Located on the North Carolina-South Carolina border, Cleveland County is two counties west of Charlotte. The county was formed in 1841 from parts of then Lincoln and Rutherford counties. It was named for Benjamin Cleveland, a colonel in the American Revolutionary War, who took part in the Battle of King’s Mountain. From 1841 to 1887, “Cleaveland” was the spelling used, and the present spelling was adopted in 1887.
According to locals, Casar was originally incorporated as Race Path in 1890. In 1903, the name was to be changed to Caesar, but the story goes that Joe Meade with the U.S. Postal Service sent the town’s application for incorporation and the name came back misspelled. So, the town officially became Casar.
Belwood was incorporated in 1978. The name of the town means “beautiful woods.”
Fallston was settled in the 1880s and incorporated in 1893, and named for John Z. Falls, Sheriff of Cleveland County.
Lawndale developed in the late 19th century around the Cleveland Mills plant established by Major H.F. Schenck. The town was named for the green lawns of the houses where many of the mill’s workers lived. Schenck’s daughter and son-in-law opened the Piedmont Academy in 1897, and rail service to Shelby began two years later. Lawndale was incorporated in 1903.
Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard And Winery
A visit to this county uncovered one of my favorite finds to date! Did you know… right here in NC, we have the one and only–seen on packaging and TV commercials–Hillshire Farms barn! Yes, it’s true. The beautifully kept 3-story red barn is located at Buffalo Creek Vineyards in the Fallston/Lawndale areas of Cleveland County. It was the last stop of the day for this travel blogger–and the history of this winery was a total unexpected surprise!!
Oh, and can enjoy wine tastings while on site as well as live music and food trucks when scheduled. Bring your lawn chair and enjoy with family and friends!
(P.S. The logo is no longer on the side of the barn, but the tree from the commercials still stands. Plus, on the other side of the barn, you’ll find a large lean-to, which has been reimagined as a chapel–complete with church pews. Yes, you can get married at the Hillshire Farms Barn in NC!)
The Polkville Rodeo is an annual event that takes place in the Mintz Arena at Polkville Baptist Church. This event is sanctioned by the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) and is presented by F-K Rodeo Company of Charlotte. Advance tickets are available at local businesses as well as those sold at the gate. All proceeds go to benefit church members in their desires to participate in mission trips and disaster relief efforts.
Named in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., Kingstown was incorporated in 1989. The town was originally known as “Kingston,” but adopted its current name to avoid confusion with Kinston, North Carolina.
Named after Waco, Texas, the Waco post office has been in operation since 1880. Floyd Patterson, heavyweight boxing champion, is from the area.
The Town of Waco is located in the eastern portion of Cleveland County in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. The community was first known as “Ramsey Crossings,” after local farmer, Joe Ramsey. In 1879, a movement was started to establish a post office. At the height of the movement, a young man in his twenties, George Washington Kendrick, returned from the Brazos Area of Texas and suggested the town be called “Waco,” after a city along the Brazos River. The community liked its sound, and accepted it as the town’s official name.
In 1880, Kendrick was sworn in as the town’s first postmaster. By the late 1800s, Waco was an active farming town that supported a busy railroad depot, feed and seed stores, a bank, post office, two churches, and several general mercantile stores. Farmers and families traveled by wagon or on horseback from as far as 20 miles to come to Waco to sell their goods and purchase items they needed. In 1880, solicitations were made to build a school, and the Waco Academy was constructed. Although the building changed over the years, the school stood on the same piece of land until finally closing its doors more than 100 years later. Cotton fields covered the landscape for some time (and you can still find some today), intertwined with pastures for cattle. Many families looking for a quiet place to raise a family were drawn to Waco. Out of those families have come doctors, lawyers, educators, pastors, politicians, entertainers, athletes, and beauty queens.
The original “Waco Post Office” and the “Peoples Bank of Waco” is one of the oldest structures in Waco and has been restored by the McNeely Family, who are well-known throughout the community and the county.
Shelby is the county seat and the main hub for the county. Drive through the town on any Wednesday or Saturday and you’ll find a bustling downtown farmers market as well as both residents and visitors strolling through the streets, shopping at local gift boutiques, and enjoying a meal or treat at a local food establishment. Throughout the uptown Shelby area, you’ll also find a number of 2-sided, hand-painted, vinyl record replica public art pieces, which artfully memorialize native son Don Gibson’s popular songs.
