Fact Friday 294 - The Return of the Hornets and hornet significance

Fact Friday 294 - The Return of the Hornets and hornet significance

Happy Friday!

Native Charlotteans and NBA fans from all over know that after the 2002 NBA season, the original Charlotte Hornets franchise moved to New Orleans. In 2004, Charlotte was granted a new franchise, the Bobcats. And while many of us supported the Bobcats (I certainly did... I took my son to plenty of games and bought jerseys, etc.), I can say that it seemed that widespread support for the Bobcats name never really took hold. In 2014, Charlotte did something no other city had done - following a long grassroots campaign led by fans, it saw the return of a pro sport franchise name to the city of origin. The team was once again the Charlotte Hornets. And even more remarkable, they reclaimed the history and records of the 1988–2002 Hornets.

Charlotte Hornets ads, 2014-2015. MS0553 Vertical File Collection, UNC Charlotte.

So why was it so important to Charlotteans that the Hornets name return to Charlotte? As beloved as the original NBA team was, the Hornets name is much bigger than any one sports team. The Hornets and the hornets nest are central to this city’s sense of identity, rooted in Charlotte’s Revolutionary War history. That’s why it was so important to see the Hornets return home.

Charlotte's connection to hornets dates back to its occupation by the British Army in 1780. It is said that following sixteen troublesome days in the city, General Lord Cornwallis was heard calling Charlotte a “hornet’s nest of rebellion.”
While there is no contemporary documentation of Cornwallis’s statement, they could have been a reference to the British Army’s most humiliating defeat in Mecklenburg County - the Battle of McIntyre’s Farm, also known as the Battle of the Bees, which occurred on October 3, 1780. The skirmish took place between 12-14 local farmers and an estimated 300-400 soldiers, who had been sent out on a forging raid into the surrounding countryside. As the British soldiers ransacked the McIntyre Farm, the family's beehive was knocked over. The patriots used the confusion caused by the attacking bees to ambush the soldiers and opened fire, killing and wounding two dozen soldiers. The British commander assumed they were under attack by a much larger group of locals and there was a chaotic retreat back to the safety of occupied Charlotte.

The Hornets' Nest Drama, 1968. MS0243 A. Grant Whitney papers, UNC Charlotte.

What Makes the Piedmont Great, undated. UNC Charlotte.

What Makes the Piedmont Great, undated. UNC Charlotte.
McIntyre Farm, Beatty Ford Rd. Mecklenburg County, N.C., undated. MS0270 Kenneth Wilson Whitsett papers, UNC Charlotte.

For two centuries, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have proudly worn Cornwallis’s epithet as a symbol of our city and who we are as a people. Hornets, and especially the hornets’ nest can be found everywhere in the city and county - from the Mecklenburg County seal to the Girl Scouts, Hornets Nest. In fact, Charlotte's first professional sports team, a baseball team, was also called the Hornets. Charlotte's first professional basketball team was actually called the Carolina Cougars (notice the theme? Panthers, Bobcats, Cougars...). 

By-laws and Rules of the Board of School Commissioners, 1925-1926. MS0070 Elmer Henry Garinger papers, UNC Charlotte.

Mecklenburg County seal. Mecklenburg County Government. http://blog.mecknc.gov/un-sealed/

Hornets’ Nest Girl Scout Council letter, 1967. MS0112 Bonnie Ethel Cone papers, UNC Charlotte.


To read more about the Hornets Nest Rebellion, check out:

Fact Friday 40 - The Scandal Over the 'Meck Dec'

Fact Friday 163 - Charlotte's Got No History? Wrong (Pt. 1)

Fact Friday 164 - Charlotte's Got No History? Wrong (Pt. 2)

Fact Friday 209 - The Battle of Charlotte Reenactment

Until next week!


Email me at chris@704shop.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!

Information taken from: 

UNC Charlotte Special Collections on Instagram | @unccspeccoll 

Wikipedia.org, "History of the Charlotte Hornets"

“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass

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