“Union County” by Mrs. Eugene Ashcraft, from the editorial page of The Monroe Journal, June 16, 1916 issue, which had many stories written by members of the Woman’s Club of Monroe.
Union county lies in the southern part of North Carolina, about midway between the coast and the mountains. The general features of the county consists of broad gently rolling interstream areas, which become more rolling, broken and hilly as the larger streams are approached. The area is 630 square miles, and there is less untillable soil in Union than any other county in the State. The highest elevation is 725 and there are no swamps.
Union county was founded in 1843 from parts of Anson and Mecklenburg. The western part of the country was first settled by Scotch-Irish and Germans, the eastern part by Virginians and North Carolinians, mostly of English descent.
Union county has now a population of nearly 38,000 about 9,500 being negroes. Less than one per cent of the entire population are of foreign birth.
Cotton is the staple product of the county. About 30,000 bales are marketed each year.
The county is well supplied with good church and school buildings. The following statistics of the different denominations are very near accurate:
Baptists, 9,378; value church property, $63,950.
Methodists, 5,715; value church property, $130,500.
Presbyterians, 1,501; value church property, $55,680.
Episcopalians, 110; value church property, $10,750.
Lutherans, 60; value church property, $10,300.
These figures leave more than 21,000 people out of the church.
The amount of taxable property in the county is $10,425,338, the white people owning $8,118,048., the remainder $2,307,287 belonging to the negroes.
The tax rate of Monroe township is $1.03 2/3, and in other parts of the county it is .88 2/3.
Health of the County
Number of deaths a year are about 400. Two-thirds of these are among the white people, one-third are negroes. The death rate is then about 10 ½ per 1,000. Making allowance for failure to report and record deaths, we will say the death rate is 14 per 1,000. The deaths in Union county each year are due to about, tuberculosis, 60; typhoid fever, 12; pellagra, 10; bright’s disease, 20; senility, 30; cancer, 10; infants under two years of age from various diseases, 130; pneumonia, 22; paralysis, 15; heart disease, 15; syphilis, 25.
Various other diseases and accidents cause quite a number of deaths annually. And quite a number are preventable. Union county has 1,300 births each year, or a net gain in population by births in excess of deaths of 900 annually.
Union county has 300 marriages yearly.
In thinking of the word Monroe there is a feeling of love and pride that comes into the heart of every person in Union county, and why? Because it is the county seat of Union. It is situated at the junction of the two main lines of the Seaboard Air Line Railway, near the center of the county.
The discussion of Monroe may be taken up from the following view points, hotels, schools, cemetery, churches, streets, and general improvement.
First comes the question of the hotel. If a traveling man was asked what he thought of Monroe, no doubt he would say, “Monroe seems to e a hustling town as far as business goes, but oh, it’s ‘Best Hotel!’ Why, it’s a disgrace. How the manager can make it as good as it is, is more than I can see. I leave as soon as possible after my work is over to avoid spending much time in the stuffy little hole.” A speech of this king and there have been many, should make these same business men think. They have the money and why won’t they make a paying investment of building a hotel that would cause the traveling man to linger as long as possible and also to hurry back from his other trips.
Many other advantages may be gained by such a hotel. Great religious, educational and other meetings could be held here if we had any place for the people to go.
Monroe is behind the times, some say. Someday she will wake up and have such a hotel, and why not now? This is a question for every man in town to answer for himself.
Next we come to our schools. What about them? If any person would go out and see one of our grades perched on the stage of the school auditorium, with a teacher, at this disadvantage, trying to put knowledge into the heads of the boys and girls, they would leave with this thought uppermost in their minds, the school needs more room and better equipment. This is just one of instance out of many. Some say, beautify the grounds, buy more land while it can be gotten cheap, but the first and most important step to take is to buy more room and better equipment. No sewerage in our school buildings. Let’s hurry on so the stranger will not notice the fact.
In passing, a word about our cemetery. Look at it and profit by the view. Grass is pretty in its place, but is grass knee high in place here?
The churches are such that any town of this size should be proud, and yet more room is needed in most of them.
The streets are another point that should receive our careful attention. Why should our level headed aldermen use such little judgment in this matter? This seems a rather strong statement but we have proof to back it. Money is spent in making macadamized roads, right behind comes men to lay the sewerage pipes, or larger water mains. Is there any reason in that? The only answer is just a way of spending money without much gain. The town’s money is spent by one set of aldermen to lay a cement walk from the street to the high school building without ever planning for future improvements. Along comes another set and wants it laid another way, which all will admit would be a great improvement, but why not pay a little bit more, and get some one who knows his business, to come and plan such things in the beginning. Over the town streets appear little stakes and what are they for? Confidentially, an alderman would say, to fool the people and get me my job back for another term.
Many dollars are spent for just such things when they could be used more profitably. Another remark is so often made, “Oh! I see you haven’t an alderman living on your street,” because they need to be cleaned off.
If the men we have cannot or will not use better judgment in spending the town’s money, it is up to the town to find men that can and will.
Monroe has $1,830,284 of taxable property.
The health of the town is remarkably good considering the sanitary conditions that exist in some parts of the city. We have a population of 6,400 with suburbs having 1,500 more people. Monroe has 1,500 negroes. Out of the 6,400 inhabitants there are about 60 deaths annually. The death rate being 9 1/3 per 1,000. The cause of a large majority of the deaths in Monroe each year are, bad sanitation, bad drainage and carelessness on the part of the people and the doctors.
--Mrs. Eugene Ashcraft