Here in our slice of Southern suburbia, it seems inconceivable that slaves worked the fields on plantations that once covered much of the land now dominated by the sprawling subdivisions we call home.
The area that would develop into the town of Mooresville was originally settled by English, German, and Scotch-Irish families who moved into the area from nearby Rowan County, as well as from Virginia, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, according to a history of the town compiled by the Mooresville Museum.
The families moving to the area as early as the mid-1700s included names familiar in Mooresville today such as the Wilsons, Davidsons, Cowans, Sherrills, Torrances and others.
“They formed small communities that eventually grew into the community known as Deep Well, which took its name from a large natural well that was found in the area,” according to the museum’s history.
Mount Mourne Plantation
Maj. Rufus Reid, owner of Mount Mourne Plantation, became one of the wealthiest planters in the state. At one point, more than 80 slaves worked Mount Mourne, which grew cotton, wheat and corn.
The Mount Mourne Plantation house, built in 1836, remains a prominent feature on N.C. 115, just south of Mooresville.
The Johnson-Neel House
The Johnson-Neel House, built around 1830, was the residential centerpiece of another prominent plantation.
The home sits behind the Memory Lane Museum on N.C. 150, just west of Morrison Plantation Parkway.
Centre Presbyterian Church, Session House and Cemetery
129 Centre Church Road, Mount Mourne
Centre Church was organized in 1765 and held meetings at Osborne’s Meeting House. The new congregation’s mission was centrally located between five other missions: Sugar Creek, Hopewell, Fourth Creek, Poplar Tent and Thyatira, which is why the congregation became known as Centre.
The original Centre Church building was destroyed by fire in 1774. The current main structure was finished in 1854, as was the adjacent Session House.
The cemetery, just across Centre Church Road, includes graves of some of the area’s earliest settlers from the 1700s.
Coddle Creek Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
2297 Coddle Creek Hwy., Mooresville
The first church building was constructed in the 1750s and destroyed by fire in 1839. Its replacement burned down in 1884, when the current structure was built. The adjacent Session House was built about 1884.
The cemetery includes about 250 gravestones. The oldest legible gravestone is from 1757. There also is a separate slave cemetery on the grounds.
John Franklin Moore
It was a small farmer who would transform the area. When a railroad ran on a natural ridge through his farm, Moore built a depot and encouraged others to help establish a small village around it in the late 1850s, which would become known as Moore’s Siding.
The town was incorporated as Mooresville in 1873.
Mill town transformation
With the opening of its first cotton mill in 1893, Mooresville began a transformation from farm town to textile hub.
That first Mooresville Textile Mills facility, on North Church Street at the edge of downtown, quickly outgrew the space. Work began in 1900 on what would become known as Mill 2 just a few blocks south. Over the course of decades, the mill complex grew to become the town’s economic driver.
While the mills eventually were shuttered when textile companies took their operations out of the U.S. in search of cheaper labor, much of the mill complex remains, as do hundreds of homes built by the company for its employees, which collectively are recognized as a landmark on National Register of Historic Places.
The remnants of that complex is now home to Aliño and Barcelona Burger and Beer Garden restaurants, Main St. Antiques and office space.
South Broad Street
A row of houses on South Broad Street dating from the 1870s to the 1920s are collectively designated as National Register of Historic Places landmarks.
The George Houston House
The George Houston House, on the east side of N.C. 115, about halfway between Faith and Presbyterian Roads, was built in 1818. The original portion of the home was built with logs. Several historic outbuildings, including an early log barn, also remain on the site.