Other public art pieces throughout the community include an Earl Scruggs wall mural painted on the side of Newgrass Brewing; Bobby Bell, a local Black football star, is portrayed in his football-playing days; and Don Gibson takes up the side of the Don Gibson Theater.
The area was originally inhabited by Catawba and Cherokee peoples and was later settled between around 1760. The city was chartered in 1843 and named after Colonel Isaac Shelby, a hero of the battle of Kings Mountain (1780) during the American Revolution. Shelby was agricultural until the railways in the 1870s stimulated Shelby’s development. Textiles later became its chief industry during the 1920s when production of cotton in Cleveland County rose from 8,000 to 80,000 bales a year. Cotton production peaked in 1948 with Cleveland County producing 83,549 bales, making it North Carolina’s premier cotton county. In the 1930s, Shelby was known as “the leading shopping center between Charlotte and Asheville.” People from surrounding counties came to Shelby to shop, since there were numerous types of local and chain stores. By 1947, Shelby was a true thriving town with the mills paying among the highest wages in the South. In the 1950s, droughts, insect infestations, and government acreage controls resulted in the decline of cotton as Cleveland County’s primary crop.
The architecture of Shelby is noteworthy in that despite being in a rural area, there are magnificent homes and buildings with unique character. Some buildings are county landmarks, such as the Historic Campbell Building and others are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Banker’s House, Joshua Beam House, Central Shelby Historic District, Cleveland County Courthouse, East Marion-Belvedere Park Historic District, James Heyward Hull House, Masonic Temple Building, Dr. Victor McBrayer House, George Sperling House and Outbuildings, Joseph Suttle House, Webbley, and West Warren Street Historic District.
Shelby was home to a group of political leaders in the first half of the 20th century that have become known as the “Shelby Dynasty.” These men wielded power through the local, state, and federal governments. The most notable men of Shelby’s political leadership were brothers James L. Webb and Edwin Yates Webb and brothers-in-law O. Max Gardner and Clyde R. Hoey. (The current Gardner-Webb University situated in Boiling Springs was named for these men.) As governors, NC representatives, and US congressman, the group impacted Shelby life and Shelby’s reputation throughout the state.
Shelby’s community of art, music, and government all take place in Uptown Shelby historic district. Uptown Shelby is home to a large square, local businesses, and a variety of restaurants surrounding The Courthouse Square. Re-branded as “uptown” in the 1970s in order to bring town-people back off the highway and away from the mall, this area has been named a “Main Street” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The local pavilion hosts a twice-a-week Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, as well local concerts. Monthly summer festivals like Shelby Alive and Seventh Inning Stretch, hosted by the American Legion World Series, brings regional music acts to perform in the city. With a low cost of living and a vibrant small town environment, Uptown Shelby has experienced growth in street-level occupancy, while hosting opportunities for active living. Be sure to stop by Newgrass Brewing, multiple restaurants, and other local businesses that attract day trippers and shoppers from across the region. Party of the city brand, live music is a part of community with the Earl Scruggs Center and the Don Gibson Theatre.
Other public attractions include walking trails like the Carolina Thread trail and the Broad River Trail as well as public events. Reoccurring events include the Fall Livermush Festival, The Cleveland County fair (the largest county agricultural fair in North Carolina), The 7th Inning Stretch, The Art of Sound, Arts on the Square, and various fundraisers. (P.S. Various restaurants, including Shelby Cafe, serve their own versions of livermush [a mixture of pork products, corn meal, and spices], which is a traditional local and regional favorite. The food originated from German settlers, who traveled south through the Appalachian Mountains in the 1700s.
Of note, parts of the Hunger Games was filmed here. Robert Harrill (the Fort Fisher Hermit), country music singer Patty Loveless, heavyweight boxing champion and Boxing Hall of Famer Floyd Patterson, and banjo player/composer on Hollywood Walk of Fame Earl Scruggs all hail from the area.
Earl Scruggs Center
The Earl Scruggs Center (103 S. Lafayette St.), housed in the former county courthouse, combines the life story of legendary five-string banjo master and Cleveland County native Earl Scruggs with the unique and engaging story of the history and cultural traditions of the region in which Scruggs was born and raised. It was in the nearby Flint Hill community where Scruggs learned to play banjo and began the three-finger playing style that has come to be known around the world as “Scruggs Style.”
