Dearmon column: Ruth Cannon left her own mark on Kannapolis
When Charles A. Cannon took over the leadership of Cannon Mills because of the death of his father, J. W. Cannon, Ruth Louise Coltrane Cannon was by his side. She was definitely his lifelong companion.
Ruth Cannon was a history buff most of her life. She graduated from Greensboro College in 1911 summa cum laude, always interested in the arts, history and music. She did much to promote history in Kannapolis, Cabarrus County and in North Carolina.
As an active member of the North Carolina Garden Club and an original member of the Tryon Palace Committee, she was able to lead in the restoration of the Elizabethan gardens at Tryon Palace in New Bern.
When the last YMCA was constructed at the original site, she was pleased that it was built in the Williamsburg style and was probably responsible for the new Women’s Department.
In her travels to and from Kannapolis, she realized the buildings in downtown Kannapolis were not very attractive. She suggested to her husband the buildings would be more attractive if they could be revised to the Williamsburg style. Consequently, beginning in 1939, reconstruction of the downtown buildings began.
Kannapolis had become a booming town. Expansion was needed, so it was a good time for the new buildings to be in the different style. Although the beginning of World War II slowed the progress, the downtown was eventually completely revised.
Locally, one of her greatest accomplishments was the restoration of the Stirewalt-built house in west Kannapolis. Her interest in the Elizabethan gardens was the background for the restoration of the gardens around the house.
Named “For Pity’s Sake,” the house and surrounding property were used by Kannapolis organizations for outings. Church groups, the YMCA, civic clubs and outside organizations approved by Ruth Cannon often visited. During her lifetime, the house and gardens were well-maintained.
Her interest in music led to the founding of a music department at A.L. Brown High School, which was named after her. From the new department arose one of the largest high school bands in the state. Cannon Mills had supported a Cannon Mills band since 1912; therefore, the company was very supportive of the high school band.
She wed Charles Albert Cannon on June 12, 1912, and they raised four children. A family tragedy happened when Charles Albert Jr. was killed during World War II while piloting a plane across the mountains of Burma. He is still among those listed as missing in action. The Cannons loved their children, especially the grandchildren. Holidays were special.
At Ruth Cannon’s death on Dec. 22, 1965, Kannapolis, Cabarrus County and North Carolina lost a great supporter of historic preservation. Unfortunately, her husband lost interest in some of the things she had worked so hard to preserve and support during her lifetime. He had lost a great companion whom he loved dearly. The estate at “For Pity’s Sake” fell into disrepair. After his death in 1971, the old house was burned in a training exercise by the fire department in 1975, destroying the beautiful workmanship of Bolland Stirewalt, a famous builder of his time.
Norris Dearmon is a volunteer in the History Room at the Kannapolis Branch Library.