By Norris Dearmon
For the Kannapolis Citizen
In 1940, C.A. Cannon purchased the old Jacob Stirewalt farm and gave it to his wife, Ruth, as a Christmas present. He knew how much she enjoyed historic things.
Stirewalt, an architect and cabinet maker, had built the house overlooking Irish Buffalo Creek in 1895. It was a simple farmhouse designed with special attention given to the hand-carved mantels, double front doors and graceful staircases. There was a grist mill powered by the creek.
Unfortunately, when Cannon purchased the property, it had fallen into disrepair.
The new owners began to restore the house to its original grandeur. They salvaged and repaired original materials for the moldings, window facings and some of the wall paper, with assistance from Houck Richards, the caretaker for 21 years.
In addition to the work on the house, beautiful flower gardens were added to enhance the beauty of the surrounding yard. It became something Mrs. Cannon was proud of and liked to share with others.
According to an article by Mack McKa, published on Jan. 17, 1971, “Tradition has it that Mrs. Cannon was showing a group of Concord lady friends the newly completed rural Cannon home. One of the ladies asked, ‘What are you going to name it?’ ”
“The first thing any of you say, as of right now, will be the name,” Mrs. Cannon is said to have replied.
“For Pity’s Sake,” said another lady. “What a strange way to name such a wonderful place.”
“That is the new name, ‘For Pity’s Sake,’ it will be from now on,” Mrs. Cannon reportedly said.
I am sure there are other stories about the naming of the house.
The house was furnished with antiques, which complemented the 100-year-old setting. The kitchen was restored and modernized. Mrs. Cannon hung her collection of Teaberry Wedgewood ironstone pressed glass goblets and old apothecary jars there. In the south bedroom, visitors could see a pair of oil lamps that once belonged to Dolly Madison.
For Pity’s Sake became a well-known spot to local residents in 1947 when Mrs. Cannon invited them to attend Easter sunrise service on the property. These services were repeated for many years under the sponsorship of the YMCA women’s clubs.
Large crowds attended, with music by the mixed choruses from J.W. Cannon High School, and later A.L. Brown High School, under the direction of Nellie Alexander.
The YMCA women did a processional and readings during the service. Other schools and musical groups participated. A love feast of hot chocolate and sweet rolls was served to those in attendance.
The services continued until 1963. Mrs. Cannon suffered a stroke in 1955 while visiting in California. She was never able to go to For Pity’s Sake again. Her husband dropped by occasionally, but since his wife, Ruth, couldn’t enjoy it, the place did not seem to be important anymore. When Mrs. Cannon died in 1965, his visits stopped completely.
The furnishings were removed, and the property was sold to Cannon Mills. Since the house was vacant, it fell into disrepair. On Nov. 5, 1975, the Kannapolis Volunteer Fire Department Burned it down in a training exercise.
When David Murdock purchased Cannon Mills in 1982, he decided to build a lodge on the former location of For Pity’s Sake.
“I have chosen to use this name for this farm to which I will invite my own special guests,” he said. “Our lodge is a place for you to relax and enjoy the beauty of the North Carolina countryside.”
Norris Dearmon is a member of the Kannapolis History Associates and a volunteer in the Hinson History Room at the Kannapolis Branch Library.
By Norris Dearmon