The Earl Scruggs Center explores Scruggs’ innovative career and the community that gave it shape while celebrating how he crossed musical boundaries and defined the voice of the banjo to the world. Engaging exhibits, special event space, and rich programming provide a uniquely rich experience for visitors. (Admission is $12.)
Don Gibson Theater
Stop by for a peek and to take photos of this classic theater, which is still in operation today (318 Washington St.).
Don’t leave Shelby without seeing the beautiful bright yellow Banker’s House. You can’t miss it if you drive by.
Shelby City Park
Just a few miles outside of uptown Shelby, you’ll find Shelby City Park, which includes playgrounds and a merry-go-round as well as sports fields.
Cleveland County Arts Council
Stop by the Cleveland Arts Council building (111 S. Washington St.) to view both permanent and rotating displays.
The town of Boiling Springs is home to Gardner–Webb University (named for the aforementioned Gardner and Webb families, who were prominent in the area). The town is named after the natural spring found on the university’s property, which feeds a small lake. People began settling the area around the namesake boiling springs in 1843. The first families to settle were the Hamricks, the Greenes, and the McSwains.
One of the first buildings constructed was Boiling Springs Baptist Church, built in 1847 about 100 yards from the springs. Boiling Springs was known as a sleepy community, with no railroads, no industries, few stores, and no paved streets. At the turn of the 20th century, Kings Mountain Baptist and Sandy Run Associations began looking for a place to build their denominational high school and chose Boiling Springs because it was geographically situated between the two associations and because the Boiling Springs community made concerted efforts to attract the school. The Boiling Springs High School boarding institution opened for business in 1905. School authorities felt that neither intoxicating drinks nor cigarettes should be sold near the school, so in 1911 the town was incorporated in order to ban the sale of such items. Town limits were decided by drawing a mile and a half radius from the school’s original bell tower.
Incorporation of the town proved to be a major step forward because it provided a government that could function and enable the town not only to grow but to furnish water, police and fire protection, paved streets, and garbage collection for both the town and the school. As time progressed, the growth of the town was largely tied to the growth of the Boiling Springs High School, which became the Boiling Springs Junior College in 1928, Gardner Webb Junior College in 1942, and, finally, after achieving status as a senior college and developing several graduate programs, Gardner–Webb University in 1993.
Voters approved ordinances to allow for the sale of beer, unfortified wine, and malt beverages within town limits in 2018.
Boiling Springs has remained a small town with character and charm. The Baptist boarding school is now Gardner-Webb University and has celebrated its centennial year.
Visit one of the town’s namesake boiling springs. Beautifully restored and located on the campus of Gardner-Webb University, the spring became a community gathering place when the area was first settled in the 1840s.
Earl was incorporated in 1889 and was named for local landowner Abel Earl (and not Earl Scruggs as one might think).
The Town of Earl (ToE) is a small rural village first settled in the late 1700s. With the coming of the railroad in 1870s the town was a center of rural and agricultural commerce for southern Cleveland County as well as upper Cherokee County, SC, boasting three general stores, a blacksmith, assorted service businesses, and a cotton gin. When Farm-to-Market roads were improved in the mid-20th century and textile industrialization occurred, Earl again became a quiet rural village with little commerce.
As the Interstate Highway System developed in the last quarter of the 20th century, the emerging South Eastern Piedmont Megalopolis from Atlanta to Raleigh on I-85 spawned bedroom and support communities for the urban centers along the route. Located virtually equidistant from Charlotte and Greenville (55 minutes to city centers), the Earl community has seen residential growth taking advantage of its proximity (6 minutes) to I-85 as well as commuters to Shelby, Boiling Springs (home of Gardner Webb University), and other towns seeking a short commute with easy, big city access from a more rural setting.
Patterson Springs was originally a small farming community called “Swangs,” with only a train depot and a post office. William George Patterson bought the land that held three springs from the “Epps” family. Patterson hoped that the supposed healing powers of these springs would help heal his son, Billy, who had poor health. Eventually, news of the supposed healing powers of these springs spread, and Patterson created a 30- to 40-oom resort to house travelers and merchants. The resort, which was one of several in the area, mainly attracted people from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. When the attendees of the resort were not at the springs, Patterson offered lawn bowling and a dance every Saturday night. In 1885, the name “Swangs” confused the railroad people, so they convinced the post office to change it to Patterson Springs and the government officials agreed. In 1915, a school building was created, housing all eleven (not 12) grades. Another was built in 1923, which housed grades one through eight, while the High School students attended No. 3 High School. In the 1960s, the post office closed; then in the 1970s, both schools closed. The train depot no longer exists.
