A Mix of Quaint History and a Slower Pace at Gold Hill Founder's Day
Bud Leonard grew up in Gold Hill and was back on Saturday for the 23rd Annual Founders Day Celebration. He knows a lot about festivals because he and son Tony travel to as many as 15-20 each year to display their old hit and miss engines. The Leonards go as far away as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to display their water pumps, cutoff saws and machines for corn grinding and shelling. Tony said “We have been collecting these things for 20 years and we have been coming to Gold Hill for about eight of those years.” Festivals and gatherings of this size are their favorites because they meet some wonderful people who offer such interesting questions. “We do burn some diesel fuel hauling these things around though. Our newest hit and miss engine is a 1924 model. We just can’t afford the new stuff,” remarked Tony with a large grin.
Memories of a big mining office and pumping water out of the mines come back to Bud Leonard as he looked around the town. He said, “There was still plenty of gold down there that they couldn’t get to. Water was flowing in faster than they could pump it out of the shaft. My grandpa kept track of hours worked for a crew of 50 workers as late as 1917.” The Leonard engines were part of the Living Heritage area.
Just across the street in the vendor area, Danny and Patty Woodward of Mooresville manned Sugar Rush Incorporated while selling fried Oreos, fried Twinkies, and funnel cakes. Patty said, “A fried Twinkie is rolled in funnel cake dough, deep fried at 400 degrees, and sprinkled in powder. It is very hard and hot work to make them. I love to watch people and see if they like it. ” When Danny Woodward lost his job, he and Patty wanted to do something together. Danny added, “We have a lot of fun and meet so many nice people. We go to about 5 events a year.”
Customers were keeping the food vendors busy. Lorrie Hansett of Leesburg, Georgia bought a funnel cake from Sugar Rush Incorporated and sat down to enjoy it along with her friends Carol and Jim Hurst of Gold Hill. “I can give you a rating of 10 on this funnel cake. It is crispy on the top and bottom, yet soft in the middle which makes it perfect for pulling apart. This one is made just right,” said Hansett, who made a special trip to Gold Hill for Founder’s Day after visiting the town on Christmas day of 2011. She continued, “Next year, I hope to be back here with my own crafts. Gold Hill is so quaint, making it easy to forget the hustle and bustle of everyday life.”
Robin and Gary McLaughlin of western Rowan County came to Gold Hill for the first time. Robin said, “I had read about the historic town and just got interested in visiting Founder’s Day. There is so much to do but we are just enjoying looking around. It is the first of fall and just wonderful to be out here.”
Carolina Paranormal had a booth to hawk their upcoming investigations in Gold Hill. Director Jason Porter said “We have a big day planned on October 6th. Our equipment will be used to investigate the old jail, powder house, and two mines, along with the E.H. Montgomery Store. Teams of 10 people each will start with a lecture and then head out for 4 hours of ‘experiences’. If all goes well, we’ll probably do it several more times.”
“Hang on, let me put water in my pot,” said Judy Jones of Concord as she cooked for a large group of gray and butternut clad soldiers. Jones is a member of the North Carolina 63rd Reenactors. She added, “My husband and I both had family fighting in the Civil War. We love to educate others on the real causes of the war and what really happened.” Fellow reenactor Kelly Corl of Rockwell said, “My 17 year old son is here with us, and he wants to go to Gettysburg for his graduation.”
A skirmish, or small battle, complete with horses, artillery, and infantry, was planned for later in the day. Husband David Jones had to portray a Yankee on this particular day, but that decision was not popular with Judy. “I won’t be speaking to him while he is wearing that blue color. Everything will be fine when he puts the gray back on.”
General Robert E. Lee, portrayed by Andy Shores, had his top leaders with him. Shores bears a striking resemblance to Lee and his great- great- great grandmother was Lee’s first cousin. Generals Longstreet and A.P. Hill were close by as Lee said, “I can’t really speculate on the battle. My men will do their best to protect this property. At this point, I don’t have any cavalry and it appears that ‘those people’ do.”
Colonel Farnhill of Lee’s staff probably summed up the thoughts of many when he said, “Back in 1840, the mayor of Charlotte came to Gold Hill for a visit and left wishing that Charlotte could one day be as big.” For this one day at least, Gold Hill reclaimed a portion of that bygone prominence.