Spirit of Rowan 2022: Mount Ulla’s rich farmland may only be rivaled by its history
Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 27, 2022
In 2005, Davidson County Broadcasting applied to build a large radio tower in rural Mount Ulla. The close-knit community rallied against the tower, eventually winning the battle.
The radio tower was never erected, but the proposal did catalyze the creation of the Mount Ulla Historic Preservation Society. Since then, members of the group have worked to document and preserve the community’s rich history.
Located in western Rowan, Mount Ulla is the smallest of Rowan County’s 14 townships by population. The present day Mount Ulla Township encompasses more land than the smaller, historic Mount Ulla community. Unincorporated areas including Bear Poplar and Millbridge are now within the Mount Ulla Township, but were once their own distinct communities when the main methods of transportation were horse or foot.
Settled by Scotch-Irish in the mid-1700s, Mount Ulla is likely among Rowan County’s oldest communities. There are several theories regarding Mount Ulla’s unique name. Perhaps the most popular version of the tale credits A.Y. Lockridge, a minister at Back Creek Presbyterian Church, with giving the community its title.
The true origin of Mount Ulla’s name is a mystery, but there’s never been a doubt that the area boasts fertile farmland. Mount Ulla has always been an agricultural community. In the early 1800s, a large flour mill was built close to where the current post office stands, providing farmers a place to take their grain. The mill was critical to Mount Ulla’s development.
“It was a more active rural community than most because of the mill,” said Rose LaCasse, a founding member of the Mount Ulla Historic Preservation Society.
Early Mount Ulla was principally organized around the mill, a general store and Back Creek Presbyterian Church, LaCasse said, with most of the farming being done in fields around Sills Creek, Back Creek and Withrow Creek. Back Creek Presbyterian Church is one of several Mount Ulla structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with the Rankin-Sherrill House and the John C. and Anita Sherrill House.
Mount Ulla’s flour mill burned in the early 1900s, was rebuilt and then burned again near the middle of the 20th century. It was rebuilt for a second time and stood as one of the largest mills in the area, but eventually closed and was torn down altogether in 2005.
Mount Ulla is still a thriving farming community today as new generations of farmers take advantage of its well-regarded soil. The Historic Preservation Society has paused during the pandemic, but plans to continue to collect and keep the area’s history for years to come.