Men behind the street names
The Post turned to some usual suspects for tracking down the origin of various Salisbury street names.
Edward Norvell, Betty Dan Spencer, Gretchen Witt and Vanessa Sterling at Rowan Public Library, Kaye Brown Hirst at Rowan Museum and Clyde all provided guidance.
Their input also led, of course, to historians of the past such as Jethro Rumple, James Brawley and George Raynor. But it was George’s wife, Nancy, who did some of the more extensive research into the earliest street names in Salisbury.
Her research paper, “Salisbury’s Early Street Names,” is on file in the Rowan Public Library’s History Room. Her investigation, probably conducted in the 1980s, relied on Rumple, Brawley, the papers of Mamie McCubbins and William E. Kizziah and records from the city of Salisbury and Rowan County.
Here are 30 Salisbury street names you may be interested in:
Church Street: In Colonial times, Church Street had two names. The north side of the street was called Race Street, “for the numerous horse races held in this location,” according to Nancy Raynor.
“The south end was called Tryon in honor of Gov. Tryon, the English Colonial governor,” Raynor wrote. She added the opinion that Tryon was “much despised in this area.”
The street eventually became Church Street, because at least seven churches faced or adjoined it.
Fisher Street: Welcome to the mini-controversy of Temple Street. Was it the first name for Bank Street, Church Street or, as Nancy Raynor claimed, Fisher Street?
The name “Temple” refers to William Temple Coles (or Cole), a prominent citizen from Dublin, Ireland. Raynor said Fisher Street was first Temple, then Dunn (for John Dunn) and, after the Civil War, changed to Fisher Street in honor of Col. Charles F. Fisher, a president of the North Carolina Railroad who was killed at the first battle of Manassas (Bull Run).
Council Street: Originally, it was Free Mason (or Freemason) Street because of a masonic lodge. It later became Council, it is believed, for its relationship to town council meetings.
Liberty Street: Once called Water Street because of the availability of public wells, it became Liberty after the Revolutionary War, to mark American independence.
Kerr Street: Named for James E. Kerr, a member of one of the earliest school commissions. Another James Kerr was Rowan County sheriff from 1774-77.
Railroad Street: Before the railroad existed, it was known as Factory Street. The N.C. Railroad began buying property along the street in 1851, and it essentially became the path for the north-south rail line. “What’s left of the street is today’s Railroad Street,” Raynor said.
Jackson Street: Thought to be named for Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States. As a young man, Jackson studied law in Salisbury.
Monroe Street: Possibly named for James Monroe, the country’s fifth president. This is only an assumption.
Fulton Street: Named for John Fulton, who built the still existing Blackmer House in 1822. Prior to 1850, Raynor said, it also was known as Beard Street because Beard family members owned lots adjacent to it.
Fulton was an Irishman and cotton merchant who emigrated to the United States in 1785. A Masonic lodge also bears his name. “Fulton Street undoubtedly was the country club section of its day — fashionable, well wooded and outlying,” Brawley wrote.
Caldwell Street: It’s not exactly clear which Caldwell the street is named for because several Caldwell men figured prominently in Rowan and Iredell County history. Raynor believed that it was mostly likely David Franklin Caldwell, an Iredell native who practiced law in Salisbury and became a prominent Superior Court judge.
Craige Street: No doubt named for attorney Burton Craige, a significant land owner in this area, noted politician (congressman from 1853-1861) and editor (The Western Carolinian). Craige, a strong Southern rights voice, introduced the ordinance for North Carolina to secede from the Union on May 20, 1861.
Lincolnton Road: A long-established route out of Salisbury, it actually was the road to Lincolnton.
Horah Street: Named in 1866 for silversmith and banker (with D.A. Davis) William H. Horah, who died in 1863, it had been called Cooper Street. Horah was a charter member of the Salisbury Fire Department and his sons, Joseph and Henry, were well-known jewelers. Nancy Raynor said the ”Cooper” name came from early coopers and their places of business along the street.
Bank Street: Named for the banks that inhabited the southeast corner of today’s Main and Bank streets. From 1818-1889, the banks included the State Bank of North Carolina, the Bank of Cape Fear, the D.A. Davis Bank and the Davis and Wiley Bank. Again, was this once Temple Street?
Clay Street: Raynor was stumped on Clay Street. “I have found no person or family honored with the name of Clay Street,” she said. She concluded that it probably was named for Henry Clay (1777-1852), U.S. House speaker from Kentucky who tried to preserve the Union in the stormy years leading toward the Civil War.
Long Street: This could be for several different men named Long. Raynor said it was named for John Long, who with his wife owned a large tract near Trading Ford and also the Long Ferry.
Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue: Boundary Street, one of the early streets in Salisbury designating the eastern boundary of the city, was changed in late 2007 to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in honor of the slain civil rights leader.
Harrison Street: Samuel R. Harrison had a large amount of property along today’s Harrison Street, and he sold the tracts making up Chestnut Hill Cemetery.
Thomas Street: Probably named for a family named Thomas. Brawley wrote once, “By 1851, John I. Shaver was intendant of police (the equivalent of mayor) and one of his administration’s first acts was to drain the ponds in Heilig’s Pasture near Mrs. Thomas’ home on what today is Thomas Street.”
Shaver Street: Named for the above-mentioned Shaver, mayor in 1851.
Institute Street: The street that still leads to Livingstone College, which was originally Zion Wesleyan Institute.
Easy Street: The passage linking the depot to Main Street was once called Wharton Arcade.
Ellis Street: Named for Gov. John W. Ellis, who lived on this street with his sister after the death of his wife. Ellis was governor of North Carolina when the state left the Union. He died in 1861. Ellis Street was actually opened in 1849 as Henderson Street, named for the first Archibald Henderson (there were two prominent Archibald Hendersons in Salisbury history), who owned most of the land adjoining the street.
The name changed to Ellis after the Civil War.
Henderson Street: Probably named for John S. Henderson, a state legislator, congressman and significant landowner.
Steele Street: Presumably named for John Steele, the notable Federalist, congressman, U.S. comptroller, member of the Constitutional Convention and owner of the Lombardy plantation.
Maupin, Mitchell, Wiley and Heilig avenues: The Southern Development Co. incorporated in 1902 to create Fulton Heights as Salisbury’s first residential suburb. Shareholders in that company included J.M. Maupin of New Jersey, W. Murdoch Wiley of New York and W.E. Mitchell of New York. Part of the land was purchased from James D. Heilig. The cross streets of Crosby and Blair streets also were named for Southern Development incorporators William Blair of Winston-Salem and H.B. Crosby of New Jersey.
Jake Alexander Boulevard: Once known as Salisbury Boulevard, this major thoroughfare was renamed by Gov. Jim Martin for Alexander, a former N.C. secretary of transportation and commissioner of motor vehicles. He was a deputy transportation secretary in late February 1987 when his car was hit by a drunken driver as he was coming home from Raleigh. He died from his injuries a week later.