Grover is classified as a small town where railway and highway routes Interstate 85 and U.S. Highway 29 cross the state line between North Carolina and South Carolina. It was previously named Whitaker and legally was in South Carolina. The name change to Grover in 1885 was in honor of President Grover Cleveland. Gingerbread Row (Cleveland Avenue – NC Highway 216) has an antique look with many restored homes in beautiful colors.
A railroad-dominated town started when the Atlanta Charlotte Airline Railway placed a turntable for engines to be spun. They operated from the 1880s to the 1920s and Southern Railway (U.S.) continues to carry passengers to this day (now known as Norfolk Southern). Mail drops and pickups by train occurred several times per day in Grover often with the mail bag put on a hook while the train came through at speed. Amtrak also operates on the line (under permission) and carries passengers from Atlanta to Charlotte, Richmond, Boston, and New York City. George W. Bush made a rail stop in Grover during his U.S. Presidential campaign.
Grover is also home to international companies like Eaton, Commercial Vehicle Group, Southern Power, 84 Lumber, Uniquetex, and–interestingly–the U.S. Presidential Culinary Museum and Library.
Grover was the town of entry by The Marquess, Lord Charles Cornwallis when he invaded North Carolina with his cavalry, artillery, and army. The butcher of New Jersey, Major Patrick Ferguson, also camped near parts of present-day Grover, prior to battle on King’s Mountain, a local mountain range named after the King Family that lived there. The famed Hambright (Hambrecht) family dynasty crown jewel mansion that welcomed people to Grover for 30 years from 1948 to 1978 is now The Inn of the Patriots, since 2008.
Metcalfe Station, located on N.C. 226 North (2940 Polkville Road, Shelby), served as the stop between Lawndale and Shelby for the narrow gauge railroad that connected Cleveland Mills to the major railways. In the station’s later years, it was serviced with Texaco gasoline to supply gas for automobiles that were becoming more popular. If you take the time to stop by the Metcalfe Station, you’re in for a treat and a historical lesson. The store served cold drinks and a few groceries and treats in its day. Inside (when open) you can sign the registry and see many vintage items. From this site Mr. Q. H. Metcalfe supervised section crews for the Lawndale Railway and Industrial Company, 1899-1943.
A group of volunteers refurbished the station and an original railroad boxcar and was opened to the public in 2001. The land, original buildings, and boxcar were donated in memory of Quincy Hague Metcalfe by the Gene Metcalfe family. Max Lail, a member of the Lawndale Historical Society, greets visitors at the Metcalfe Station when it is open. The station is open on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m., June through October.
During the Revolutionary War, Patriot militia defeated Loyalist militia in the Battle of Kings Mountain. Originally the settlement was called White Plains, but the city was incorporated on October 16, 1874, and the name was changed to Kings Mountain. It was decided that “Kings Mountain” would be a more appropriate name since the community was close to the site of the historic 1780 Battle of Kings Mountain in York County, South Carolina, a turning point in the American Revolutionary War by Thomas Jefferson. Liberty Mountain, a play performed at the local theater, recounts the events of the battle. The downtown area is home to the museum, police station, and the Mauney Memorial Library.
W.A. Mauney was the first citizen of Kings Mountain. He was the first man to establish a home, opened the first store, was the first postmaster, builder of the first cotton mill, and pioneered in the banking business of that general section. W.A. Mauney also cut many paths and roads through the wilderness.
In 1870-72 the building of the Charlotte-Atlanta Airline Railway was the impetus for the founding of the City of Kings Mountain. Farmers had no vision of turning the land into town lots or industrial sites, but men of other parts of the county and adjacent areas saw the possibilities for development. Freno Dilling moved his sawmill from Cherryville to the site of the present Kings Mill on N Piedmont Avenue in May 1872. The first railroad track was laid in the fall of that same year. The Dilling sawmill supplied some of the cross ties and his well furnished water to the railroad engines.
While in Kings Mountain, be sure to visit the Kings Mountain Historical Museum (100 E Mountain St.) and the Kings Mountain Little Theater (202 S Railroad Ave.), then hike or bike the Kings Mountain Gateway Trail.
Next stop: Franklin County!