As a way of contributing to Bluenc, I am going to do a Sunday "insert" and take a look at the towns that make up this wonderful state. The first offering will be about Robbins, NC.
Robbins is probably best known for being the hometown of John Edwards, the senator who ran as VP on the 2004 Kerry/Edwards Democratic ticket. (A smart fellow who knew how to get back into the "hearts & halos" mode with SD.) Edwards kicked off his bid for President in front of a closed mill that his father worked in. The other hometown son was Astronaut, Charles Brady.
This “small town, USA” has a fascinating history, generally forgotten by its inhabitants. It was originally established as Cagels Goldmine Community in the 1700’s. Named after Leonard “Lionheart” Cagle who emigrated from Philadelphia. Then, Alexander Kennedy, a gunsmith also fled Philadelphia and established a gun factory in 1795 on the falls of Bear Creek and supplied Washington’s Continental Forces with firearms. It was then renamed Mechanics Hill, and then changed to Mechanicsville.
When the gun factory closed in 1838, the townspeople cleared the land for agri use and gold was discovered and the town experienced a minor gold rush. In the early 1900’s, John F. Lenning and Associates brought the Durham and Charlotte railroad line through and designed the streets for the town. The new unofficial name of the town became “Elise” after Mr. Lenning’s daughter. When the Post Master, George Horner tried to register this name, the federal authorities rejected it. Instead, he registered the name as Horner’s Hemp; the name was shortened and then begrudgingly accepted in 1915 as Hemp.
During the 1920’s, the town experienced industrial growth and was supplied power in 1923. The next year, Moore Mills Textile plant, the first textile mill was established. Karl Robbins purchased this mill in 1930 and renamed it Robbins Silk Mill. Throughout the depression, the town was booming because of the mill.
Karl Robbins was committed to developing and improving the community and donated money to the local schools and churches. He built parks and playgrounds and funded the first water and waste water system. In 1943, the citizens of the town changed the name to Robbins in honor of their benefactor.
Robbins, like many towns in the south, has become a run-down mill town.
The buildings along Main Street are mainly lawyer’s offices, a dress shop and too many vacant storefronts. Often, an entrepreneur will try to open a shop, only to close within a year due to lack of patronage. Most of the local residents do their shopping in big box types stores, where they can stretch their too thin budget on goods from Communist China.
Robbinites are survivors though and have applied and won a spot in the NC Step Program, (NC Small Town Economic Prosperity). A call has gone out to all citizens of Robbins and Moore County to “think outside the box”. Planning meetings are being held to revitalize this dieing town.
To date, they have established a “dark park” outside of town because there is very little light pollution. Annually, MASP (Mid Atlantic Star Party) holds a week long party of stargazing, swap meets and celebration at the Occoneechee Council Boy Scout camp. The town is now trying to pass a light pollution law to preserve this classification.
Another company that has shown interest is American Growlers, Inc., a privately held manufacturer of military vehicles used by the US Marine Corps. American Growlers announced that they will relocate from their current site in Ocala, Florida.
Robbins is also in the running for a “biomass” fuels plant. A new kind of power plant that generates electricity from manure. Although the chicken plant closed a few years back, there are still many chicken house farms surrounding the area that would be able to sell their “sweepings” instead of their current habit of piling it in mounds on their property.
This past weekend, August 3rd, 4th and 5th, was the 51st Annual Farmers Day Celebration, Robbins’ one shining moment in the sun. The planners of this event, the Robbins fire department members, tried to have something for everyone.
The main street through Robbins was closed and everything from arts and craft booths to food booths were set up.
The sites and smells were reminiscent of old time fairs. In every large open space, carnival rides, pony rides, rock climbing walls, and petting zoos were assembled. Three stages were spread out through the town for live music ranging from gospel to country to southern rock. They even had a novelty group, The Bahama Mamas steel drum band.
In the early years, everyone came to town on Thursday night, and set up their “camp” site. This could be anything from a tent to a bail of hay and a blanket. Kids ran free, as long as they were back at camp by dinnertime. Even though some continue to camp in town; sadly, the majority bring their horses and mules in trailers on the day of the parade. It was a common sight in years past, to see horse drawn carts and carriages mixed in with car traffic on the roads leading to Robbins.
It was part of the allure, akin to a circus coming to town.
What had started in 1955 as a bunch of farmers, gathering in town for a celebration culminating in a parade to show off their horses, mules and tractors, has grown into a major annual event.