17, 2011