Spirit of Rowan 2022: Odd facts from Rowan County

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 27, 2022

SALISBURY — Did you know Rowan County used to stretch to the Pacific Ocean?

In theory, at least, Rowan County was a slice of frontier in Rowan County before the map of the United States looked anything like it does today and before European colonists understood what lay beyond the Tennesseean frontier.

Rowan County was so large in the 18th century that the first land records in Tennessee were recorded in the county. For much of its history, North Carolina was not divvied into the 100 counties wedged into its borders. The last county was not created until 1911, when pieces of Caldwell, Mitchell and Watauga counties were combined into Avery, the last county.

According to a book recording abstracts of deeds in Rowan from 1753 to 1785, some of the deeds at the time were not recorded until years after land changed hands. In addition to Tennessee, 27 counties were formed out of what used to be Rowan County at the time.

Here are some other odd facts about Rowan County:

• There is a rumor there is a horse buried under the Presbyterian Session House. This is not correct. The Chambers name is most closely associated with the Utzman-Chambers House, but Maxwell Chambers specified a family grave site in his will and the Session House was built over it. There are 10 graves there where the Chambers family are interred, but no equine.

• Spanish explorers were in the area from 1567-1568. This was the first recorded appearance of the Europeans in what would become Rowan County. This was the expedition of explorer Juan Pardo and it established a Catholic church.

The buildings of the Pardo expedition in the area are lost to history and the area was settled by the English many years later. Rowan County was incorporated in 1753 and named for Matthew Rowan, the British governor at the time.

• Salisbury was a hub for wagon making for the Continental Army in the area during the American Revolution.

• Spencer Shops inspired the name for the town, rather than the other way around. Completed in 1896, the steam locomotive repair station was named for Southern Railway President Samuel Spencer. The town was not incorporated until 1905. At one point it was the railway’s largest repair depot, but was phased out as diesel engines supplanted the steam models serviced at the shops.


About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

email author More by Carl