Groups restore Trading Ford monument
The Trading Ford monument, nestled unobtrusively off Old Salisbury Road in Davidson County, was showing its 80 years of age.
It faced an uncertain future as the N.C. Department of Transportation planned to alter roads close to Interstate 85.
After years of local preservation advocacy, the Department of Transportation decided earlier this year the property could be avoided, giving a green light to restoring the monument. Last month, a joint effort by the Churchland Lions Club and the Trading Ford Historic District Preservation Association gave it a face lift, and a new lease on life, a press release said.
The monument was dedicated at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19, 1929, by citizens of Davidson County and the N. C. Historical Commission. The then bi-weekly Lexington Dispatch newspaper described it as “ideally situated.”
“From the monument itself, one may look southward over rolling hills and stream basins clear to the far blue Uwharries, with here and there a glimpse of High Rock Lake,” the newspaper article said.
Tallassee Power Co. donated the 1.1 acres upon which the monument was built “for the sole purpose of constructing, erecting, and maintaining thereon a park and monument marking the location of the old Trading Ford,” and included an easement for the use of the old Trading Ford road which crossed it.
The Dispatch reported in great detail the remarks of “Notable Speakers Heard at Dedication of Memorial,” including Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Judge John J. Parker; the Rev. Tom A. Sykes of High Point; and Dr. A. R. Newsome, secretary of the N.C. Historical Commission.
Below elements of the state seal and the spreading wings of an eagle, the monument’s bronze plaque inscription briefly states:
“General Nathanael Greene, in his masterly retreat from the British Army under Lord Cornwallis, crossed the Yadkin at Trading Ford, one-half mile southeast of this spot, February 2-3, 1781. A sudden rise in the river prevented the passage of the British and permitted the American army to escape and prepare for the Battle of Guilford Court House.”
Many things changed in the 80 years following the monument’s dedication. Highway 10, part of the state’s early “good roads” movement to connect all 100 county seats with paved roads, was superseded by U.S. 29 and later by I-85, which blocked the view of the Trading Ford from the monument.
Highway 10 became the Old Salisbury Road. Tallassee Power Co. became Alcoa’s Yadkin Project. The N.C. Historical Commission evolved into the state’s Department of Archives and History.
The monument property became overgrown. Mortar securing the monument’s uppermost stones and the surrounding retaining wall crumbled, and its cannon balls disappeared.
Yet the Churchland community continued to identify with the monument. Hugh Shepherd, Davidson County’s clerk of court from 1974 until 1990, took it under his wing.
Shepherd was a lifelong student who spent his lunch hours at the library. One journalist described him as a “Renaissance man.” When he could no longer care for the monument, he asked one of the local churches to take over its care, but most of their members were also older, and little was done. Then Ken Berry assumed the caretaker’s mantle and persuaded the Churchland Lions Club to take on mowing and picking up around the monument.
The Trading Ford Historic District Preservation Association has promoted awareness and preservation of the monument since 2002, and became partners with the Lions group when its founder, Ann Brownlee, became a member.
Over the course of several weeks in November, the two groups worked to restore the monument. Walter Ray Swicegood and his crew did the masonry work; replica cannon balls were re-installed; the plaque was washed, with care taken not to disturb its patina; a new flag was placed atop the monument; pansy planters, solar-powered spotlights and a brochure holder containing one-page handouts rounded out the undertaking.
“At long last, not only has the monument itself been restored, but it’s been restored to a proud place in the community,” Lions Club member Ricky Hicks said in the press release.
“I can’t stop looking at it; it’s wonderful!” Trading Ford’s Brownlee said.
The restoration of the monument was dedicated to the memories of Hugh H. Shepherd, who died in 1997, and James Kenneth ” Ken” Berry, who died in 2005.
The two groups who restored it next plan to seek the blessing of the N.C. Historical Commission to make the remainder of the property into the park it was intended to be, according to the press release.
For more information, visit the Trading Ford Web site at www.trading-ford.org/memorial.html.